Could submissive advertising lead to more powerful promotion?

AwkwardTraditionally the main point of advertising was to promote the business and the products or services that they are looking to sell, but as times change and audiences get smarter and smarter, businesses big and small are having to use different tactics to impress. More and more brands are now opting for forms of advertising that don’t shout or scream their company name.

Known widely as ‘submissive’ or ‘unbranded’ advertising, these insanely clever marketing campaigns have, when well executed, created a cult following that leads potential customers right back to the brand’s door, but is this type of advertising just for the big boys? Here we explore just how successful unbranded advertising is and look at the examples that are putting this marketing trend on the map…

What exactly is submissive advertising?

Submissive or unbranded advertising essentially works on the principle that if you hide it, they will come. ‘It’ being your brand and its products or services, and ‘they’ being your target audience. Submissive advertising is no new thing, but with more of the bigger household names using it to inadvertently promote their wares, it is becoming recognised by smaller and start-up brands too.

Submissive advertising uses messages that do not link to the products or services of specific companies at all, and in the majority of cases, even the name of the brand responsible for creating said ad is omitted entirely. Generally unbranded adverts work by highlighting and solving problems or issues that are related to the brand’s industry or product, or take the goodwill approach to promote purely good advice.

Do campaigns that don’t mention brands really work?

Originally used by businesses in the pharmaceutical sector to raise awareness of certain health issues in an effort to raise sales of their related products, unbranded advertising is being used widely by companies interested in social enterprise. It is however a trend that’s growing in popularity across multiple industries, and whilst it can have untold rewards if executed correctly, an unbranded ad no doubt has its risks. In some circumstances, customers have felt deceived by the unbranded nature of such advertising, but criticism aside, the social media views related to these campaigns offers the ultimate payoff.

Fashion label Wren’s First Kiss campaign, which asked 20 strangers to kiss on camera for the first time, received its fair share of positive and negative reactions but just two months after its launch it garnered more than 100 million views and significant media coverage, including in fashion bible Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times and The Guardian. Good going for a campaign that cost just $1,500 to produce!

Who else is doing it right?

Whilst the point of unbranded content is to not know which brand created it, after some detective work, there are some standout examples that are certain to influence how you create yours. Resource wise, content hubs Fab-Beauty.com and BabyCenter.com have unlikely creators, the first being the brainchild of world leading cosmetics brand L’Oréal and the second being created by baby product manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. The Somers Town trailer also comes to you from Eurostar.

Thinking of using these brand examples to create your own unbranded campaign? Submissive advertising has a number of benefits, and ultimately builds trust between brand and audience, but remember it’s all about quality not quantity. Be as authentic as possible and brand loyalty will surely follow.