Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
Photoshop's role in advertising doesn't have the cleanest track record, with the software often used to alter models' appearances and remove blemishes or other visual elements deemed undesirable. Such practices are increasingly denigrated as consumers crave more authenticity from brands, leading some companies to add disclosures to edited photos or even forgo them entirely.
Water-filter maker Brita in July flipped the Photoshop concept on its head to digitally add trash to otherwise picturesque vacation images, tying photo manipulation into a cause-related effort around plastic waste's growing impact on the environment. The brand and agency Social Chain worked with 21 influencers on personalized Instagram posts featuring garbage-marred photos to shape a cautionary narrative and promote Brita's reusable water bottles as a potential solution.
Part of what made the #NoFilterNoFuture campaign work — it reached 2.4 million Instagram users as of press time — was a dash of deception, Social Chain's Creative Director Cathal Berragan told Marketing Dive.
"We wanted people to believe the images were real initially, but we were also very clear in the captions that they weren't, maybe making people feel some kind of way — angry or a little bit helpless about the issue," Berragan said. "Thinking those feelings drives action and pushes them to really do something."
Posting a plastic pledge
Brita's #NoFilterNoFuture initiative blends several popular marketing strategies to reach tech-savvy, health-conscious and socially aware young adults who are generally tuned into social media and are receptive to brands that support causes aligned with their values.
By leading the campaign with influencers' personal stories and photos — rather than posts simply touting Brita's new product — the brand smartly shifted the focus away from itself and created a more compelling story that could deepen connections with consumers.
The influencers, including actress and blogger Kylee Campbell and vlogger Kevin Droniak, followed up their trash-strewn Instagram posts with pledges around how Brita's Filtering Water Bottles will help them reduce their use of plastic bottles.
"I think the days of an influencer posing with a cup of tea are gone now. People have simply grown numb to it."
Creative director, Social Chain
One of the most powerful pieces of influencer content from the campaign, according to Berragan, was from a mother who posted a picture of her daughter playing in the water surrounded by litter, pointing to how Brita is honing in on families trying to create a better future for their children.
"By targeting young parents, we're not just changing the attitudes of one or two people, we're changing the attitudes of five or six people within a family," Berragan said. "Those kinds of effects can grow exponentially."
Social media posts for the #NoFilterNoFuture campaign were amplified through paid media on Instagram, Facebook and Social Chain's channels, including its LinkedIn and a leading travel page on Facebook. The agency also produced and shared a complementary video to explain Brita's campaign and its environmental-focused cause.
Cause-driven campaigns are also often well received by younger consumers and can fuel longer-term loyalty while distinguishing brands from rivals.
"What made the campaign work so well is ... Brita is actually providing a tangible solution as opposed to just jumping on the back of a cause to sell a product," Berragan said.
Brita's environmentally focused campaign on Instagram comes as brands continue to ramp up their social influencer budgets to help cut through clutter and engage ad-fatigued consumers. But while marketers are making more room in their budgets for influencer work this year, recent studies show engagement rates on some platforms hover near all-time lows, signaling that consumers may be growing desensitized to creators' messages.
Brita - the water filter producer has cracked the code of viral marketing as their #NoFilterNoFuture campaign combined current topics with a great group of content creators and as a result, started to spread fast online: https://t.co/TOxWLNOlRx— InfluencerDB (@Influencer_DB) July 11, 2019
Now that social media, especially Instagram, is saturated with influencer content, brands must work harder to tell unique stories that capture and excite potential customers.
Working with creators who are demonstrated advocates for a cause is essential to producing powerful branded content, Berragan said.
"All of a sudden you feel like you're working collaboratively as opposed to a kind of transactional relationship," he said. "I think the days of an influencer posing with a cup of tea are gone now. People have simply grown numb to it."