17 August 2015
It is time for us to shift our marketing focus from demanding attention to earning attention.
There was a time when the ability to deliver push strategies that placed brands in front of people and delivered short-term sales worked very effectively with pull strategies. The pull strategy was designed to take care of sales in the short to medium term by making brands ubiquitous and drawing people into a continued preferential purchase cycle. The challenge I have with this is that it is brand driven, and we now live in a world that is audience driven. It makes sense therefore that we shift our marketing focus from demanding attention to earning attention from our audiences.
In my opinion this is not a ‘nice to do’, this is a ‘have to do’, as former marketing approaches enter a new cycle of diminishing returns. There are a number of factors influencing this. Mainstream media has been utterly transformed, and in a process of devolution, new and different voices with considerable influence are driving the conversation. The growth of channels such as mobile, on-demand and ever-expanding social channels have accelerated this, to that point that if a brand adopts a ‘talk at’ approach to gaining attention, they receive a negative response – where at best they are ignored and at worst they are actively rejected and called out on it.
Brands and organisations are entering a world of unprecedented complexity, and many are struggling to stay relevant, connected and close to the very people who allow them to thrive and evolve. This is driven, in no small degree, by the dizzying pace of innovation and technological change. This, in turn, influences audience behaviour and may trigger people to question sources of trust that would have been a given five years ago.
Consumers are embracing innovation at a faster pace than ever before. Think about the success of Airbnb or Hailo, who have challenged traditional business models to deliver desirable products and services in a new and exciting way. Innovation is a powerful element in a brand’s arsenal but can be both a positive and negative purchasing influencer. According to a new Edelman study, Innovation and the Earned Brand concerns about innovation will stop 87% of participants from purchasing new products. People are deciding not to buy based on worries about privacy (66% globally), environmental impact (58%), and security issues (54%) associated with a brand. With the fast pace of change, is it any surprise that two-thirds (66%) of consumers surveyed said they would rather be reassured than inspired by a brand? Yet two out of three respondents believe brands are not moving in the right direction in how they listen to and communicate with the public.
One way to overcome these purchasing barriers is peer-to-peer communications. The study reveals that peer conversations inform 75% of respondents’ purchase decisions, help 37% overcome concerns, and warn 45% of risks. In addition, the study reveals that not only do consumers expect brands to provide the platforms that enable these peer-to-peer conversations, but that 64% said they are more trusting of brands that encourage peer-to-peer conversations about their products.
Before a brand can earn the right to innovate and inspire, it must inform transparently to educate its audience and enable it to make personal choices. Brands, by virtue of being true to their DNA and offering a genuine personality people can buy into, will now be differentiating and worthy of attention. And consumers’ attention is the only space for a brand to aspire to occupy, to safeguard future success.
For all of these reasons I believe brands will see a better return on investment by moving into a space whereby they are earning the attention of their customers – existing and potential. The good thing is that many fundamentals of the original marketing arsenal still hold true. Analytical rigour and communications that operate with emotional resonance are still integral. What has changed are our collective campaign mandatories. Today, insight must lead us to stories that earn attention, which simply means that the brand stories we tell work across every medium, are stories audiences want to share, are social by design and contain enough emotion and humanity to allow audiences to form a deeper relationship with brands they choose to buy.
The Edelman Ireland Brand team have already begun this journey with our clients. The Toddlebox platform we devised for Danone demonstrates how a story can resonate when told from the perspective of what is important to people and is rooted in an interesting insight – helping parents to understand and better bridge the gap between the theory and the reality of their toddler’s plate. For the Brand team, the most effective and efficient way brands can edge forward is by engaging with their audiences through storytelling that can effectively navigate the complexity that exists out there and connect in a deeper way with their audiences.
13 August 2015
Is trust derived from a shareholder centric model that prioritises financial returns or from a model that sees companies meet the expectations of a broader set of stakeholders?
Executive Director at the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, is no ordinary central banker. He recently reviewed the purpose and structure of public companies and concluded that their prioritisation of shareholder returns over long-term investment was a flawed model. Investment in workforce, innovation capital and skills that drive growth are being minimised in favour of buy-backs and dividend increases. He has suggested that there are alternative models of corporate governance ‘which share the spoils somewhat more equally between a wider set of not just shareholders, but stakeholders in a firm…that includes its employees, that includes its customers and its clients’.
Mr. Haldane is not alone in his views, which reflect a growing debate on the impact of short-termism in business. Dominic Barton of McKinsey has pointed to the pressure for quick results demanded by financial markets, and to the need for public companies to focus on bringing value to society as well as to shareholders. US presidential candidate Hilary Clinton has called for an end to quarterly capitalism.
These issues go to the heart of trust in companies. Is trust derived from a shareholder-centric model that prioritises financial returns, or from a model that sees companies meet the expectations of a broader set of stakeholders? Should business have a purpose beyond profit and a role to play in meeting some of the most pressing needs of society? These themes are considered in Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer, a survey of 30,000 people in 27 countries, including Ireland. For 15 years, we have tracked levels of trust in the four key institutions of business, NGOs, government and the media.
Let us consider the state of trust in business. Having come through the worst of the economic crash, it would be reasonable to expect an improvement in levels of trust. This year, however, trust in business has declined in 16 of the 27 countries, with Ireland ranking the second least trusting. Business no longer has the permission to go it alone. There is a desire for increased Government intervention to regulate business and protect consumers. The CEO unilaterally taking the lead and influencing the stakeholder agenda lacks credibility – only three in ten see the CEO as a believable spokesperson. Family-owned businesses are now more trusted than ‘big business’ by a premium of almost 30 percentage points.
