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The insight used to be the pillar of any efficient advertising campaign; it seems to be no longer an appropriate component in certain strategic process of communication. Is the insight value set aside, even among the great names? Digital use trends as well as cultural trends could become a real strike capacity for agencies and advertisers.

A world sparkling with energy, recalling Sim’s setting, an electro remix of the classical « Video Killed the Radio Star », people of all ages, whose faces have been replaced by emoticons… This is McDonald’s new corporate campaign, produced by BETC last summer.

All through the advert, there is a display of cheerfulness and good mood, portraying feelings of sharing and authenticity, ending up with, as a signature, « Come as you are ». Emojis play a central part as they are the main visual component on which relies the whole concept. Nevertheless, the obvious question about them is: what is their real function amidst this campaign and what are they done for?

Genuinely, the emoji is a mean of written expression in the SMS language (or in MNS for those who remember it) that expresses emotions and thoughts. But more than a simple way of illustrating a message, emoji became a language on its own.

Why did the giant fast food company favour the use of them? Emojis are fully a way of communicating, a playful way of decorating a message, and are sometimes a message on their own. Moreover, this language became literarily an intergenerational and universal code: everyone understands it and everyone can speak it, the youngest as well as the oldest! Parents and grandparents are also adopting it. Finally, the emoji is used to be different, to send messages with a touch of humour and good mood. It’s only a get-together language that spreads a feeling of community.

McDonald’s understood that thoroughly. By using it as a universal symbol to represent each of us in the advert, this brand made an advertisement concept with the emoji. Since several years, MacDo’s ambition is to bring together all its clients, however different and diverse they may be, in a sharing place where everyone is free to be as he wants to be. In fact, this insight itself produced the signature « Just come as you are »: the consumers, may they be young or older, may they belong to affluent categories or to more modest ones, whatever their features or their mood, go to McDo. Therefore, in order to make this reality true and demonstrate how close the company is to its clients, the brand presents itself as a place with no constraints, a place where everyone can come just as he is, even as a total outsider!

As far as the image of the consumer is presented in the last campaign, the emoji elicits joy and authentic way of expression. Then nothing better that the emoji to remain in the stream of the previous campaigns « Just come as you are » and to personify the values of optimism and friendliness in a new corporate campaign! The emoji’s relevance should therefore not be questioned.

But, in fact, what about the substance of this campaign?

Whether the visual result and the message of this new advert film is appreciated or not, it reveals a new feature in the development of communication strategies. The insight, this consumer truth, this disclosure of the real consumer that allows meaning and value, tends sometimes to abandon the field of advertisement. As we all know, the advent of the digital era produced considerable changes in our ways of living, and, consequently, in the way brands communicate with us. Thus, certain uses or habits due to the digital era sometimes developed into fashion effects, or even popular trends, and this expanded so much that the brands took hold of them. For instance, the selfie is now strongly established in our everyday life, our ways of living, and became a natural, if not ordinary, feature. Samsung did not fail to use this technic with the famous selfie of the Oscars, the most retwitted selfie in history. Brands also took hold of some other phenomenons, such as the « ice bucket challenge » or « the harlem shake ». These digital born trends become genuine advertisement concepts on their own. This ends up with a marketing intelligence focused more on trends than on the search of insights. In this way of viewing the strategic process, the strategic planning is no longer due to reduce the consumer’s tensions, to produce statements that will become the spine of communication guidelines. Fashion or trend of the day becomes the fuel of communication.

What is this way of doing worth? In fact, if we get back to McDonald’s, it may be relevant, in terms of coherence with the territory of the brand, to use the emoji as a medium, as this language personifies several values carried by the brand. But is this relevance sufficient to convince us, and to make us appreciate the advert film. There are diverging opinions about it. However, an advertisement concept that would rely only on a digital trend, even very powerful, may lead to an opposite view: a lack of depth. Actually, using the emoji may seems a bit too easy and opportunist. The strength of the statement « Just come as you are » relies on a real feature belonging to the consumer, a feature that allowed this statement. Personify it with emojis may seem superficial, even though the visual result of the film is cheerful and sparkling. To my opinion, the differentiating value of the signature is somehow stolen by a very « mainstream » presentation. Nevertheless, it deals with a corporate campaign on a brand name, not on a product. The objective is therefore to communicate on the brand’s territory and, to this extend, McDonald’s fulfilled it in a right and coherent way, thanks to this concept based on a digital trend. However, using the insight allows to add a real out of time value to advertisement campaigns which, therefore, resist the ups and downs of time, and make a lasting impression, whereas trends and digital uses are constantly changing.

Finally, these last years witnessed the rise of a « trend strategic planning ». If prospects are still part of the planner’s functions, trends are generally used as means, and not as ends. The border between both is thin, due to the expanding new digital trends, but the insight as such goes far beyond the simple use or fashion effect of the day, and allows to give the brand a strong reason to exist for its consumers. When brands seek to last long and to go beyond a temporary little buzz, it’s only through the consumers’ reality that they will create a unique territory and gain an out of time status.


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