My presentation from the 2009 World Brand Congress in Mumbai. It discusses the concept and practice of branding in the context of consumer trends, social trends, and the collapse of trust in our audiences toward marketers and marketing. Peers have become the most trusted group, yet we continue to kill consumer trust through intrusion, interruption and self-interest.
Time, attention and trust have shrunk, while product choice and media noise have exploded. Social channels provide us with the ability to gain back the one thing we can change: trust. Under pressure in this global recession to drive revenue? The old tactics no longer work. You need to regain trust.
This is a larger presentation than my traditional Trust preso. It covers more ground. I encourage branding professionals, marketers and advertisers interested in growing revenue to consider your approach through the lens of trust and through channels like social marketing that build trust.
Good morning and welcome! Thanks for sitting in!We’ve heard through many sessions here at the World Brand Congress that our brands need to be engaging in social media. But we haven’t really heard why.Today I’d like to take a step back and look at the branding profession in the context of recession, cultural trends and social marketing.
I am a brand marketer. I specialize in digital but I’ve always been in love with branding. And why not? Branding pros are the rockstars. They translate customer research, business requirements, and competitive drivers into sublime strategies. And then the FUN PART: translating those strategies into compelling, beautiful creative. But in 2001, our first recession hit. And the world of branding became focused around one thing:
I was heading up marcom for a tech play at that time. Money got tight, program budgets got slashed, teams were cut in half, then in half again, and yet the expectations just kept getting higher and higher. Branding took a back seat to marketing tactics designed to drive sales. And for many companies, it’s been in the back seat ever since.And here we find ourselves: the cheerleaders of the company. We know the power of branding, the value of the branding process. Yet when we suggest investment in branding efforts, we are always asked one question:
OF COURSE good branding lasts longer than a quarter. Branding is the ongoing definition, creation and refinement of the value of our offering. We know that great branding creates the market conditions that drive revenue. But it’s hard pushing for multi-quarter investment when the typical American CMO is trying to hold onto their positions past the 2009 average of 18 months. The average CEO’s tenure is 3 years. Every quarter, the only focus at public companies becomes hitting guidance or a quarterly earnings target.
And so for many,our rockstar profession, involving the truly challenging and enjoyable part of marketing, has often turned into something like Photoshop burger flipping.Our focus has become those quarterly earnings targets. Our tools have become the cheapest we could find. And in many companies, the practice we love—branding—gets pushed to the side again and again in favor of short-term tactics.
For many of my friends who weren’t privileged to work at huge companies with large branding budgets, they were asking each other the same question. How did marketing become so hard? How can we always put off branding efforts? Reaching and converting customers was hard enough before, now you want me to do even more? With so little? Now add another cruel twist to make things even harder: customers no longer want you to market to them.
I believe there are four cultural trends killing the outbound model.
This is my daughter’s high school in Seattle. She called me one day to tell me they had locked down the school. Some random idiot had walked onto campus with a loaded .45 drawn. Fortunately the on-site cop tackled the guy. So I can barely trust my daughter’s school to keep her safe. I can’t trust my neighbors that they won’t go try to shoot up her school. What’s going on?!? The pillars of society are shaking a bit. And that impacts business as well.
In fact, when it comes to advertisers, guess what the term is most closely associated with “advertising”? FALSE. This is totally something we need to be aware of and addressing: a lack of trust in advertising. What’s the point if no one trusts what we’re saying? That’s not the kind of profession I want to be in: one where I’m distrusted and considered to be misleading.
In the States, we’re seeing more and more of these flashing, blinding LED billboards that light up the night. In fact, they’re SO bright that they make it difficult to see, or force distraction away from the road. In this case, marketers are willing to put the safety of my family behind their need to increase revenue. You couldn’t have a bigger trust killer.
The few weeks ago I was at one of the trendiest salons in Seattle getting a haircut. The guy cutting my hair used to cut for Deborah Harry, 35 years in the business. All of the sudden…he cut off a piece of my ear! Think about it: someone is right next to your head, with a sharp cutting tool. That incident was a trust killer.I told him to keep the tip! Then I gave him an earful!
Let’s look at how some brands are building trust through social channels. Many of them were worst. Now they’re first.
Starbucks was a little slow to the social media table. Not for want of doing so: their web team was itching to engage with consumers but simply didn’t have the bandwidth. So we ended up seeing brand hijacking incidents like this one.