These findings have profound implications for business leadership. They call for a reappraisal of the role of business in society and of the behaviours and attributes that protect reputation and build trust.
The narrow view suggests that trust in business is derived from delivering profit and shareholder return. Meeting financial expectations, however, is only one half of the equation. If trust in companies is to be restored, they must shoulder the responsibility to deliver both economic and societal benefits. The findings of the Edelman Trust Barometer support the concept of prioritising shareholder and societal returns. 81 percent of respondents agree that a company can take actions that both increase profits and improve the social conditions in the community where it operates. Approximately half attribute increased trust in a business to the fact that the business enables them to be more productive members of society.
In the current era of deep scepticism, where no institution has a trust advantage, business has a unique opportunity to lead. However, its activities must be seen as good for society as well as good for the company. This requires a new trust compact between the company and the citizen based on transparency, engagement, equality and mutuality of benefit. Shareholders must have rewards, but these rewards must be accompanied by investments for long-term growth and by prioritising the needs of customers and employees.
This requires patience and for companies to give up some reward today, for the benefit of tomorrow. This approach is a key component not only of economic growth, but of reputational well-being.
Perhaps the thinking is best summed up by the founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, when he said, ‘There are four prerequisites of the company’s survival: profitability, growth, risk protection and earning public trust. Now it is time to minimise risk and build trust by meeting legitimate expectations of all stakeholders…to find solutions to today’s most pressing social problems.’
17 August 2015
Brexit - Ireland's influence on the debate?
Somewhat predictably, the intervention of US President Barack Obama into the UK debate on a potential British exit from the European Union was criticised in many quarters, with lively reaction to his interview particularly on social media. It is to be expected that the President of the US will have a strong view on Britain’s relationship with the EU, especially since he believes that having the UK as part of the EU gives them ‘much greater confidence about the strength of the transatlantic union’ which has made the world ‘safer and more prosperous’. However, whether his intervention has been helpful to the pro-Europe campaign is questionable.
It is difficult for any other country to express a view on the British referendum without being seen to be putting self-interest first. In Ireland’s case, the implications of a British exit from the EU are considerable. It was interesting that during the British general election, much of the narrative here centred on the implications of the election results on whether or not a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU would be held. David Cameron’s victory and subsequent moving of the Referendum Bill have clarified that the question will be put and will be ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?’ Questions remain as to what the Prime Minister can achieve in his negotiations with the EU to make remaining a member state palatable to the majority of UK voters, and indeed in that context, when the referendum should be held.
From an Irish perspective, we can expect much political and media commentary on this. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Union Affairs recently published its study UK/EU Future Relationship: Implications for Ireland, expressing the view that an EU without the UK weakens Ireland and Europe. It argues strongly that Ireland has a legitimate reason for getting involved, giving economic, social and political reasons, as well as a myriad of issues around Northern Ireland for why it matters more to us than any other country in Europe.
How our interventions will be viewed and whether they have any impact on the debate in the UK itself remain to be seen.
13 August 2015
In a race to embrace shiny new platforms which will supposedly create deeper connections, has the marketing industry lost sight of what really matters?
Whilst doing some research earlier this summer I was struck by how much of marketing had got lost in an abyss of bland content. It appeared to me that in a race to embrace shiny new platforms which would supposedly create deeper connections, the industry had lost sight of what really matters. In actual fact what had happened in many cases was not deeper connections but instead temporary interactions, fleeting in nature, rarely repeated and almost certainly not memorable.
It caused me to remember a Ted talk I came across a number of years back by Simon Sinek in which he outlined a model for inspirational leadership. The basic essence of what he proposed was that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it (If you haven’t seen it before, I recommend checking it out). He went on to highlight how the reason Apple, Martin Luther King and the Wright Brothers were so inspirational, and connected so deeply with their audiences, was that all three focused first on communicating why they did what they did, rather than starting (as most brands do) with the ‘what’. It’s a really interesting point and one to which brands and their guardians would do well to pay attention.
In my opinion brands need to get back to their core story and in doing so ask themselves some very simple questions:
1) Why do you do what you do?
2) How are you different?
3) Why do you matter?
By answering these questions brands can begin to refocus on their story and most importantly how it relates to their core audience. In a world where technology has unlocked so many opportunities for brands to communicate with and learn from their consumers, where at the touch of our fingertips we have access to more data than we could ever have imagined, it seems incomprehensible that instead of communicating what really matters to them, some brands are focusing on bland product messages pushed out across a myriad of platforms where their audience may or may not be listening.
The good news is that not all brands work this way, and there are some truly amazing and inspirational international communications programmes being led by brands like Dove, Red Bull and Coca Cola. Closer to home we’re also seeing some really strong and meaningful campaigns that have clearly resonated with Irish audiences.
We ourselves in Edelman, both globally and locally, work with many such clients, who understand the importance of purpose in marketing. An excellent local example is that of the National Lottery, whose answer to ‘Why?’ is perfectly simple – they do it to raise money for good causes. Indeed, since its foundation in 1986 the National Lottery has contributed over €4.5 billion in funding to help causes across Ireland. With thanks to all the players along the way, the National Lottery has made and continues to make a significant positive impact on Irish society. To help tell this story in a more meaningful manner, the National Lottery put the spotlight on the good causes themselves and showcased the life-changing impact they have on the people they serve. The resulting 8 short videos (one of which has since featured as a TV ad), which you can see here, are the very essence of why the National Lottery exists and are a compelling reinforcement of how important it is for brands to focus on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’.
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