Coca-Cola lit up the social media world with their tribute to American diversity – a multi-lingual version of America the Beautiful. Putting aside political and social responses for and against the ad, it does prompt thinking about the dilemma facing today’s marketers. How do you speak to the breadth of American consumers without alienating any one segment? How do you show the growing Hispanic market that you connect with them without suggesting that you no longer care about your more traditional small town loyalist? How do you appeal to the out and proud same sex couple without crossing lines? And how do you do it all without pandering to either group?
As a researcher, I’m tempted to suggest that the answers are found in careful testing across segments of interest. Yes, that’s important. It will help you assess the level of response and proceed with eyes wide open about the potential consequences. Of course, you’ll want to be wary of reacting in a way that results in a creative solution that offends no one and, ultimately, compels no one.
As a consumer, I want to see companies be as transparent as possible about their values. Are people really paying attention to whether you care about the environment, human rights or equality when they make buying decisions? To the extent they do, it’s tempting to think that companies remain true to their values regardless. (No, I’m not really that naïve.)
In the end, it’s important to be as aware as possible of potential reactions to communications content before going to market, to consider that reaction for its positive and negative consequences and prepare to respond to that reaction.