Now, however, Starbucks is a model for crowdsourcing of operational ideas, through MyStarbucksIdea.com. Through this site, they provided PROOF that they were interested in consumers and their ideas on how to improve the Starbucks experience. The site launched and generated 75000 ideas in 6 months, including the stopper thingy that keeps coffee from splashing out when you’re driving.
Starbucks has also demonstrated their commitment to social good through the launch of their V2V cause matching community. Originally the site was designed for employees, but they opened it up to the world and now Starbucks is helping match up people with important causes and other people with shared interests. It’s a major proof point.
Comcast is one of our large US cable companies, one of the largest in fact. If you did a Google search in 2007, you’d find reseller sites, official corporate sites. Maybe some consumer-generated information through Wikipedia. And then, at #7, you’d see this.This Comcast employee fell asleep at a customer’s home while on hold with Comcast customer service. The consumer videotaped the sleeping technician and then, using the company logo, posted this video online. It was very negative and got over 1.2MM views. It also generated a LOT of conversation, which is why it rose to #7. You see, Google LOVES conversation. And the video echoes on over time, long after the conversation has died down.
Now, of course, Comcast is a model for online customer service. They employ a staff of 10 handling customer service over Twitter. Response times are considerably quicker than through the call center, and they have been awarded a Groundswell Award as an example of a great customer-focused innovator. Shortly after Comcast Cares launched, I was on hold with Comcast customer service over a hacking incident involving my Comcast email account. I was waiting for an operator to pick up and got irritated. Went on Twitter and posted, “ARRGH, I HATE waiting for Comcast Customer Service!” Shortly afterward, I got a response from ComcastCares asking what the problem was. While I waited on hold, I had a full conversation with the rep who then forwarded the incident to Comcast Security. We resolved the issue while I continued to wait for the call center.
Servus is a credit union in Canada that was interested in attracting a younger audience. Looking at their site, you’d never know it.
Domino’s competitor Pizza Hut is using social causes around food to show their intentions. Remember the trust chart talking about world problems? Pizza Hut is proving their interest in giving back by donating meals for every retweet of the URL. Proof.
So, some final thoughts.
We’ve seen how product choice has gone up since those early days when I watched Bewitched and dreamt about being an ad man. We’ve seen how noise has increased from every angle. We’ve seen how trust has nose-dived and time and attention are in short supply. And we’ve seen how the market—and marketers—are no longer in control. The consumer is. And we know that as marketers, we have to rethink our approach. What’s the one lever we can pull, the only area we can impact on this chart?Trust.
Many people say the days of brand control are over, that consumers control the brand, because the brand is really THEIR experience. Well, I agree. But in an era when the consumer CAN take your brand and run with it, I suggest that we need a strong brand now, more than ever. Why? Strong brands, like tall buildings, stick out in the competitive landscape. The ones with well-thought-out DNA and positioning can sway in the face of strong consumer opinion, but the value proposition, the differentiation, and the benefit messaging will remain standing. These key brand attributes will stand strong, even forcing consumer “winds” around the brand. The top of the Burj Dubai sways 4 meters in the wind. It flexes so that it doesn’t crack and topple. Our brands need to do the same.
My colleagues at Tribal DDB India told me about a social activation campaign that came together around a protest against an incident that happened in a Mangalore pub. As many of you know, in January a group of 40 hard-core right-wingers came into the pub and beat up a group of women and men, stating they were violating traditional Indian values. If couples expressed their love in public at a bar, the group beat them and threatened to force them to marry. So in February, a group of women started the Pink Chaddi campaign and bombarded the religious group’s headquarters with pink panties. 34,000 people have signed up to this cause. All activated through social media.
I was amazed to hear that people in rural villages were renting sim chips with movies on them, then coming back to the village where everyone would crowd around a mobile phone screen. Guess what? That’s A SHARED SOCIAL EXPERIENCE. WITH NO COMMERCIALS. NO INTRUSION. I started wondering: what happens when you put these phones into the hands of millions? And suddenly they’re not just watching movies, they’re coming together, activating, sharing opinions, and discussing your brand? India will be TRANSFORMED.
The hard reality is that customers trust each other more than they trust us. And when social tools are placed into the hands of millions of customers, you’d better have won their trust. Because there’s no entry point into a conversation if you’re not already present and participating. The social media train’s leaving the station. Is your brand on board?
