Information technology available at our fingertips in 2017 has changed the way brands communicate. This statement wouldn’t surprise any marketer or media professional, but I wanted to bring another perspective to these changes. As Nicco Mele notes in his brilliant book about the implications of the digital revolution, The End of Big, “Radical connectivity – our breathtaking ability to send vast amounts of data instantly, constantly, and globally – has all but transformed politics, business, and culture”. This, what the author calls radical connectivity, is the result of global penetration of the Internet and Social Media. Here, at citrusmedia, we challenge the status quo and decided to investigate how does the linear communication model apply in a world affected by radical connectivity and what is the role of authenticity, relevance and trust in this context.
From a monologue to a genuine conversation
Before global internet adoption and the dot-com-bubble of the early 2000s companies were mostly communicating about their products and services in a disturbing manner – interrupting TV and radio shows with advertisements or cold calling and forcing people to pay attention to the things which matter to their businesses. The communication model shown below illustrates the one-way direction of communication in pre internet era.
It is clear that most communication goes in one direction and the only way a recipient connects with a sender is through feedback, which is usually carried out through surveys, focus groups and other market research methods. Because of the internet, in the past two decades, we have witnessed so called communication revolution – world wide web gave the opportunity for people to connect, speak up and have an impact. The good-old linear communication model got way more complex and does not reflect the reality anymore. As mass media was challenged by radical connectivity, brand communication switched from a monologue to a conversation. Now the consumer is in the center of attention empowered to decide what information, how and when to consume. There is a major issue though, there are way too many brands generating an enormous amount of content for consumers with limited attention span. It leads to extreme amounts of information noise. Imagine that, a regular Facebook user is exposed to 1,500 messages every day. Super users are exposed to more than 15,000 messages. We are dealing with information overload, as a result consumers filter the important information and ignore the rest of by forming what can be called an information filter bubble around them. Consumers are fed up with advertising and the numbers provided by Havas Meaningful Brands17 analysis support this statement:
- 48 per cent out of 300000 respondents are against mailbox advertisements
- 35 percent use Adblocker on their browsers. This number is even higher if we analyse younger age group (20-29 years old) and reaches 47 percent.
You may be asking yourself, so what should we do to cut through the noise and reach our target market? The answer is simple – effective communication has to be authentic, relevant and trustworthy. These are the pillars of communication in the new interconnected world.
Generic communication messages targeting broad target audience simply does not evoke an emotional response and does not connect personally, those will simply will not pass the noise filter. If you want to cut through the noise, you must be authentic.
Want to know how to be authentic? Start with forming a brand identity. Understanding what does your brand stand for – your core values, leverage strengths and be open about your weaknesses and failures. It creates sympathy and authenticity that brands can fail, be imperfect and make concessions – like real people. Remember, an authentic brand is faithful toward itself and true to its consumers. In fact few years ago an international survey by Cohn & Wolfe found that 87% of global consumers felt that it was important for brands to “act with integrity at all times,” ranking authenticity above innovation (72%) and product uniqueness (71%) when asked what they valued most in a brand. Rational consumers seek for a meaning in a brand. According to Havas Meaningful Brands 17, 51 per cent of Danes who participated in a survey prefer to buy products from brands with a higher purpose than just profit.
The second step – understand your potential customer and be relevant. Define your consumer’s profile and make an emotional connection. Emphasize! Dig deep and go beyond demographics. Develop personas based on archetype, conduct in depth interviews with people matching your perfect customer profile and figure out their core values, preferences. Also, try to understand their buying behavior and motives to be loyal to a brand like yours. Analyze pain points in every stage in customer’s journey and pay attention to the smallest details because those tiny advantages will sum up into an exclusive experience of your brand. Understanding your customer´s needs will make sure that your product, service, and content is relevant.
Consistent and authentic communication of your core values matched with beliefs of your customer will eventually establish the feeling of trust towards your brand. People tend to trust when they feel the genuine emotional connection and it leads us back to the importance of authentic marketing communication. Trust is also built upon help to each other. Understand customers pain points and address them with tailored solutions.
If you incorporate all the pillars of communication into your marketing plan and be consistent with execution, it will most definitely result in trustworthy relationships, brand loyalty, and higher customer lifetime value.