GL_PinkOctober_ftI recently read a wonderful piece in the New York Times about the growing disenchantment with the October “Pinkification” campaign tied to the breast cancer awareness month.

The article highlighted the amazing power of the “pink” campaign to raise overall breast cancer awareness, but how it has failed miserably at turning that awareness into measurable action.

Billions of marketing dollars are spent to raise awareness, but too few dollars are being spent on researching to find a cure.

According to the New York Times article, the National Breast Cancer Coalition, a nonprofit organization representing breast cancer groups across the country, put out a news release calling for “action, not awareness,” in an effort to help redirect the billions of dollars currently spent on awareness campaigns toward research instead.

Fran Visco, the coalition’s president stating, “when it comes to “pink” we don’t want to be part of it.”

As we enter 2016, branding storytellers are being faced with a new mission: “turning awareness into action.”

Consumers are increasingly demanding engagement with the brands, products and services they like and want to support.

Don’t misunderstand me, branding awareness is still paramount when it comes to increased visibility and differentiating yourself in a highly congested and chaotic business environment.

However, simply raising brand awareness, may no longer be enough to stand out from the rest.

We are seeing this reality play out on both the political and cable news landscapes. After years and years of political inaction and the cable news networks taking their viewers for granted, we are seeing a large contingent of Americans rising up, making their voices perfectly clear, “no more business as usual!”

Americans want action. And they want it now.

NFL-Pink_s640x427It’s easy to get behind wearing a pink ribbon, or an NFL team’s pink jersey, or Delta painting one of their jets with a pink ribbon, but how does that translate to the friend of my business partner who was just diagnosed with breast cancer beating the disease at age 48?

How does all that pink awareness help with her latest and most formidable battle, a battle for her life?

We as ambassadors of brand and content messaging have a responsibility to make sure our efforts not only transcend the initial awareness goals we have set for our brands, but they must also manifest themselves into verifiable and measurable actions that benefit the collective as well as the consumer or business we are targeting.

The brands and institutions that lose site of this mission will be the ones who are clearly left behind in 2016. It’s not about standing out in a crowd anymore. It’s about engaging with the crowd and eliciting a strong emotional connection that motivates and incites the crowd to action.

ASPCA-dog-in-shelter-2How many times have we seen the commercials for animal abuse? Over and over we see videos of the most pathetic and abused dogs and cats, while a melancholy song rips at our hearts, forcing us to turn the channel.

The whole intention of the spot is to guilt you into sending more to their foundation. Which btw, I don’t think is a bad thing, but what I am suggesting is that awareness of animal abuse is one thing, action designed to stop animal abuse is something entirely different.

So the next time guilt is driving you toward you wallet, how about you replace those dollars with something else…action?Instead of buying pink NFL gear to wear to the game, perhaps spend the afternoon with someone who is fighting the cancer battle right now?

Branding has always been about perception and as we know, perception and reality rarely see eye to eye. But as consumer driven storytelling continues to shape branding efforts into the future, not just awareness, but action will play a larger and larger role in how society not only perceives, but engages with your brand.

Consumers will demand action and interaction.

AdamCohenI read an amazing story about pilot Adam Cohen (pictured), who flies for Endeavor Air, a regional airline carrier owned by Delta Air Lines turning the plane around, after it had already left the gate to go back and pick up a family who was late due to their delayed connecting flight.

The family risked missing their father’s funeral the following day, if they did not make this flight.

The pilot witnessing the family’s distress from the cockpit, immediately deciding to return to the gate, allowing the family to board the aircraft. Talk about awareness in the moment leading to action!

Perception? The plane has already left the gate, there is nothing we can do.

Reality? The captain becoming aware, taking action by turning the plane around and picking up the distressed family.

One is based on the expected, while the other is based in action,

I can “change this situation” and I am going to “do the right thing.”

  • Which scenario makes for a better branding story?
  • Which scenario creates evangelists and avid followers of your brand?

I am certainly not saying all is right within the aviation world or the general public’s flying experiences. What I am saying is the future of branding has to empower your brand to be able to be actionable. To move the needle forward from just simple awareness to actual engagement.  

And many times that engagement comes in the form of action that tells a much larger and far more significant story.

thr_trumpcoverMany ask why Trump is so popular?

You mean besides the fact he was a reality TV star, who owns a Boeing 757 with his name painted on the side?

The media and established political pundits of both parties can’t seem to grasp his meteoric rise. Either enraptured in a fog of delusion or just wishful thinking, the answer is actually quite simple.

He has clearly articulated himself as a man of action. “Make America Great Again,” and it doesn’t matter if he can do it, as long as he will try to do it.

What are the masses clamoring for more than anything else right now?

You guessed it. Action.

So whether Trump is right or wrong, loved or hated, his message resonates with a large number of people who want something, anything else, but the mind numbing, endless drivel that’s been fed to us by the media and party elites for decades now.

Don’t let your branding efforts fall into the same trap. Don’t just settle for awareness. Awareness is good, but it’s only a first step. Your second step leads to action. And with a third step you are walking. You are making progress. You are moving forward. Your brand, your mission, your message and most importantly your story!

At the end of the day, your consumers want to identify with…a brand who knows the “why” behind their who.

What action stories will your brand tell in 2016? 

featured image courtesy of Sara Walsh/AP