The Iceland Christmas campaign is a wake-up call for communications people, business leaders, and anyone else who is responsible for how their organisations promote themselves and tell their story. Yes, another one, writes Mark Stretton
It graphically illustrates how brands and businesses are moving away from promoting their products to communicating their values and purpose, and aligning to meaningful issues, in a bid to connect at a deeper level with their audiences.
Iceland (which thanks to a Saturday job funded this writer’s beer tokens through A-Levels) is, let’s not forget, the purveyor of unfussy frozen fare. It is slap bang in the middle of the most mainstream of shopping brands – value-led, unpretentious and accessible.
It is the friend that busy folk need to solve the costly catering conundrum that is Christmas, and which not so long ago enlisted the help of I’m A Celebrity-style celebs like Peter Andre and Kerry Katona to help shift its prawn rings.
But that was Christmas past. Its 2018 vision is quite different: an animated advertising campaign launched with the help of Greenpeace and the voice of Emma Thompson, and showing the plight of orangutans as a result of deforestation due to the western world’s addiction to the use of palm oil in an uncomfortably large number of products. As part of the campaign, Iceland has committed to not sell any own-label products containing palm oil.
It is some leap. What has happened since the advert first launched – in terms of the attention it has garnered – also demonstrates how big brands can help drive awareness and fame for important social issues.
I love it for its boldness (including the bravery of the Iceland board) and believe it serves as the poster child for what is happening in business-to-consumer communications and marketing. In this era of businesses needing to humanise their approach to engaging with customers – and talk to them like they too are just a bunch of (organised) human beings – it is everything.
It is also interesting to note that this campaign is genuinely integrated across all Iceland marketing and communications touchpoints – meaning that anyone who comes into contact with Iceland cannot avoid this campaign. Witness the Twitter handles of the senior Iceland team including the MD Richard Walker and the chairman Malcolm Walker, which feature the central character of the campaign, ‘Rang-tan’.
Oh, did anyone notice that the advert was very quickly ‘banned’ by advertising authorities for being too political? Not really. We all saw it anyway, across our Facebook pages and in our Twitter feeds thanks to shares by hugely-followed celebrities like James Corden, and via coverage across the news media. At my last count, the aggregated views of the advert across various platforms has passed 40 million, with the numbers continuing to climb. And an online petition for it to be allowed to air on television has gained more than one million signatures.
These things don’t necessarily need to go on TV now, but that’s another blog.
The campaign isn’t without critics but if you are responsible for communicating, marketing, promoting or defending your organisation and its reputation, this is a moment worth reflecting upon.
Mark Stretton is Managing Director of FSC