Change your region

Circus red and white neon sign - Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

Joy… in the New Communications Economy

In the third of our article series, Lindsey Jordan – our UK Head of Creative Strategy – explores why brands need to lean into the stranger side of life to standout in the digital landscape.

In the digital world, you have the freedom to be whoever you want to be. Whether your passion is extreme dishwasher loading or WitchTok or both, there’s a vibrant, diverse landscape where you can embrace your unique quirks and individuality alongside millions of like-minded people. 

To win in the modern digital space, brands need to lean into and celebrate the joy of the weird.

There’s no more topical example than the UK Labour Party’s current TikTok approach as part of the current general election. Let’s take the party’s video featuring the late light entertainer Cilla Black and linking her the rival Conservative party’s proposal for national service. It’s irreverent, spoken about a lot on social media and just a bit weird. Although the message is polarising, you can’t argue that it sparks an emotional reaction.

We know emotional responses are the things that make advertising work. Yet, so many ads, especially in digital space, try so hard to do things right, to conform to category conventions, to be rationally getting across the right messages, that actually they all look a bit the same.

By trying so hard not to offend anyone, brands appeal to no-one.

Celebrate the subcultures

As people, we are not one-size-fits-all. We are messy. We are multi-hyphenated humans. We build our identity by being into a multitude of things, some of them every day, some of them weird, some of them wonderful, and everything in-between.

Digital enables and facilitates this. Indeed, 76% of the UK population belongs to a digital subculture or community. Whether that’s Dark Academia Tok (66m posts on TikTok), Dishwasher Loading (22m posts on TikTok) or Wood Working (2m subscribers on Reddit), you can find millions of people who are also passionate about that thing.

Online communities are not small or niche – they are the new mass media.

But if people are into a multitude of things, brands need to be multi-hyphenated too. They need to embrace the joy of the weird and the wonderful, especially in the digital and social space, where content is driven by the richness of being multifaceted, strange humans.

Tesco, for example, has really leant into the very human joy of the weird, with its TikTok content. From the ‘Voice of the Checkout’ to putting cheeky celebrity Rylan Clark inside a checkout, the brand’s videos use memes, short-form comedy skits and talent, helping deliver significant increases in engagement.

So how do you embrace your weird as a brand?

We think there are four golden rules:

Firstly, be clear on your brand’s DNA and its distinctive memory structures, and use those as the constant, whilst leaning into the weird. For example, Tesco social content all builds on the supermarket’s long-held brand slogan, “Every Little Helps”. All the content is about the helpfulness of Clubcard but in a way that embraces the joy of the weird.

Secondly, embrace testing, failing and learning. This is especially important in the digital space, where campaigns can be started more cheaply and it’s OK to fail and learn.

Thirdly, you also don’t have to do it all yourself. Co-create with influencers and partners who act as ring leaders and lightning rods into those communities and subcultures. Sixty-eight percent of the UK population trusts creators and influencers more than brands, so leverage these voices to co-create. 

Finally, be prepared to let it go. The number-one type of content in the world is UGC. You have to be prepared to let your content go and let consumers make it part of their world.

So, stop falling victim to being bland and safe. Learn to lean into the joy of the weird.

Digital is the place where you can let your unique personality shine, where the weird and the wonderful are not just accepted but celebrated.  It’s time to take leap, be weird and embrace the response you get.