Branding, Trust and the Empowered Consumer: Mumbai Edition
Branding, Trust and the Empowered Consumer:why our brands must be SOCIAL<br />2009 WORLD BRAND CONGRESS<br />ERIC WEAVER<br />
“How the hell did my dream job turn into THIS???”<br />6<br />
Let’s step back and look at the business of connecting brands to customers.<br />7<br />
The Outbound Marketing Machine<br />A $1TT global machine<br />Each niche = a full industry<br />Rewarded for storytelling / intrusion / repetition<br />Brand value spread and equity built over time, through the outbound machine<br />Pretty much unchanged for 150 yrs<br />8<br />
Monolithic branding<br />Limited product choice<br />Limited media channels<br />Longer brand interactions<br />Higher barriers to entry<br />9<br />
Monolithic branding<br />Limited product choice<br />Limited media channels<br />Longer brand interactions<br />Higher barriers to entry<br />10<br />
Monolithic branding<br />Limited product choice<br />Limited media channels<br />Longer brand interactions<br />Higher barriers to entry<br />11<br />
12<br />The waning power of the Outbound Voice:<br />US ad spend plunges 14.2%; only online posts growth. (TNS Media Intelligence, 2009)<br />
Four cultural trends are killing the outbound marketing model.<br />13<br />
CHANGE #1: trust is being challenged, particularly in the US.<br />14<br />
Global recession = impact to trust in business.<br />15<br />
23<br />Trust isn’t just influential, it’s widely shared. 56% age 35-64,63% 25-34 share trust/distrust on the web. 2008 EDELMAN TRUST BAROMETER<br />
24<br />Trust drives preference<br />91% choose to buy from companies they trust, 77%refuse the distrusted.<br />2009 EDELMAN TRUST BAROMETER<br />Bottom line: TRUST DRIVES TRANSACTIONS.<br />
25<br />CONSUMERS WANT PROOF OF YOUR INTENTIONS: “How much more would you trust a company for taking these actions?”<br />2009 EDELMAN TRUST BAROMETER<br />
26<br />Growing revenue is not about clever taglines, elegant identities, or being loudest. It’s not about the latest shiny object. <br />REVENUE COMES FROM PEOPLE TRUSTING YOU.<br />
So build a trust strategy into your brand. <br />Where are you trusted? Where are you distrusted?<br />Which brand attributes build trust and which don’t?<br />Think through proof points and executional steps to create them.<br />27<br />
28<br />DON’T KILL TRUST THROUGH INTRUSION. Don’t interrupt search. Be found/referred. Don’t talk about value, demonstrate it.<br />SOCIAL CHANNELS LET YOU BUILD PROOF POINTS. Offer proof you know your stuff, you have a vision for sector/market, that others took a chance & benefitted; that you are ethical, easy, trustworthy, fun! Proof = trust.<br />EMPOWER OTHERS TO SPREAD THEIR TRUST IN YOU. Give customers a voice. Amplify their words. Make sharing their trust in your value effortless.<br />
29<br />Trust killer<br />Look for and target your organization’s trust soft-spots. Rebuild trust there with proof points. Take fodder from conspiracy theorists.<br />
What’s the one area we can impact?<br />42<br />Source: Agent Wildfire<br />
We need strong brands, more now than ever<br />43<br />
44<br />BOOMERS = propriety. Trained in formalities, don’t offend, guarded means safe, not so great with “random.” Suit & tie = trust.<br />GENS X&Y = affinity. Formalities ignored, sharing means finding, tech is easy, random is life. Consider your lens. Suit & tie = distrust.<br />
45<br />NOT SOME INSIGNIFICANT FAD. Google gave us search. Social media gives us sharing, connecting.<br />SHARING MEANS BEING FOUND. Google is the front door. If you don’t share, you’re not found. <br />NOT “ONE MORE THING TO DO.” This is reconstructing your brand to leverage consumer power. (How’d that last trade show budget work out?)<br />
46<br />EXAMINE YOUR LENS. your branding architecture, strategy and approach from a prospective of trust and with a social lens.<br />OFFER PROOF POINTS. Demonstrate your knowledge, your vision and trustworthiness. <br />ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY “ACTIVATE” around a cause, around a problem, or around a controversy that involves your offering.<br />
47<br />Social activation<br />Women across India gifted pink panties to Sri Ram Seneto protest the violence against women in the Mangalore pub.The Pink Chaddi campaign attracted 34,032 members and counting — making it one of the most memorable socially-activated campaigns in India.<br />