De Beers ini­tia­tive a safe bet

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - MEDIA& MARKETING -

Hence, I was in­trigued to see the in­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions ini­tia­tive pro­duced by Ig­nite Joe Pub­lic for min­ing gi­ant De Beers as it used clas­sic mar­ket­ing tech­niques to get across the mes­sage.

Safety is the num­ber one con­cern for De Beers and they en­listed their em­ploy­ees to help draft the “Zero Harm” vi­sion back in 2006.

Yet, it be­came ap­par­ent that the mes­sage needed re­peat­ing, and in a way which would make it res­onate emo­tion­ally with min­ers and other work­ers. They tried out a “No Tol­er­ance” po­si­tion­ing, but that didn’t work in the way they wanted.

What Ig­nite Joe Pub­lic came up with was sim­ple, but in clas­sic ad­ver­tis­ing style pulled at the heart­strings.

Turn­ing around the “hows” of safety, it fo­cused on the “whys” – the most im­por­tant of which was: re­turn home safe to my fam­ily. And no­body knows more than the lo­cal min­ing com­mu­nity that de­sire is more than mere words.

De Beers work­ers at a num­ber of mines were asked, via in­ter­nal posters and e-mails: “Why will you stay safe to­day?”

More than 80 per­cent re­sponded, send­ing in their per­sonal rea­sons for stay­ing safe, in­clud­ing pic­tures of their fam­i­lies.

The mes­sages made their way on to posters and on to printed tem­plates, which were sown on to the back of over­alls and work clothes as a con­stant re­minder of the real rea­son they go to work ev­ery day… their fam­i­lies.

It’s sim­ple, but stun­ningly ef­fec­tive. Car­rots work much bet­ter than sticks in most pub­lic ser­vice mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which is what this is. But what makes this cam­paign stand out is the way it ze­roes in on one of the strong­est emo­tions in any per­son.

So Or­chids to De Beers and to Ig­nite Joe Pub­lic. It’s a clas­sic case study in how to talk to em­ploy­ees.

The dan­ger in us­ing clichés or hip phrases in mar­ket­ing cam­paigns is that you might use them out of con­text, or worse, could com­bine two words which don’t re­late to each other to make a unique piece of silli­ness.

Such is the achieve­ment of AON, a com­pany which is in­volved in in­surance and em­ployee ben­e­fits.

Its ra­dio ad, which has been run­ning for a while, ir­ri­tates the day­lights out of me ev­ery time I hear it.

The com­pany’s proud slo­gan is: Em­power Re­sults.

What? Not em­pow­er­ing peo­ple to achieve re­sults, nor em­pow­er­ing com­pa­nies to do bet­ter or pro­vide bet­ter ben­e­fits for their em­ploy­ees, both of which would be cor­rect.

Em­power re­sults, how­ever, makes no gram­mat­i­cal sense.

Firstly, the word em­power ap­plies to peo­ple and com­pa­nies. Nor­mally, when used in this con­text, it im­plies that the per­son, the com- pany or or­gan­i­sa­tion, has been given the power to do some­thing.

Per­haps to im­prove their po­si­tion in life or prof­itabil­ity. Hence black eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment is giv­ing black peo­ple the power to im­prove their eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion.

A re­sult, how­ever, can­not, by def­i­ni­tion, be changed. If it is, then it is a new re­sult. Some­thing which can­not be changed, there­fore, can­not be em­pow­ered.

A re­sult is also, ef­fec­tively, an inan­i­mate ob­ject, much like a chair. And how many fur­ni­ture com­pa­nies ad­ver­tise that they “Em­power Chairs”?

I can imag­ine the clevers at AON – I’m not sure whether a mar­ket­ing agency was in­volved, be­cause this silly slo­gan per­me­ates the com­pany’s en­tire cor­po­rate iden­tity – sit­ting down to thrash out a catchy com­pany buzz phrase.

What are the but­tons to push which are hot at the mo­ment? Em­power? Cool! Re­sults? Cool! Let’s put them to­gether…

I hope you’re not as quick to throw to­gether dis­parate and un­re­lated ideas and terms in your busi­ness world, AON.

You get this week’s Onion for fur­ther di­lut­ing the power of lan­guage.

And that is one of the mot­toes of this col­umn: Onions: Em­pow­er­ing Peo­ple to Im­prove Their Gram­mar.

Ig­nite Joe Pub­lic shows how keep­ing it sim­ple can be ef­fec­tive.

Putting the fam­i­lies in the pic­ture tugs at the heart­strings.

The back-to-back work-safety mes­sage hits a nerve.

The ques­tion on ev­ery­one’s lips is: Why will you stay safe to­day?

A sim­ple mes­sage gets the work­force think­ing…

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