Design and marketing mailbag | July

We take a look at the biggest things to happen in design and marketing over the month of July from blunt advertising to the commercialisation of Pride.

Simon Patchett

Here at Xpand, we’re always keeping our fingers on the pulse with the latest updates to marketing, social media, and design.

Check out what’s happened in the past month around the globe from newly implemented anti-bullying features to blunt advertising in the name of honesty. This month we’ll be looking at:

  • Which brand is making advertising meta.
  • The update that’s caused outrage amongst Australian influencers.
  • How brands have commercialised the rainbow flag.
  • How Instagram is combating bullying using AI.


‘Most Honest Advertising Ever’

Recently we’ve been seeing brands advertising in a new way. Considering that it feels like everything has been done before, in advertising this feels like a pretty big deal. Trying to cut through the noise is becoming increasingly difficult for brands with people exposed to a ridiculous amount of promotions each day, but BrewDog is approaching advertising in a new way. It’s getting meta.

You may have seen the adverts floating around; stripped back, big black lettering, and a BrewDog can front and center. When revealed in May, Brewdog boasted that this was the ‘most honest advertising ever.’ As if we don’t know when we’re being advertised to. Younger audiences are becoming much smarter and know when they’re being advertised to. Even when watching a TV show, if there’s a brand mentioned, seen or even teased about, audiences will know, and they’ll know that it’s been purposefully positioned in front of them.


The idea behind the advert is to differentiate from classic larger and beer ads which are known for having large advertising budgets, complicated storylines, and celebrity endorsements. The advert is cheap to make, and you have to agree, it does stand out from the crowd. But, does it make you want to buy it?


Instagram’s Like Removal Trial Extends

Over the past month, it seems like Instagram has been in the news constantly. This has mainly been due to influencers criticising the new no-like feature which stops other users from seeing how many likes another user has. From May Instagram started to trial users not being able to see likes on their posts in Canada, in an attempt to improve user’s mental health.

This has been met with plenty of backlash from influencers who rely on these likes to promote themselves and other products to their following. They will be able to see engagement on their posts, but passing brands won’t, possibly effecting whether a brand approaches them in the first place. With only followers to go off, and common knowledge that followers don’t always directly correlate with engagement, does this make it harder for brands to work with influencers and vice versa?

Having first started the trial in Canada, Instagram extended this to Australia, one of the countries with the highest engagement rates for the app. The social media platform has also confirmed that they will be extending even further to include New Zealand, Brazil, Italy, Japan, and Ireland in their experiment.


Fifty Years After Stonewall

Pride has rolled around again, and with that, the introduction of companies temporary rainbow branding. Every year pride takes place on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots which started the Pride movement, but this time it’s the 50th anniversary. We’ve all seen it, sponsored shirts during pride marches and rainbow rebranding for one month out of the year. Recently ASDA’s head office has replaced its logo with a multi-coloured version, two rainbow flags on either side. There’s always the question of if brands are genuine, or if they’re jumping on the Pride bandwagon to come across as compassionate and inclusive when really their views are strikingly different the rest of the year. It’s seen as another opportunity. A new valuable target audience to target. A new moneymaking machine.


Budweiser has been criticised for its recent branding choice as sponsors of London Pride. The design features several cups with each of the pride flags featured to represent inclusivity and diversity. They have said, “We are using our flag cups to celebrate and educate around different communities and their flags.” There are many sides to the criticisms. Some people are saying that Budweiser is commercialising Pride (along with many other brands). Others seem to be against Pride altogether and are asking the alcohol company to ‘just make a good product’. Possibly the most remarkable insight out of all is the call to ban corporate political speech.

It seems that the fiery foundations on which Pride was built have been dampened. It’s there to be seen as an inclusive party, but not to disrupt. The marches are littered with brands screaming out their solidarity with LGTBQ+ community, while they source their products from anti-LGTBQ+ countries and profit more from the movement than the charities that they claim to support.


Instagram To Combat Cyber Bullying

Over the years Instagram has received a lot of stick for not combating bullying on their platform. It seems now that Instagram has listened and is actively trialling new ways to protect its users. They have said, ‘We are committed to leading the industry in the fight against online bullying, and we are rethinking the whole experience of Instagram to meet that commitment.’

One way this is happening is in the use of AI technology. Instagram has said that when someone posts a potentially offensive comment, the app will trigger a dialogue asking users ‘Are you sure you want to post this?’ with an undo button. Instagram hopes that this will encourage positive interactions and that if users are given the option to think about their actions then they will choose the kinder option. Instagram has said, ‘From early tests of this feature, we have found that it encourages some people to undo their comment and share something less hurtful once they have had a chance to reflect.’


In the future, Instagram has also announced that they may give users the option to ‘restrict’ other users. From their research, Instagram has realised that blocking, reporting or unfollowing a bully could do more harm than good for the victim, especially if they interact with the bully in real life. The new feature means that comments on your posts from a restricted person will only be visible to the restricted user. You will then be able to approve comments from restricted users and allow others to also see this comment. The Restrict feature can also stop another user from seeing if they are online and if they’ve read a direct message.


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