Posts tagged "Trust"

Coronavirus Call to Action for CPG and Retail

March 13th, 2020 Posted by Agency Services, CMO, consumer behavior, e-commerce, Emotional relevance, food retail strategy, Human behavior, Insight, Retail brand building, Social media, Supermarket strategy, Validation 1 comment on “Coronavirus Call to Action for CPG and Retail”

Your next moves to retain trust and reputation

Right now, your consumers are worried, bewildered, concerned and uncertain about what shoes might drop next. They are being sent home from the office, schools are shutting, sports and entertainment events are gone, Spring break vacations are upended, and the future impacts of the pandemic are hard to predict.

We know you equally have concerns and are working hard to address any uncertainties. We’re with you and know your heart is in the right place.

This is a significant moment on the continuum where brand trust and reputation can be secured or injured. What you do next will matter, and it’s important to note that communication may be one of the most important assets at your disposal.

  • Honest, transparent messaging breeds trust and feeds patience, while silence will fuel uncertainty and dilute confidence.

Number one: communicate early and often

This is not the time to be quiet. If you make or sell a consumable product, especially food, beverages or pet food, people are worried about what comes next. Here’s what they want to know, right now.

For CPG

  1. Is there anything going on in your supply chain that will negatively impact the availability of your products? You may not have all the answers but it’s better to communicate current status than to stay silent. What you don’t know you state as such.
  2. What’s happening in your manufacturing, whether that be your own facilities or co-packers, with respect to employee activity, plant hygiene, and mitigation plans should people be sent home?
  3. What are your standards, methods, procedures on maintaining vigilance over ingredient integrity and safety, and testing for same through the product creation process?
  4. How can they get your products and services online? We know that feels like a ‘water is wet’ type question but it’s important and should be addressed in these conditions.

For retailers

  1. Are you able you keep customers apprised of out-of-stocks and shelf replenishment schedules?
  2. Can your pharmacy experts set aside scheduled time for by-phone consultations or online Q&A’s?
  3. Are you signaling home delivery wait times when capacity is stretched?
  4. What are your food handling an on-premise hygiene policies and procedures to help avoid any contamination?

The message matters

Your voice in this moment will impact the outcome. It’s important to avoid corporate speak, industry jargon and complex, “inside baseball” forms of messaging that only an employee can unravel.

A human, approachable voice including information that is presented with clarity and transparency will resonate with those you wish to reach. People routinely ignore dense, complex, analytical-style messages. Simple is better.

This is not the time for grand standing, self-promotional and brand-anthem style outreach that attempts to pass over the reality of what’s happening. Instead, empathy and care for the health and wellbeing of your users should ring through everything you release or post.

Next steps

  • Publish updates and trust-enhancing content at your web site and in your social channels on a weekly basis. More often if you have new news to share.
  • Keep it simple and straightforward.
  • Encourage dialogue and conversation at your social sites to invite questions from fans and followers.
  • As the situation changes, keep your stakeholders informed.
  • Be generous of spirit and look for “surprise and delight” opportunities and stories for users and channel customers. Celebrate helpfulness, acts of kindness, and ‘we’re all in this together’ kinds of inspirational unity.

Navigation leads to reputation

Your efforts to be accessible, approachable and honest here will lead to respect and confidence among the stakeholders that matter to the future of your business. Both internal and external audiences will benefit greatly from your efforts to keep them apprised of what’s going on.

As always should you need help navigating these uncharted waters, we’re here to support you with guidance, messaging, copy, media and anything else you might need.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Bloomberg: the $500 Million Marketing Misfire

March 9th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, branded content, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Emotional relevance, Higher Purpose, Insight, social media marketing, storytelling 0 comments on “Bloomberg: the $500 Million Marketing Misfire”

A compelling lesson for CPG and retail marketers

Regardless of what you think of Mike Bloomberg’s politics, his relatively short-lived candidacy for President was fueled by a pervasive, high tonnage ad campaign that ultimately flamed out.

