Differentiating the brand by making a difference

13 May 2011|Kalil Vicioso

ItGetsBetterI recently witnessed an inspiring example of what may be the next generation PSA. The PSA features the ‘It gets better’ project, started by writer/humorist/activist Dan Savage in response to the rash of suicides by gay youth. The project offers a forum for members and supporters of the gay community to post video messages to YouTube, messages offering hope to gay youth who might be struggling with being in the closet, bullying, and/or being rejected by friends and family.  What’s new about this PSA? It also served as a compelling ad for Google and its YouTube and Google Chrome products.

YouTube – Google Chrome: It Gets Better

The seamless interlacing of social and consumer outreach clearly sets this apart from much of the diverse consumer outreach currently out there.  At the same time, the spot also highlights both Google’s YouTube and the ease of navigation on Google Chrome. The video is a well-paced compilation of video contributions by Adam Lambert, Lady Gaga, Kathy Griffin, even Woody from Toy Story, and comments left by gay youth, among other people – “you saved my life”. The compilation is dynamic and demonstrates the speed and usability of Google Chrome.   It ends with a promise that implies a simple yet critical insight into the way people use and consume digital content – The Web is what you make of it.  

The ‘It gets better’ Facebook page reported more visits to the YouTube channel and website since the spot aired than at any time since the project was launched in September 2010.  To put that in context, within two months of launching there were 10,000 user-created videos that had been viewed over 35 million times. Much of the dialogue on blogs, both LGBT and non-LGBT focused, and other social media has praised Google’s promotion of ‘It gets better’.  At the same time they never lose sight of the fact that it is also a well-crafted ad for Google. In other words, Google has aligned corporate social responsibility with marketing to diverse audiences. It thus positions itself as a brand that shares “New Mainstream” values of openness and inclusiveness.

This is not Google’s first involvement with the ‘It gets better’ campaign. Google employees have already contributed a video addressing gay teens to the project. This not only makes the ad more credible but further defines the brand as a home for creative, open, and activist employees.

Of further note, this spot is not part of a targeted or siloed campaign.  I saw the spot when it aired on May 3rd during Glee, but it has also aired on ESPN during the basketball playoffs as well as on other channels. Google thus avoids the perception that it is pandering to gay audiences or only supporting them on “safe” platforms. This reinforces the sense that Google is taking a real stand, trying to have a positive impact.

We form deep connections with each other on a personal level based on shared values.  Increasingly, shared values are equally important in the relationship between consumers and brands. The content a brand supports, the dialogue it initiates or joins, the manner in which it communicates, and the causes it takes up are visible signs of core values. Thus they are tangible ways for brands to define themselves and engage audiences.

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