Marketing practice and theory seems to be littered with an array of alliterative number combinations which are claimed to help steer us through the increasingly difficult task of communicating with consumers in a meaningful and effective way. You know the sorts of things I mean – we started with 4 P’s, which was then out-trumped by 7P’s, then 8 if you add in Performance. I personally have seen 4 E’s; 6 S’s and 4 C’s. Aside from looking like a really challenging Scrabble hand, it is also really important to keep challenging these paradigms of marketing textbooks and theory, especially as marketing develops at speed.

Last week we saw the revelation of 5C’s by Unilevers chief marketing officer Keith Weed in New York. Almost two years ago an interview I saw at the Cannes Lions conference with Keith Weed led me into a change of business focus at The Buzzz. Back then Keith highlighted the plummeting of consumer trust in brands and the significant implications this meant in terms of understanding current levels of trust and how any specific brands trust differed in form from category or market competitors. So I was particularly interested to see whether these C’s represented an evolution or revolution in thinking?

Here’s what Unilever’s five C’s stand for:

Consumers

Not a huge surprise to find this in there. However Keith talks in terms of consumer centricity as he refers to Unilever Brands focusing on the consumer as their ‘True North’.

Nothing revolutionary here then? Indeed we would challenge this further – the concept of people who metamorphose into another being called a consumer is surely becoming less and less relevant these days. Whether shopper, consumer or segment they are the same people; they have the same kinds of reaction to brands and communication – so why not simply call them people? Are we not simply humans? Feeling creatures who think. But lets stick to the familiar parlance for the time being as it may get too confusing ….

Connect

“While advertising isn’t dying, it has to evolve. Today, it’s about connecting in real time, in the context and with relevance. The digital ecosystem needs to be cleaned up or consumers will continue to get a poor experience online. Lots of people talk about the need to connect, like its something we haven’t tried before. But here I believe there is also a real need to ensure that all communication is relevant and in that sense connects.”

Communication is paid for, owned and earned these days. It seems like the one that marketers cherish is earned because this is actually shared and multiplied, free from the baggage that advertising and company driven engagement efforts come with. It is hard not to agree with Weed’s sentiments on advertising but equally this is not new or some recent phenomenon. I am sure we are in a period of transition – there are some godawful campaigns running but then advertising has always had its share of dross and gloss hasn’t it? However I believe the use of the word relevance is perhaps key in terms of the point Keith is making here. In our work with consumers we find that the tolerance to look at any advertising which does not connect quickly is filtered out. Advertising as entertainment is just not that common anymore, but clever, smart, impactful, involving work is still out there. The points of connection needs to be much more upfront and central if consumers are to tune in to the relevance; alternatively they have to appear at the right times or via trusted sources.

Content

Empowered consumers have better filters than ever, and will not tolerate inauthenticity. Trust is at an all-time low across media, business, government and NGOs. The empowered consumer is looking for purposeful brands, brands that have meaning, brands that matter. “People don’t hate advertising. They hate bad advertising.”

Now we are talking Keith. Increasingly the relevance of Brand Trust and its impact as shortcut and catalyst to brand relationships is becoming more widely recognised. Brands who cannot re-build trust in a relevant and believable way are going to have a difficult future. Even the biggest, newest disruptors are being made to realise this – ask Uber.

This is not just a need to put out good creative which specifically appeals to people’s emotional as well as actual needs and passions. This is a huge shift in the way we tell stories and build communication. No longer is this about advertising focus, it spans all communication from a brand, the aim is to build sentiment, connection and trust.

At The Buzzz we fundamentally believe this – media and consumer focused communication is now segregated into paid for (above the line advertising and media channels); owned (emails; blogs; website features and competitions; Facebook and Twitter activity by the brand; You Tube, etc etc) and earned (the shares; likes and virality of activity which consumers take to heart – both good and bad). Communication is now often spread between multiple agencies so it is hard to keep everything on brand and as planned; worse still you cannot control it or the way consumers interact with it in the way you used to. We focus our efforts on understanding how consumers perceive a brands relative strengths and weaknesses and use that to provide strategic communication focus so that messages and creativity is allowed to breath within the space defined for it.

Community

For Weed, this is about “harnessing the creative power of the 7 billion people on the planet”.

Unilever plans to listen and engage with its community of consumers in real time, using data to co-create, build deeper relationships, and spot trends before they appear.

Really? It makes me wonder what the vast roster of agencies Unilever have used have been doing all this time. However I believe this is actually a really serious point and one which many other organisations need to address. We need to start thinking about people as people, not grouped by consumers, customers, prospects etc etc. If we understand motivation and trust and how to build and secure that more effectively the impact generated is on people as a whole – we are after all one species as Yuval Harari reminds us so compellingly in Sapiens. We may be culturally different and have very different lifestyles but we share the same emotions, we share the same instincts and needs. Increasingly we share aspirations which are becoming simpler in terms of values and the ability to be more self sufficient – I really look forward to seeing the kinds of trends Weed envisages.

Commerce

Commerce is no longer about buying. As weed describes it is also about browsing, convenience, utility, experience and even entertainment.

Here here! But we would add it is also about sharing experiences, pushing boundaries, exploring yourself and reaching higher and further. It is about providing fulfilment and reward and acknowledgement to the people who do and could engage, not just the people who buy or order or complain. We believe brands have to be much more encompassing when thinking about communication. One of the key facets of trust is feeling that there is a relationship between consumer and brand. We believe there is a lot more brands need to do in making their tone of voice more inclusive. If they get this right, just watch the engagement metrics climb.

 

What do we make of Keith Weeds pronouncements?

Partly because his comments about band trust resonated so strongly a couple of years ago with our team we were keen to see whether this speech in New York would have anything similarly notable. Admittedly we have taken a preview of his speech rather than a transcript and he once again raises some genuine and heartfelt concerns we share. But a voice of influence should actually do more than add to the alliterative models in marketing. The original and initial premise is that marketing is struggling with the demands of multi-media; social media; levels of trust and cynicism all while chasing the Holy Grail of engagement and advocacy. It is, we suggest, time to draw breath, think about a simpler and clearer way to project our brand and focus on understanding how we regain trust through communication which has integrity and substance.

 

If you would like to see how we believe this can be achieved visit here.