While there were varying executions in rotation, the primary television and radio effort was a chronicle of his achievements. This approach was fundamentally flawed from the start, as it ignored the new conventions of authentic messaging engagement in the era of consumer control. It stands as a very expensive example of what not to do and a lesson to CPG and retail marketers everywhere that the new rules of consumer engagement must be acknowledged, even by well-funded political ad campaigns.

It also serves to remind us that the path to market is substantially different now, and big TV budgets are no guarantee of success. We’re doing business in a changed world where other channels (like social media) and more genuine forms of outreach matter more. The glossy cinematic ads can’t make up for an absence of genuine emotional human connection, trust and belief.

Who is the hero? Don’t Be like Mike

The prevailing message in Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign was a bulleted list –

  • Mike built a global business empire from the ground up
  • Mike took charge of the 9-11 response in New York
  • Mike made affordable housing happen on his watch
  • Mike took on the NRA
  • Mike funded college education for those in need
  • Mike stood up to the coal lobby

The list goes on. Not unlike many other campaigns we see on a regular basis, the hero of this story is Mike Bloomberg. You can see the discussions going on with his media handlers building a list of their candidate’s ‘features and benefits’ ready to fire the cannon volley about his wins and achievements. We find the same thing going on with food, beverage and lifestyle brands, building a focus around all the reasons why the product and brand are superior to the other guys.

Embedding disconnect in the message platform

The $500 million misfire started with upside-down messaging. The hero of any politician or brand story isn’t the politician or brand. It is the voter, the consumer. Every single day human beings wake up believing they are the heroes of their life journey.

It is their lives, passions, problems, struggles, concerns, needs, wants and aspirations that matter most. That’s why we build the story around the consumer as hero with the candidate or brand operating as the expert and sage guide to help them win and solve their problems.

When the hero is Mike Bloomberg, the message is now competing with voters for the hero role. It fails to engage as people move on to find the expert guide who will forge a better future for them and their families.

In the brand marketing world, so much effort goes into making the highest quality products and services that the marketing plan is laser focused on trumpeting the superior product features. Seems only logical to do so, right?

  • When the brand is the hero and not the consumer, a fundamental flaw exists that will interfere with engagement, and no amount of media spending is going to overcome that fracture.

Messaging matters to outcomes

If the messaging is wrong, nothing works – and the major media spend simply serves to push the broken agenda in more directions. Marketing investments indeed can be wasted. This is why Emergent devotes a significant amount of work upfront with clients mapping the right message platform, with the consumer as hero of the storytelling. Then and only then, will the application of media tools and channels deliver on the desired objectives.

If the consumer isn’t listening it doesn’t matter that the message shows up early and often. Technology today allows people to avoid anything they don’t see as relevant to them. People resonate to people. We want the heroes of our favorite stories to overcome the odds. Heroes are almost always flawed characters who need help to succeed. This is where the brand enters the picture as the Yoda to Luke Skywalker. You remember that Luke doubted himself all the way to the climatic end when he finally believed in the Force and his Jedi training.

Media in the new age

The goals of media planning today are about genuine, credible, believable and trusted forms of outreach. Thus, why great care must be taken when using influencers because this can work at cross purposes if post authenticity appears to be compromised by payment. Earned media is a vital channel due to the reportorial, non-paid status it holds. Social communities are destinations for people to share personal experiences, a digital form of word-of-mouth. This is why social proof is so important to earning trust.

If the goal is to help improve the lives of your users and if you are working to embed a higher purpose and deeper meaning for your brand that transcends the basics of product selling, you have a shot at creating a ‘movement’ and securing legions of fans who want your marketing rather than tuning it out.

We can help you create a more transcendent relationship with consumers and messaging they will connect with. Don’t be like Mike…

Want to discuss your challenges informally? Let’s talk.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

The Bond is the Basis for Better Marketing Outcomes

January 30th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, brand strategy, branded content, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Emotional relevance, Healthy lifestyle, Healthy Living, Higher Purpose, storytelling 0 comments on “The Bond is the Basis for Better Marketing Outcomes”

Missing the forest for the trees in effective communication

People crave real intimacy and authentic experiences from the brands that matter to them, but in many instances aren’t getting it.

