There is no doubt that over the years there has been a shift in consumer preferences to support brands that communicate authentically. Specifically millennials, of which 62% agree that if a brand engages with them on social networks they are more likely to become loyal customers.
Moreover, the importance of driving authentic, one-to-one, interactions with customers is no longer a question, but is mandatory if a brand wants to succeed. Why? Because more meaningful communication with one’s customers can help define and propel a brand’s identity. The challenge for marketers today is how to create those real moments and connections, without pandering or missing the mark?
Our co-founder, Jose de Cabo, and a panel of industry experts made up of Michelle Oliver, Mars VP of Marketing, Ed Couchman, Facebook’s Head of Agency Partnerships, and Bridget Angear, AMV BBDO’s Joint CSO, explored this idea at Cannes Lions when they discussed the topic: Can a brand manufacture authenticity?
Read on below for the top takeaways from this lively discussion:
Brands Can Encourage Authenticity
Panellists agreed that today’s customers are savvier than before and can easily spot when a brand isn’t being true to itself. However, in our modern marketing landscape, brands have the unique opportunity for creative, direct, and honest communication to shape how they would like to be perceived as long as they are able to deliver on their promises.
Michelle, from Mars UK, likened the current brand and consumer relationship to that of two strangers meeting on a dating site. Saying that a brand can manipulate its communications to fit what will be attractive to a prospective customer, but there always needs to be a bit of magic between the two parties for that “attraction” to develop into a deeper, loyal relationship. In order for this connection to strengthen, the major ingredient necessary is trust. If a brand can establish that, it’s likely to create and maintain a better relationship with its customers.
Stronger Internal Communication = Better Executed Authenticity
For a brand to create truly authentic connections externally, it must first be on the same page internally. Everything from the company mission, to a campaign’s purpose, to a brand’s voice/tone across channels must be tight-knit and understood across multiple disciplines and roles – from the VP to the shop assistant. Michelle reiterated this point when she said, “Every single person in the organisation must be absolutely clear on what the heart of their organisation stands for.”
If everyone is informed of the reasons and motivations behind internal decisions on brand communication, the more consistent external messaging will be no matter which part of the organisation delivers it. When all stakeholders in a brand are aligned, it leads to an easier and controlled execution of campaigns. Meaning, if or when a brand takes a risk with, say, a bold campaign, every level of the company is prepared to interact consistently with its customers to ensure a positive outcome.
Influencers Can Support Authenticity
Many brands have caught on to the power that influencers and other social media users have on their customers’ opinions. But, what has also become clear is that if an influencer relationship is not developed or handled correctly, it can be detrimental to a brand.
The rewards of a well-executed influencer campaign though, often outweigh the risk for many brands. So, if you find an influencer, or network, with the right aesthetic and alignment with your brand, the benefits are likely to be innumerable.
Authenticity is delivered through establishing trust with your consumer, and this is where influencers, paid or organic, can come in handy as a tool for building and supporting customer trust. That said, it’s always important to remember that there is a fine line to straddle with paid relationships and influencers, which can sometimes be perceived as inauthentic or fake when not executed correctly. To avoid a negative response from consumers, brands should be mindful of finding influencers that align with their core values instead of those with an extremely high follower count. More than follower numbers, your organisation should focus on engagement and brand compatibility first.
We’ve written about the importance of micro-influencers before, as well as shared tips on how to drive a more meaningful brand x influencer relationships, which will inherently help create more authentic relationships with your customers.
Increased Insight Drives Increased Authenticity
Through the observation and analysis of customer’s data, content creation, and behaviour, your brand can discover invaluable insights to inform marketing and advertising tactics that will resonate. By understanding what customers like and how they respond to certain types of communication, a brand can better shift and evolve its messaging to feel more meaningful to its audience.
User-generated content (UGC) is one great tool brands can use to keep a pulse on how customers respond to it. Through posting reviews, images, and videos on social media about your company or industry, customers often reveal essential and uninhibited insight into their perception and understanding of your organisation. By carefully analysing this information, a brand can better understand and cater its marketing messaging to its audiences preferences in a way that is more personalized, authentic, and relevant.
Ultimately, while the panel agreed that internal brand alignment, honest two-way communication, partnerships with the right influencers, and observation of user-generated content are all ways to “manufacture authenticity…,” There is always a little bit of magic, or stroke of luck, that brings all these efforts together to help a brand deliver truly authentic and meaningful marketing connections.
To hear more from the panellists and take a deeper dive into the conversation, check out this article published by Campaign magazine.