TMCnet Feature
June 04, 2019

The marketing importance of social trends

The power of a successful marketing campaign is immeasurable for big companies but what makes one advert special and another not so spectacular? Marketing agencies that have their finger on the pulse of public feeling are often responsible for the most memorable, influential and lucrative of advertising campaigns.

Coca Cola’s 1971 Hilltop advert that aligned the brand with the growing ‘hippy’ movement is perhaps the best example of a successful on-trend advertising campaign. The advert boosted Coca Cola’s sales and portrayed it as a socially aware and progressive company.

There is however a fine line between success and failure when it comes to on-trend advertising campaigns. In this article we take a look at some of the best and worst efforts from global companies.

Pepsi – Kendell Jenner diffuses decades of tension with a tasty beverage

In 2017 the Black Lives Matter campaign was receiving worldwide exposure as people around the globe collectively baulked at police brutality towards African-Americans. Every week seemed to bring more stories of shocking violence from the United States and demonstrations against the police became more and more frequent.

In an attempt to appear ‘woke’ Pepsi decided to enlist Kendell Jenner as the star of their new advert, promoting happiness and acceptance between social justice campaigners and the police.

(Kendell Jenner puts an end to police brutality and systematic racism with a couple of cans of Pepsi.)

In the advert Jenner is seen filming a modelling shoot whilst a vociferous anti-police demonstration takes place in the background. Deciding enough is enough she marches over to a police officer and hands him a can of Pepsi.

As the crowd cheers the tension is suddenly diffused and with just a few cans of Pepsi Kendell Jenner has diffused a decade old struggle. The advert was met with huge criticism for its trivialisation of the Black Lives Matter campaign and subsequently cancelled by Pepsi.

Bernice King responded to the advert on Twitter with a picture of her Father Martin Luther King Jr being confronted by a police officer at a civil rights rally captioned with; “If only Daddy had known the power of Pepsi.”

Wink Slots – Gambling is coming

Online gambling continues to be an area of extreme growth in the United Kingdom and beyond. Such is the saturation of the market that individual companies are having to become more and more creative in order to stand out and attract customers.

Wink Slots are one of the smaller online gambling companies in the UK but have been punching above their weight for some time. That’s largely down to their ability to capitalise on social trends.

To differentiate themselves from their competitors Wink Slots have released a series of online slot games based on pop culture. The most successful of which was their Game of Thrones inspired slot – game of slots.

The HBO show has finally reached its conclusion, having drawn in over a billion viewers throughout its 8 seasons. Wink Slots released their Westerosi game in the run-up to the release of Season 8, successfully jumping on the Thrones bandwagon and helping to promote their business.

Gillette – The best a man can get?

In 1989 Gillette released their famous ‘Best a man can get’ advert during the Superbowl, a theme that it would go on to use for the best part of 30 years. The subsequent adverts played on a fantasy ideal of machismo masculinity.

Gillette took a dramatic U-turn earlier this year when they released an advert that sought to capitalise on the reach of the #MeToo campaign. Toxic masculinity was no longer in vogue and as such Gillette’s all-male marketing team looked to challenge that.

In the advert Gillette looks to destroy some of the myths surrounding masculinity, challenging its users to strive for better. In amongst the hyperbole Gillette also confronts the notion that ‘boys will be boys’.

Unfortunately for Gillette their attempt to appear ‘woke’ was seen for what it was – a cheap ploy – by their new target demographic of woke and enlightened customers. Despite the condemnation of the advert Gillette’s marketing team will point to the continued discussion of the advert as a clear indicator of its success.

(Gillette’s attempt to appear ‘woke’ came across as patronising, preachy and cringeworthy.)

Nike – Believe in something.

Sports stars are often criticised for not using their platform and popularity to make a stand. In 2016 NFL player Colin Kaepernick did just that, well in fact he did just the opposite.

In the 49ers third preseason game of the 2016 season Kaepernick chose to sit down during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner. After the game he told the media, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.”

Kaepernicks public demonstration against police brutality was seen as a pivotal moment in the Black Lives Matter campaign. His protest was not met with widespread approval though with prominent government members denouncing him for a ‘lack of respect’.

An 8% drop in NFL viewing figures was attributed to Kaepernick’s protest, despite that drop it brought awareness to a serious issue in the United States. In 2018 Nike released an advert featuring a picture of Kaepernick with the accompanying text, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

The company knew full well how decisive Kaepernick’s protest had been and how appearing to back it could damage their reputation. Yet they took the stand to back Kaepernick and in doing so showed their customers that they are a caring company that stands for something more than just sales.

(Colin Kaepernick’s stand against racial inequality was divisive in the United States but that didn’t stop Nike from backing the athlete.)


Recent studies have found that millennial customers are more ethically aware customers than previous generations. They are more likely to put their faith in a company that stands for something rather than one with a stunning product.

As such some of the world’s biggest companies have attempted to align themselves with social causes or trends to appeal to this demographic. However there’s a fine line between a good and a bad modern marketing campaign.

Not only is the millennial market more ethically aware than older generations but it is a market more likely to see through faux-sincerity than any other.

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