Trends & Features

Playing the long game to woo and win brand love

It’s no surprise that consumer trust in advertising and just about every other media communication has been falling steadily over the last few years. Research from (among others) Gallup, MarketingSherpa and Neilsen has shown that consumers globally are collectively cynical when it comes to paid-for media, and us Brits are typically the worst of the lot.

Accentuating the positive, the sources that consumers do trust are a lot closer to home. Personal recommendation remains the most credible communication, followed by online consumer opinions. You can check last month’s column for the latest on influencers, but the underlying result of such data is that the way retailers and brands communicate with consumers has changed and will continue to develop.

Despite regular headlines in marketing papers since the dawn of time, the death of advertising has been exaggerated. It’s not dead, it just continually adapts, transforms and reincarnates. The sole requirement of a snappy slogan and a simple message extolling the virtues of your product or service is long gone. Even a catchy jingle, a clever phrase and a celebrity endorsement have to be an outstanding combination to cut through in 2017.

The new consumer (let’s not use the term “millennial”, we’re intelligent people) demands an extended courtship. A brand or retailer needs to show who they are and what they stand for. They need to demonstrate this in every communication, whether written, graphical or in person. This consistency helps create a brand persona and a deeper understanding of whether a consumer’s beliefs are matched and whether that brand could be “the one”. Couple this with rich content, stories, imagery, video and messaging that the potential consumer finds useful or interesting and you’ll be on your way to a longterm relationship that can flourish.

If your brand or store were a person, what characteristics would you want them to have? What tone of voice would they use? If you want the cynical new consumer to trust you, you need to give them reason. When a consumer sees your website or social media output, what do they think, what do they feel? The tone of voice will be a key part of getting your message to resonate with your consumer.

On top of that, what does your consumer intuitively feel when they walk through the door? The atmosphere of an Aldi or a Lidl varies greatly from a Waitrose. Of course, that is intentional and sets the tone for the consumer’s expectations. If the most prominent section of your store is a pile of tatty shoe boxes or a rail of apparel with flouro-yellow sale signs on them, that visitor is not going to expect to be walking out with a premium pair of running shoes having just enjoyed an expert fitting service from a highly-trained member of staff.

This store might have every intention of offering that service and product, but they are not creating the appropriate environment for that style of transaction. The consumer will probably view this location as somewhere to self-serve from the pile of boxes and walk out with a bargain. Conversely, if that’s what you want, you should set your tone accordingly. It’s the consistency of strategy and message that is important here, not the message itself.

Our tone of voice and brand characteristics will give the consumer a feel for the store long before any formal communication has taken place. Slick, high quality print or modern, visually stimulating, classy digital communications can lead the consumer to expect a modern retail environment offering premium products and genuine expertise.

Digital content should freely demonstrate the knowledge available within your business, effectively a taster of what can be experienced in-person, without any hard-sell. It should show why your business is relevant to the (potential) consumer, giving them reason to visit or to find out more about the experience (and it is all about the experience) that they can expect. The process of presenting the unique environment, atmosphere, and knowledge that your business offers starts when they see your logo or details on screen, not when they walk through the door.

It is still possible for the cynical consumer to trust our messaging, but we have to set out a longer courtship to earn their affections for the longer term.

The one-night stand of the easycome, easy-go Mad-Men display advertising era has gone. Welcome to the grown-up, joint-mortgage “try-a-little-before-you-buy” modern way of communication. Get it right and you might just find “the one”.

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