The Responsibility of the Creative to Uncover the Truth.
With the advent of technology and the development of new social platforms with fluid interactivity, consumers are demanding more transparency from advertisers and brands. Armed with newfound tools and freedoms consumers are embracing their ability to freely share their brand experiences with an ever increasing network of friends, strangers and like-minded consumers.
The emergence of today’s dynamic new media environment has changed the rules and the landscape of brand communications. The new communication model is a two-way street giving consumers the means to provide instant feedback and share their experiences and opinions quickly with friends and strangers exponentially.
This adds a dramatically new dimension to the term “truth in advertising” and amplifies the importance of truthful discovery and honest message development on the part of those building the brand and its advertising. It becomes the responsibility of the communicators (strategists, designers, writers, producers) to uncover these truths and create sincere communications that are relevant to the brand’s audience and generate true consumer advocacy.
Advertising: Sell at Any Cost
Advertisers (companies, manufacturers, producers, distributors, retailers) are in business to generate revenue by selling goods and services. At times the mad rush to increase sales and to please the board or stockholders comes at a price. To some, that price is high and comes at the cost of the honesty and integrity of their advertising communications. As Brent Pulford proclaims in his blog post, “. . . the impact of various media and each one’s unique ability to reach and touch consumers in meaningful ways, ads today are often side shows meant to distract from reality rather than enlighten and inform.”
Advertisers take it upon themselves to tell the customer what they think the customer wants to hear, ignoring reality and the consumer’s true needs, wants and desires. At this point the messaging lacks authenticity, but with shrinking budgets and increased pressure in the marketplace, advertisers, serving to pacify nervous stakeholders, opt to replace long-term success with short-term gains. They lose the golden opportunity to convert consumers into brand advocates.
Transparency: New Media and Emerging Technologies
The advancement of technology and the introduction of new devices and platforms have changed the way advertisers connect with consumers. These new media channels enable faster customer adoption and greater brand advocacy, however this presents a new set of risks and challenges as the brand strategy and associated messaging is developed. Emerging technologies facilitate faster social communications and empower heightened levels of exposure and interaction among consumer groups.
Determining the correlation between a product’s beneficial value and the customer’s expectations is essential in creating communications relevant to targeted groups and their aspirations. In the modern media society the media consumer has now become the media producer and consumers are demanding greater control over these channels. Conversations, relationships and experiences are being shared across multiple channels at accelerated rates with no regard for geographic boundaries and spreading with viral intensity.
Consumers are exploiting these new social channels and participating at higher levels that impact cultural interactions and brand perceptions as never before seen in human history (Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture). They have the means by which to have their voices heard with little or no restraint and share their opinions about brands and their products or services with multiple communities. “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It’s not what you say it is. It’s what THEY say it is.” (Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap).
Given the incredible access that consumers have to open media channels and the ability to share information, it becomes imperative that a company’s branding, advertising and messaging are authentic and closely align with their mission, vision and values. In today’s transparent world one false statement or promise by an advertiser can quickly fester into full-scale renouncement.
On the other hand, this free media access can expedite consumer adoption if the customer’s experience with the product or service substantially exceeds the brand promise as expressed in the brand’s communications. Ravi Sawhney suggests in his blog, “To reach the adoption and advocacy threshold, a product or experience must surpass expectations, which happen to be growing more sophisticated and demanding over time — on a monthly basis in some industries.
Expectations are a tricky thing and can only be truly understood after first identifying the needs and aspirations of the target audience.” It becomes incumbent for communicators to discover the legitimate identity and true essence of the brand and identify its relevance with targeted consumer groups. The responsibility lies with them to pose the strategic questions that offer the insight required to develop honest communications; advertising and messaging that engage and connect with the intended audience on an emotional and visceral level.
The ability to raise the serious questions is critical to building brand relationships with customers that foster acceptance, adoption and eventually brand advocacy. These brand evangelists will freely share their affection and defend their loyalty for the brands that deliver on their promise and stay true to their core values.
The burden lies with communicators during brand assessment and development to uncover the truths and create honest communications that are pertinent and speak directly to the needs, wants and desires of the appropriate consumer group. The dynamic new media environment enables consumers to participate in new intelligence communities and share opinions and experiences at rapidly increasing speeds. A misstep by a brand and their inability to live up to a single customer’s expectations can be instantly broadcast to millions of like-minded consumers. Identifying the brand’s beneficial values and properly communicating that to a select group is crucial to building advocacy and long-term success for the brand.