Brands will get even more ‘real’ in 2017
by Tenielle Maris. Consumer psychology studies, for the longest time, have told us that human beings see brands as an extension of themselves, as a personal platform for self-expression. Fast forward to 2017 — consumers are smarter and more demanding than ever before: no longer satisfied to follow blindly, obsessed with asking “why?” and expecting more-riveting and -intricate reasons from brands in return.
The blurred lines between digital and physical worlds have driven this very behaviour, especially concerning millennials, where a brand’s purpose needs to be beautifully and conveniently ‘on show’ at all times to inform consumer decision-making. What this means for ad folks in 2017 is that there has never been more of a demand for those brands that are authentic and quintessential in some shape or form.
What brands need to realise, however, is that the very definition of authenticity has evolved: there has been a shift from finding a USP to establishing a real and relevant reason for being. Mass consumerism has been replaced by the demand for artisanal, craft and handmade goods, where consumers are choosing to buy into something because of the story behind it. Understanding how something is made, who made it, what it stands for and how that product plays a bigger role in the world are the things that are fuelling purchase decisions.
According to an article published by Forbes in 2016 on creating authentic connections with consumers: “Brands and retailers will need to continue to find new ‘authentic’ and stealthy marketing channels, as consumers increasingly reject traditional marketing and increasingly turn to social media as their resource for all types of information, including trends, products and reviews.”
The penny is dropping for marketers and advertisers around the globe that it’s not about a brand influencing people but rather it’s about the person behind that brand (AdAge, October 2016). According to the findings of a study conducted by the Keller Fay Group in 2016, real-life influencers — who are passionate about what they are recommending — have significantly more influence on purchase decisions than celebrity endorsers (Adweek, March 2016).
Just when you thought that influencers were only reserved for advocating the hottest fashion labels, more and more industries are turning to the right kind of influencers to connect with their target audiences on a deeper — and more authentic — level: in 2016, Quantas Airways partnered with one of Australia’s most-influential personalities to create the type of content that would connect with their online audiences like never before; meanwhile, Alaska Airlines leveraged travel and adventure micro-influencers to generate hype and excitement amongst varying niche markets around their beautiful travel destinations.
When every brand is trying to be more ‘real’ than the next, the risk is that authenticity may very well become commoditised and the value proposition somewhat diluted. The challenge for brands is to consistently conduct themselves in a way that embodies the very essence of what being a human brand is all about: one that speaks the truth, owns up to mistakes, shows how it has improved and does what it says (Trendwatching 2015). It’s no good simply telling your audience that you are authentic, rather, it’s about doing what you say and, simultaneously, doing it in a captivating way.
If there’s one thing that brands should embrace this year, it is to relay their purpose and meaning by being true in every sense of the word. Brands that therefore commit to not deviating from the ‘reason’ that they exist, and avoid becoming disingenuous when speaking about the things that they think their audiences want to hear, are the ones that are going to win the hearts of consumers as they embark on their personal and convoluted journey of finding their real and authentic self.
Tenielle Maris is strategic director at TTL agency, 34°, in Johannesburg. Beginning her career in branding and communications, she has spent the last decade in the marketing industry where she has worked upon big brands spanning the African continent. Having found her passion in understanding what drives human beings to connect with particular brands, her time is spent getting up close and personal with the people whom brands are trying to connect with.
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