Why not? Because marketers fail to understand the power of the bond.

Businesses are wrapped up in their technology and recipe secret sauce, extraordinary ingredient sourcing and other bits of product development magic. They become preoccupied with putting the marketing spotlight primarily on these achievements. Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, consumers unfortunately are not (and have never been) analytical creatures operating as fact-based decision-making machines. Yet many businesses still insist on presenting the evidence of choice superiority.

Doesn’t it make sense to create marketing communication that resonates, that inspires, that engages rather than broadcasting the wrong message consumers will look to avoid?

The most dramatic example of the human condition, and thus, offering a roadmap of how to re-position marketing for maximum effectiveness is…

The bond – the deep emotional connectivity people have with each other, their friends and family and their pets. When we separate out what really matters in life, the centrifuge of priorities reveals that relationships bubble to the top. But what are relationships really a living example of?

  • Trust
  • Emotional connection
  • Empathy
  • Unselfishness
  • Commitment
  • Inspiration
  • Shared purpose or experience
  • Motivation for investment in relationships

Imagine for a moment a brand being able to embrace these characteristics and operate with human qualities. How would this transform business behavior, marketing outreach, messaging and the planning that occurs around these key strategic endeavors?

Pet food is an iconic example of often analytical selling strategies leading the marketing chin at retail and in media. On any given day we find extraordinary products, made with great care and attention to nutritional quality, that present arguments based on protein levels or production capabilities designed to help maintain nutritional density.

All worthy endeavors to a one. But each fail to fully grasp the incredible bond that is driving the purchase of high-quality pet diets.

In this example, the hero of the marketing story is the pet parent and their pet. The underlying premise is the lifestyle and relationship that serves as the basis for purchase decisions. When the story telling acknowledges the emotional connectivity, the desire to express love in the form of a healthier diet, we find a treasure trove of opportunity to genuinely connect.

In human food and beverage or lifestyle categories the same principles are at work. People care about their health and wellness. They have discovered that what they ingest and how they live have a direct connection to their quality of life. Imagine for a moment engaging them on their journey as an expert guide and enabler of what they want to achieve.

Right there is the grist for a more effective and powerful form of communication that touches the heart as much as the head. This sense of higher purpose in the marketing relationship leads with ‘other centeredness’ that empathizes with the struggles and challenges people have in their daily lives.

When consumers can ‘see’ themselves in the marketing, that’s when the magic actually begins. It sounds counterintuitive to how marketing has coalesced solely around product features and benefits for a generation – because it is.

The world is different now as consumers are in control and masters of leaving the stage when marketing is self-promotional, unemotional and intentionally makes the brand the hero of the story.

Path to marketing victory

Brands are often sitting on a mountain of storytelling fuel in the personal stories of challenge and change experienced by their users. Bringing these great stories to life offers honest and trusted proof of performance, emotion, belief and transformation. It takes great skill to assemble powerful stories but just like a compelling movie script, the premise of the story is bound up in people and their unrelenting desire for improvement and overcoming roadblocks on life’s journey.

The key ingredients in activating the relationship bonds as a litmus test for marketing message strength:

  • Recognize the importance and characteristics of bonds in your own personal experience, how they operate and why they matter. This will help inform the thinking.
  • Decide the business exists to improve lives and actively participate in helping consumers solve the challenges they face.
  • Articulate the problem or challenge the brand can solve in context of the consumers journey, desires and needs.
  • Demonstrate the solution through the anecdotal stories of real people and how their lives have improved or changed.
  • Employ emotion in how these stories are told. Language matters. Words matter, so be judicious in how the message is constructed.
  • Most of all be vigilant about staying away from the traps of self-promotion. Analytical arguments that fail to recognize the consumer will also fail to engage them, when they can’t find themselves in the storytelling.

