Post Truth: Functional truth in marketing
by Marguerite de Villiers. In a post-truth era, a time where intuition trumps intellectualism, consumers are looking to connect with products that they can relate to — something that resonates with them. It’s time to transcend the boundaries of consumer and product truths, and look for those universal motivators behind consumer behaviour: the human truth.
The truth is…
A product truth is often a message communicated about, well, the product: what it is and what it does. It’s intended to assist consumers in forming or altering their perspective and opinion of a product or brand. A human truth goes beyond the product and category; it explores the socio-cultural world of the consumer to try and understand what motivates their behaviours and perceptions of products and brands.
Inspired by growing interest globally in genetics, heritage, and lineage, Marmite in the UK recently released a “Marmite Gene Project” advert. This shows a series of scenarios in which different families receive the results of a Marmite test, which determines whether they were born loving or hating Marmite.
As a product, Marmite knows that it is either appreciated or despised for its distinctive taste. As a brand, it has often drawn on this, its very own human truth. It so cleverly resonates with both lovers and haters of the product that it becomes irrelevant, whether or not you like it. The brand and its communications connect more strongly with something that goes beyond personal taste.
Alternatively, if the product or brand doesn’t speak to a universal human truth, there’s the option of applying culturally relevant research and communication methods. Ethnographer and researcher, Anya Evans, used Tinder as a methodological tool to reach people who were difficult to connect with. Applying the principals of Tinder (namely, the way it operates by gathering data about individuals, and connecting those individuals with people in search of specific criteria), Evans was able to navigate through the restricted field (Occupied Palestinian West Bank) and interact with the people within it.
Imagine the possibilities for market researchers and advertisers looking to communicate with hard-to-reach consumers by simply using the technology that people are already using.
Why be limited to human truth and cultural method; why not use both? IKEA is on a mission to “put people first”. In an extensive ethnographic study, IKEA sent researchers on home visits around the world to better understand what “domestic bliss” looks like culturally and geographically. This hasn’t only informed its product innovation; it’s given it them a clearer idea of who its consumers are.
We all have basic needs, desires, and preferences that manifest in different ways. It’s up to the marketer to uncover these human truths; it’s the task of the advertiser to effectively communicate them; and it’s the brand’s mission to connect with a human truth.