Corporate brand reputation advertising will never appeal to real people

A sceptical Tim Riches delves into the spurious world of corporate reputation and asks what's really behind those super fund share ads.

In recent weeks, we’ve heard a new communications cross-breed baying in the backyard. A labradoodle of company branding and corporate reputation attempting to persuade us that it’s okay for giant companies such as BHP and CBA to make more money than most people can even imagine.

These corporate affairs/marketing mash-ups are pressing the point that when they make the big bucks, some of those bucks find their way into regular folks’ super funds. They’d have us believe it’s the Aussie battler who benefits from exporting tax liabilities as well as the fabric of the country, or turning ATMs into laundromats while rewarding employees for shafting customers.

While it’s fascinating to see advertising being deployed for what has traditionally been acknowledged as a corporate comms problem, the question that begs to be asked is who these efforts are really directed at.

The reality is, it’s not such a compelling message for regular people. For starters, many are detached from what’s going on with their super balances. In 2016, ATO figures showed 5.9 million ‘lost or inactive’ superannuation accounts totalling $11.65 billion.

As such, most people probably don’t see themselves as shareholders in the companies super funds invest in. And even if they do, is the prospect of more dollars in life’s final act enough to keep them from getting on their MP’s Facebook page to demand a Royal Commission into the banks?

Let us suspend disbelief for a moment and imagine the everyday Australian is invested enough to engage with such a campaign. Will they be applauding the bluest of the blue chippers for authentically conveying their deep commitment to shared value? Or will they see it as making them complicit in corporate self-interest – exacerbating the haves (shareholders) versus have-nots (customers) dynamic that’s making its presence felt in various ways?

This is clearly an issue of corporate political capital, a valuable currency in a low trust environment where businesses even less popular than the government should keep an eye on excess cash lest it be inappropriately appropriated for the public good.

The very political posturing of these campaigns leads me to believe they’re not all that they make out to be. Are they instead designed to make the real shareholders at the big end of town feel better about themselves as they check their bank balances once the dividends clear?

What’s even more likely is these cross-breeds have a particular niche audience in their sights, one that needs to be reminded that reining in corporate profits might have unintended consequences.

Someone should probably check out the media spend in Canberra.

Tim Riches is the group strategy director at branding agency Principals.



Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.