This is truly is a game of inches, and so we acknowledge here the uncertainty that CEOs and CMOs may experience in designing strategies that will function correctly. No one wants to risk a misfire.

What we all want, however, are legions of enthusiastic fans that keep coming back for repeat purchases. This is attainable when the rules of engagement are followed, and the marketing is optimized to match the characteristic needs of heart-led human beings in the digital age.

We can help you work through these challenges and open a new era of consistent engagement by creating marketing the consumer wants and embraces.

Tell us about the challenge that keeps you up at night.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

When you confuse, you lose!

January 23rd, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, branded content, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Human behavior, Insight, storytelling 0 comments on “When you confuse, you lose!”

Brand messaging clarity drives effectiveness

What’s the one thing we know about humans that must be factored into the creation of effective brand messaging? People refuse to tax their brains. You lose the audience with complicated messaging which involves too many elements to digest or is too indirect.

One of the most iconic fast food ad campaigns of all time was Wendy’s, ”Where’s the Beef?” The series mocked rival chains on the size of their burgers while setting up Wendy’s as the more generous option. The message was simple, memorable and unmistakable. It was a classic move that helped advance the Wendy’s brand in a highly competitive quick service restaurant race for share of mind and stomach.

Importantly, the Wendy’s messaging was simple and direct. It didn’t strain the viewer’s brain to understand the point. Clarity was delivered in such a simple, entertaining and memorable way that the ‘Where’s the Beef?’ query went the 1980’s-version of viral and became synonymous in our lexicon for anything disappointing or lacking substance.

More often than not, brand communication suffers from complexity. Errantly, marketers believe the persuasive argument is made more convincing with point after point. So, in an effort to prove superiority, a veritable stream of benefits gets ladled into the messaging platform.

In truth, the added verbiage becomes noise for that very reason. The audience is now required to drill down and sift through multiple pieces of information. Instead of engaging, consumers shut down and run for the exit.

Simple, clear, focused

We encounter this condition all too frequently. In the era of emerging food brands with elevated ingredients and better for you recipes the laundry list of copy points is an assault on the consumer’s attention span. In many cases we find the packaging from these nascent players is a firestorm of claims, founder stories and certifications. In effect, the consumer is challenged to study all of this to determine the point that’s relevant to them. Truth is, consumers are making decisions at the shelf in a second or two and may miss the “third bullet” that might resonate with them.

Meanwhile, on the business side, retailers are closely watching velocity performance for new brands to see if repeat purchase is on the upswing. Ironically the path to managing velocity begins with insight into what heavy users (frequent re-purchasers) believe they’re getting from the product – the ’why‘ of their continued buying behavior.

  • This is a key message that should be the focus on packaging and any form of outbound communications or social strategy.

When we understand the ‘why,’ messaging can be simplified and focused, and thus an opening is provided to clean up the packaging and hone the marketing message.

Why does this matter so much to outcomes? Assuming the product already delivers on its eating experience promise, when the message is clear we achieve consumer engagement and memorability, the two decisive components of managing velocity performance.

This approach is respectful of what we know about the human predisposition to avoid taxing the brain. For example, if we determine that the best customers for a meat-based protein snack like a reformulated higher quality jerky are looking for a clean energy boost, then we know where to take the message.

What about clever?

Creative writers like to bring some artistry to the communication with the goal of being entertaining or as it’s often claimed, not boring. Again, if clever makes the message too indirect or vague, the audience will not engage. If clever and clarity can co-exist then it will work, but the acid test is always simple trumps complicated.

Words matter

I’ve been writing copy for a long time so I can tell you this is harder than it looks. A website can be pretty and visually stunning, but if the words used aren’t direct about the product promise and the ‘why,’ it won’t matter.

We agonize over word choices here at Emergent for this very reason. This is why insight research is such an important component in building the messaging platform. The more we know about the consumer’s ‘why’ –  the better the messaging will be.

