At the start of 2015 The Buzzz looked back on 12 years of detailed consumer insight and looked forward at what we felt was to come. Based on the most recent feedback and trawl of the great and good who comment on marketing from the perspective of new and disruptive digital channels; social media specialists and occasionally a respected agency brand strategist (yes, they still exist) we have developed some of our own thoughts to share with you at the end of 2015.
The simple tenets which are laid out here start with a premise for brands to focus on activity that fits with the values and personality of that brand. While these are often known, we have found increasingly that values within the brand architecture and design have become a little lack-lustre and that really understanding what the personality or character of a brand is, sharpens that focus. So for some of our clients this year we have begun a new journey to help them really define through the eyes of their consumer what characteristics, personality and behavioural traits their brand has.
Yes this is all about perceptions but these days perceptions are shaped and serviced by so much more content they can change at pace.
Building a relationship with consumers is part of that first stage thought. If we think of our brand as a character, is it one our target consumers (and people like them) would see as a friend or an acquaintance or even a lover? The key metrics are clear – awareness, engagement and desire and to be fair most brands we know have got a reasonable handle on what this means and how these key metrics are tracking. However at The Buzzz we think about the relationship through the eyes of your consumers – is your brand character what you think it is?
Engagement has become a real buzz-word in 2015 as brands strive to create opportunities to be ‘liked’ on Facebook, ‘followed’ on Twitter and pictured on Infogram or Pinterest. I am sure these are viable currencies in the engagement market, but we see engagement as something more personable. Is a brand trusted in a way that means you can rely on it and defend it if challenged? Trust is a word which, when the recession and financial crisis started was always in the news – politicians, bankers, journalists all lost trust, public trust, and almost moved to contempt. That was followed by supermarkets with the horse meat scandal and even more recently exposes on waste and supplier relationships. Then of course we move to car manufacturers … it seems no corner of our lives as consumers is untouched by damaged relationships through the actions of once trusted partners.
So perhaps we are moving now to a more human and transparent communication style? No-one and no brand is perfect, that much is clear. So why not admit that and change the way we communicate? It seems to be what people respond well to – Coca Cola have made a move in that direction and reinforce the link to happiness in most things they do. Why? Well everyone likes to experience a little burst of happiness don’t they and in the face of being demonized over health issues related to sugar it is important to find another connection point with your audience! But this point is really about tone of voice and finding a way to communicate ‘in character’ with your brand values. Consumers don’t need to be sold to so much these days – they are more than capable of finding a good deal, thank you very much! No it is much more about liking where you shop or who you buy from, because they have taken some time to understand you and what you are like. Engagement and trust are both built from a people perspective, because they are basic human needs.
Access. If you want to get a response from a friend you know they will have their mobile or tablet close at hand – and you EXPECT a response – even if you have not asked a question. One good text deserves another! So it will be for brands, as experiences and app developments continue to offer a way to harness information and involvement, for involvement is only one step away from engagement … isn’t it? (We happen to think not!)
With all this focus on shifting trends and behaviour changes among consumers, brands should not forget their principle asset and most expensive resource – the people who work for them and with them. So we see internal communications being as important as external communication, particularly sharing those insights that are responsible for changes to the business model or paradigm. In our work to date we find it is in this area of communication management that the internal focus lags so far behind ‘getting the message out there’. But stop and ask yourself: what is the most effective way of getting human and transparent communication across and building the level of engagement among customers? People. Remember your people are not a one way channel.
At The Buzzz we believe that staff and particularly those customer facing and interacting staff are the key to communicating back to the organisation where the friction and pain points occur. But hang on a minute – what if the same process asked staff to take responsibility for coming up with fixes and solutions to those issues? What – you mean management listening to what we have to say!?! Why not? Who is to say the people could not devise a better and more engaging solution to a problem than people who are paid to solve systemic problems? Well it is a brave organisation that ventures this far – but the spin-off is great staff engagement and a real development of mutual respect within the organisation.
So often we find staff have just not been asked or perhaps not been given the freedom or the focus to give a vital and potentially business changing perspective back to the business. If this strikes a chord – get in touch with us as we are working on a way to facilitate that right now.
Finally that brings us to the last cell in our model. If you understand, really understand what your consumers expect from you, then you can work with your people to deliver to that, or you can manage expectations through communication to make sure they match the experience you can deliver to.
So it starts where it ends: how do I expect this brand to behave in any given situation? Challenge yourself and your organisation on whether it really knows with certainty and detail, what consumers expect. Set those expectations against your brand character and ask yourself how your brand would behave? Above all, as we think ahead to another brave New Year, do not overlook the contribution your own staff can make to your efforts in marketing, to shape the character of your brand. You may have a dozen conversations about your brand in a day – but they are all with the same group of people. Your staff probably have ten times that number of conversations and each one with an existing or prospective customer.
The Buzzz are a consumer and people focused insight consultancy. We develop ways to measure brand character; the level of trust and engagement your brand has and for 2016 new ways to extend the marketing of your brand to your people who are in direct contact with your consumers. If any of this is of interest we would be delighted to have a chat about our work and our beliefs.
Tel: 0113 387 3222