In its “Expert Outlook 2019: Find Balance” report, global ethnographical market research firm Canvas8 set out to find out what was on the ever-shifting mind of today’s consumer. The body of work, which drew insights from 42 experts in specialties ranging from shopping, health, technology, entertainment, money, careers and citizenship, ended up establishing a blueprint of the strategies brand owners can embrace. One of the more striking revelations was that consumers are searching for balance—equilibrium— in all aspects of their lives: between humans and technology, brand and personal, global and local. There, jumping up from the data, was the formula for success. Today’s brands will need to be authentic, real and human, even as technology drives more and more consumers to think digitally.
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The findings do not surprise marketing thought leaders like Dan Goldstein, who believes the biggest shift in the brand-consumer relationship is the rise of the “Informed Consumer.” With the internet connecting people to countless brands and information, consumers have myriad choices. That puts the onus on brands to guide those choices by building favorable impressions with the right people at the right time.
“Getting repeat business has less of a psychological barrier, perhaps, but there’s still a lot of competition for many products and services,” says Goldstein, President and Owner of Page 1 Solutions, a full-service digital marketing agency. “Fundamentally, brands have to remain relevant and reliable in the eyes of consumers because the consumers themselves have the power to choose that is the furthest thing from traditional.”
The lesson that jumps out is in a brand’s marketing approach. Simple is best. “Customers don’t want complicated,” says Goldstein, who also authored “Win with Multi-Channel Digital Marketing.” “Consumers educate themselves before making purchases, but the brands that get the attention and sales are the ones that use the customers’ own language to connect with them both intellectually and emotionally.
Your brand may very well be reputable, but if you over-rely on jargon to market your services or use clinical or technical language rather than speaking to your audience, few customers are going to take the time to get to know what you do and come to trust that your brand will meet their needs.”
In the checklist for connecting brand and consumer, there are a few big business goals that are important today. These include high visibility, where buyers spend much of their time online (websites, social media platforms, digital video, etc.), prominence in online search for the products and services a brand offers, a preponderance of positive reviews testifying to their stellar reputation, and most importantly, leads that convert into new business and revenue.
“The most successful brands incorporate several of these marketing strategies into a multi-channel marketing plan,” Goldstein says. “We have found that when our clients implement multiple marketing strategies in a coordinated manner, they experience significantly better results.”
THE STORY MATTERS
Everyone likes a good story. And in a time when brands are fighting for each and every read, stories matter. It is the strategy that Kindra Hall has drilled relentlessly into the minds of the brands who rely on her guidance, including Facebook, Hilton Hotels, Tyson Foods, Target, Berkshire Hathaway and Harvard Medical School, all of which have followed her lead. As President and Chief Storytelling Officer at Stellar Collective, a consulting firm focused on the strategic application of storytelling to today’s communication challenges, Hall says that every buyer, regardless of where they are playing on the selling spectrum, is skeptical and curious. It is a fact she believes every brand owner should understand.
“Buyers are able to sniff out spin, and will spend hours researching and learning more,” Hall says. “To keep your buyer at the center of your strategy, give them what they want. Stories feed their curiosity while simultaneously illustrating that you are the real deal.”
And that means being authentic to your story.
“Start with the first story—the founder story,” Hall says. “What is the moment the company started? Was it after losing a pair of glasses on a flight (Warby Parker)? Noticing the lack of basic footwear for the homeless (Bombas Socks)? Trying to pay rent by renting out air mattresses on the living room floor to strangers (Airbnb)? Once you have the story of how and why your brand started, share it in as many ways and lengths and platforms as possible to connect your buyers to you.”
In the end, what brand owners want is to communicate the essence of who they are beyond buzzwords and jargon in a way that will stick with their audience and consumers. “They want you to be authentic and memorable,” Hall says.
“The alternative leads to questions and harms the delicate relationships brands have with their audiences. Unified, consistent content and storytelling allows brands to build lasting, loyal relationships.”
5 TRENDS EVERY BRAND OWNER SHOULD KNOW
As the marketplace shifts away from escaping reality toward the need to address it, brands are having to place a greater emphasis on staying in step with what their communities need. The “Expert Outlook 2019: Find Balance” report by Canvas8 took an introspective look into the wants and needs of today’s consumer. Here are five trends that should be on the radar of every brand today:
- RESPONSIBLE CONSUMERISM COMES AROUND. While not a new trend, responsible consumerism is going more mainstream. With the ability to stay informed, buyers want brands that help them make better, more responsible choices.
- GET REAL, BE REAL. The goal for every brand is to be real. That means having a deep understanding of their customers, but also the many diverse needs that cuts across all aspects of their lives.
- BRANDS AS EDUCATORS. In some ways, brands are becoming the new business schools, both in terms of soft (critical thinking) and hard skills (AI and future-facing preparedness).
- AUGMENTED HUMANITY. As technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) continue to encompass today’s workspaces, customer expectations for convenience are rising. That means brands will have to be cautious about privacy concerns.
- PERSONALIZED PRIVACY. Digital experiences are better-connected thanks to AI, but as stated above, so are privacy concerns. Brands must work harder to facilitate seamlessness while offering new solutions.