Alignment is a potential pothole

Today’s skeptical consumer is less trusting and less likely to accept a brand’s assertions and promises at face value. This means that actions and behaviors by the company must align with the messaging promises being made. You have to walk like you talk. Deploying trusted voices of outside experts and real people to confirm what you convey is key to making this stick.

When the messaging is relevant and the point we wish to make is simple and clear, the consumer listens because they have found themselves in the story.

Where to go from here

Messaging should be examined through the consumer’s eyes rather than reflexively pulling from a self-promotion playbook.

We can help you optimize your messaging strategy for effectiveness and impact.

Here’s our three-step approach to messaging:

  1. Evaluate current messaging in the context of category competition
  2. Investigate the heavy user audience ’why‘ for purchase, and the critical problem you solve
  3. Apply this understanding to our messaging model that makes the consumer the hero of the story and the brand the guide

Rather than continue to experiment or wonder if the investments you’re making will secure customer engagement, let’s discuss your business priorities and messaging needs.

Said simply,Let’s talk!

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

 

 

 

 

Taking Truth to the Bank

January 6th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, change, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Insight, Transformation, Transparency, Validation 0 comments on “Taking Truth to the Bank”

Transforming business outcomes through transparency

How can we make marketing most effective?

Here’s a story about how an investment in transparency can make a big difference in consumer engagement and business outcomes.

Imagine a pet parent in a pet store looking for the right food to buy for their beloved dog or cat. Unlike human food where you can see if the steak is fresh and well-marbled or squeeze the tomato to determine if it’s ripe, pet food presents a bag of curious brown nuggets where the label becomes the lesson. Yet how do people truly know what’s inside the bag after trying to decipher the label jargon? Facts are you don’t. It’s a leap of faith.

Simply stated, consumers have questions burning inside of them. If we don’t answer them a disconnect occurs.

Why? The world we now live in is a skeptical place. People require trust and belief about the brands they care about but find it hard to secure when confronted almost daily in the media with half-truths, omissions, deceit and integrity challenges.

In this uncertain environment marketers want their messages to be seen, heard and acted upon. However, consumers routinely tune out and ignore many of those investments, in part because the messaging fails to connect in a meaningful and credible way. A dilemma we’re about to solve through applying deeper meaning…

Nowhere can we see this credibility challenge in greater relief than the pet food industry, a super high involvement category for pet parents, where the product form provides no visual cue about what’s inside or proof of ingredient quality. Yes, the label lists ingredient categories, but nothing to truly verify if the meat, for example, was fresh or raw and where it came from rather than the more common powdered (lower grade) version.

You already know that pets are revered, doted over family members. The most direct way to express the love we have for our furry companions is to provide the very best nutrition we can afford, given food is connected to pet health, wellness and happiness. People genuinely care about pet food, so how can we reward this significant level of interest and concern about diet quality? Please note, this concern is just as valid in human food categories.

Ironically, the vast majority of marketing communication in the pet food business suffers with sameness. From brand to brand, claims are made about percentages of high protein and meat use because dogs and cats are carnivores and their ‘ancestral diet’ leans heavily on prodigious amounts of these ingredients. It remains nonetheless an assertion, requiring trust that the brown nugget is made from the claimed fresh chicken. Incidentally sameness is a blur and lacks distinctiveness fueled with memorability, essential for marketing effectiveness.

Being overtly clever these days doesn’t really help because consumers work to avoid anything that walks or talks like shameless self-promotion.

Champion Petfoods and the industry’s first move to authentic transparency

Champion, in fact, makes some of the highest quality pet food in the business in their ORIJEN and ACANA brands. Yet this remains a claim, requiring said leap of faith for acceptance.

Trust is essential these days to business growth. But periodic recalls and product liability litigation du jour in the pet food business can dilute confidence. For the most part, pet owners feed their pets and “hope” all is well because the bowl is emptied, and Fido wags his tail.

Emergent and Champion wanted to leap over the category-wide skepticism and find a better path to consumer connection based on the pet parents’ keen interests. Champion has long-standing partnerships with regional farms, ranches and fisheries to supply their two kitchens in Alberta, Canada and Auburn, Kentucky. This essential truth could be brought to life and so we created the Champion Transparency Council with a team of outside third parties, including Veterinary physicians and real-world pet parents.

