The unofficial start of summer, Memorial Weekend, is also the official start of the mad avalanche of social occasions around the end of school year and the start of the summer. It's not only a busy time in general (see the fact that I'm writing this more than a week later), but it's an especially busy time for businesses and marketers as we're trying to find ways to make our work culturally relevant.
But in the rush to celebrate dads / grads / Pride / wedding season / 4th of July / summer vacations, we need to be sure that we're not sacrificing authenticity to be part of the discourse. Here’s some things to keep in mind as we approach our summer campaigns.
Don't co-opt the messages of a cause to try to increase sales. At this point, the Memorial Day sale is practically rote, but the flood of direct marketing trying to get people to buy, buy, buy is taking away from the true meaning of the holiday – to honor service members who died in the line of duty. Consider your wording (e.g., don’t wish people a “happy” Memorial Day). Perhaps next year it should be a “summer kick-off sale” or a long weekend sale.
Similarly, Pride, which began as a commemoration of the Stonewall riots in which the gay community fought back against oppressive policing, has become an increasingly commoditized event. This year Pride celebrates its 50th anniversary on June 28, and a growing number of communities across the country and world will hold their own Pride events this summer.
Most major corporations have Pride initiatives, but not all are putting their money where their marketing is in supporting LGBTQIA organizations with their Pride merchandise or events. Take a page from the ones who are doing it right and make a meaningful donation or do real work in the community to go along with your rainbow-washed merchandise or social media posts.
Do be inclusive in your marketing, but don’t expect accolades just for doing it. Representation matters. When you’re choosing images for your social posts, pick ones that reflect the vibrant, multifaceted world around us. Feature non-heteronormative and multiracial families for your Father’s Day, graduation and wedding posts. And for those great beach and summer fun scenes, celebrate different body types, including people of all sizes, people of color, and people with limb differences or who use mobility aids or have other visible differences. But, don’t expect that this alone will make your brand progressive or hip. In fact, you may even get some backlash from people who are not ready for a more current and realistic portrayal of society, like this example shows:
More is not more. Your company doesn’t have to have a special campaign for every single summer event. It’s exhausting just to think about and will only serve to dilute any connection you’re trying to foster. Instead consider what makes the most sense for your brand, your product and your consumer and create smart, representational and unique marketing materials that will stand out amidst the summer onslaught.
Aleks Walker, Spooler, writer, PR maven.