Jane Genova
Jane Genova

The silver lining in COVID-19 could be bold innovation in marketing.

And that’s exactly what has been happening in the usually staid setting of Boston.

Boston Magazine reports that the Boston University student-run AdLab and PR Lab launched the totally cool F*ck It Won’t Cut It (@fckitwontcutit) campaign. And, with the brass’ approval.

The objective of the campaign is to catapult students returning to campus out of their generational indifference to the contagiousness of COVID-19. Like all good marketing memes, it mirrors the mindset and language of the target demographic. Gen Z seems to think in expletives.

Those students are not alone in smirking about the COVID-19 threat. After all, as MessageMedia observes, most people have become over-the-top weary of doing what it supposedly takes to prevent the virus from infecting them. Another lockdown? Likely the government won’t be able to impose that again.

But these students aren’t “most people.” BusinessInsider documents that across the U.S. young adults are the group most affected by the pandemic.

Of course, this innovation is global news in the advertising and public relations media. There is bound to be plenty of chatter.

But the bottom line, as in all marketing, is: Will there be results and will those meet expectations?

It’s tough to envision that members of Gen Z will compulsively maintain social distancing, wear masks and maintain hand hygiene. There are more important concerns at that phase of a long life. It could be that students at BU will become infected at the same rate as students on other campuses which didn’t run such an amazing campaign.

But the even bigger issue is if BU will really reopen and if it does will it have to shut down very quickly? A number of schools at Harvard went on record early in the game to say they would conduct the fall semester's instruction totally remotely.

Meanwhile, what the traditional players in marketing and public relations should notice is the creativity of the students who came up with the approach. That could be the evolving model in mainstream marketing. BU is very buttoned-down.

Marketing and public relations firms not able to stretch into another dimension like that could find themselves bottom-feeders. Hubspot details the challenges marketers are struggling with globally. Well-known is the research from sources such as Spencer Stuart indicating the shrinking tenure for chief marketing officers. However, it’s nothing new that the marketing department is one of the most vulnerable spots in an organization.

The students at the BU AdLab and PRLab might have quite a future ahead of them. BU is trademarking @fckitwontcutit. Great to have that on a resume.

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Jane Genova (http://janegenova.com) provides strategy and ghostwriting for all mediums, all formats, all issues – [email protected]