It was an industry first and required the company to be transparent in every way about ingredient sourcing and all aspects of product creation. The Council members were given complete access to the kitchen from loading dock to packaging line and also witnessed every aspect of how food is made. Additionally, they visited the farms, ranches and fish suppliers to see where the ingredients like fresh Bison and Catfish were sourced.

They were hands on with the fish later to appear in a bag of pet food.

Emergent helped build a multi-channel communications platform around The Council members’ experiences and independent reports. The Council participated in media interviews, ads were developed, reports were distributed through social media channels, and web pages established as a home base for their content. The Council members’ reports were personal, emotive and filled with examples of their own life experiences with their pets as well as what they saw, learned and experienced in Champion’s kitchens and supplier activities.

This program by the way, was Champion’s first engagement with an outside agency partner and so the entire program was built on a modest budget where every dollar spent needed to work like 10.

The bottom line – The Transparency Council effort made heroes of partner farmers and told stories through the authentic, credible voices of pet parents and Vets. As a pet business first, Champion’s visibility in the industry media went from near zero to a standout share of voice leader.

Most importantly, the Transparency Council verified and validated what Champion claims about their food and provided the evidence to earn trust and belief about pet diet quality among pet parents, distributors and key stakeholders. This coincided with the company’s successful move into Petco and helped the business retain the confidence of its large community of independent pet retailers.

Transparency proved the point. It helps people get to trust because the character of the communication is honest and trustworthy.

The secret sauce of this effort is the nuance and attention to detail required: from how the Council is constructed and managed to how the communication was presented, the messaging that was emphasized and timing of its distribution. Expertise as you can imagine is required.

Transparency can be a strategic lever to enhanced marketing outcomes

These days people want to know more about the foods and beverages they ingest. They care about the quality of ingredients used and want to know the backstory on where ingredients came from and the standards employed to ensure freshness, quality and safety.

The number one concern for consumers is health and wellness. This is served through the quality of the food and beverage they buy. This helps us understand why the food and beverage industry is being turned upside down in the quest for products with cleaner, simpler ingredients and responsible sourcing.

More often than not, opportunities are missed by many brands because the product creation story isn’t fully realized. Marketers want people to believe what’s claimed.

Trust must be earned and transparency is a trust engine. When correctly deployed it works to humanize the brand voice and build a deeper and more valued connection.

What’s your dormant transparency story?

How can you distinguish your brand as the one deserving of trust among your competitive set?

Emergent can help you discover how to leverage these insights for improved communications effectiveness and consumer engagement.

Let’s talk!

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Learn the Five Anchors of Authenticity

December 11th, 2019 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, brand strategy, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Emotional relevance, Growth, Higher Purpose, storytelling, Transparency, Validation 0 comments on “Learn the Five Anchors of Authenticity”

A required course on the path to business growth

Yes, the word authenticity may have reached cliché status given its pervasive use as a shorthand explanation of what drives best practices today in brand building. However, truth is, sea changes in consumer culture and resulting purchase behaviors foretell how vital authenticity is to create meaningful relationships between brands and their users.

  • Yet too many companies fail to make authenticity a core platform in their marketing plans, missing the opportunity for real engagement and connection they require to advance the business.

Like moving away from highly processed cheese food (fake) in favor of real natural cheese (genuine), authenticity has much to do with the yearning for belief, higher quality and a better, more meaningful and relate-able story.

This age of authenticity is fueled by a fundamental rule: consumer-centric thinking and planning is a prerequisite. In practice, this means that an organization’s –

Every decision

Every strategy

Every tactic

Every investment

must build from a continuous study and acutely deep understanding of the consumer’s needs, wants and aspirations. The consumer should sit at the heart of the business. All strategic moves emanate from insight about their concerns and interests.

“Customer first” is a long-standing axiom of the retail industry, but as obvious as it may sound, most companies live in a perpetual state of brand narcissism. Company operational and marketing behaviors reveal it’s actually all about “us” – our product features, our benefits, our new formulas, our processes sitting in service of company business objectives.

  • Today however, success springs from becoming an enabler, partner and guide on the consumer’s journey, seeking alignment with their needs and becoming a helpful resource as they work to create a better and more meaningful life.

In the absence of this sensibility, it’s no wonder that engagement with traditional marketing – that’s more often a one-way selling monologue  – is rejected by consumers as irrelevant to them at best – annoying to them at worst.

Authenticity and curating a trusted consumer relationship

The core essence of what authentic means always springs from a less commercial and transactional view of the relationship between seller and buyer. There is a latent suspicion among most people that old-school marketing is really selling, and selling is a form of self-serving persuasion. Buyer beware.

The irony of all this is how human beings are wired to respond to messages. When the consumer is the hero of your story and the brand serves as guide to an improved life, engagement can be achieved. In the absence of this, messaging is primarily noise and ignored.

Thus, if an organization’s objective is assurance their marketing investments will secure traction and work in service of the brand’s growth, it is vital that authenticity is embraced and embedded into how the brand operates and communicates.

The future success of the business depends on it.

Here are the five anchors of authenticity that help drive consumer engagement and brand growth:

  1. Truth

Consumers are faced daily with evidence of misleading information, headlines heralding lapses in judgement and integrity; and stories of businesses operating in their own self-interest at the expense of consumer trust and confidence. An example: recently The Honest Company was outed on their absence of honesty over chemical ingredients they vowed would never be present in their products. Lawsuits have already begun. Consumers demand the truth and truth is neither conditional nor can it be diluted or violated without serious consequences.

  1. Transparency

Truth’s big sister, transparency is how trust is earned. When the curtain is raised and the door is opened to outside scrutiny of all aspects of the product creation process, the opportunity is there to engender trust. “Come see for yourselves that our words do not ring hollow, and that we indeed deliver on the promises we make. Go on, take a look – we have nothing to hide.” In the absence of trust people look for evidence they can believe in.

  1. Relevance

Who is the hero of the story told in your marketing? It’s not the brand. The customer must be the hero; their aspirations, wants and needs take precedence. When consumers see themselves in the story, they pay attention. Everything else is static. Relevance is the acid test of authenticity. It is the center of a less selfish view of the brand/user relationship. The story is always about them, and the brand’s role is Yoda (the expert guide) to Luke Skywalker.

  1. Directness

Consumers can smell traditional marketing a mile away. When the conversation is one-sided and filled with self-promotion and hyperbole, the opportunity for a frank and direct conversation is lost. Consumers run in the opposite direction because the story is no longer about them. Directness is an attribute of a trusted guide and resource. A real conversation set on how the brand solves the problems people face is direct and honest and open.

  1. Validation

In the end, consumers want to believe – but belief must be earned before trust is achieved. People no longer accept assertions and claims at face value. They look for validation of what a brand conveys from sources they respect and perceive to be honest and unbiased. This is the power of social proof and why the voices of real people talking about their experiences with the brand are so powerful. People believe their peers and outside experts before they believe what the brand itself is saying.

Have you noticed a consistent theme in here?

Trust is required for any relationship to exist and it’s hard to earn and easy to lose. The future of marketing is less about entertainment, persuasion and artifice and more about conversation and openness. The goal of every brand is to be an accepted partner on the journey to an improved, happier and healthier life.

When the brand is authentic and honest, we open the door to reciprocity. It just makes sense to put the consumer at the center of strategic planning. Once there, this insight and understanding fuels effective strategy and helps brands avoid wasting money on marketing that doesn’t connect.

Emergent has a defined process to build messaging based on these principles: an approach that eliminates guesswork and serves to draw the consumer in because they are always at the center of the story.

Can we help you build the right story? Let us know if you’d like to learn more about our unique approach to effective messaging.

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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

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