Brands are increasingly expected to make a difference to more than the corporate bottom line. Organisations have been so successful at articulating their brand values, that brand leaders now feel the weight of consumer expectation to make a positive difference in the world – environmentally, socially, politically. This expectation is reshaping brand marketing, requiring a new authenticity, new channels, new technologies—and fundamentally, a new attitude to brand risk.
Consumers reward brands with purpose
According to research published in the Harvard Business Review, 64% of consumers who have established a relationship with a brand cite “shared values” as the main reason for that relationship. No doubt that’s why 70% of CMOs say that their brand’s social commitment is important to securing their customers’ loyalty. Identifying an authentic brand purpose requires deep understanding: understanding of the core DNA of the company combined with an understanding of the target customer and their values. Where the two overlap lies authentic brand communication.
Nike set a bar in purpose-driven marketing with their 2018 “Just do it” campaign, featuring football-pro and activist Colin Kaepernick. During the campaign period, Nike’s stock rose 6.25% – that’s a rise in the company’s value of $6.38 billion. Exactly how much of that rise was due to the campaign is difficult to pinpoint, but Nike’s CEO Mark Parker went on the record saying on an earnings call that it resulted in “record engagement with the brand.”
Decisions around brand purpose must be carefully weighed. As Nike demonstrated, getting brand purpose right can be very rewarding, but with high rewards comes additional risk. Any brand making an authentic commitment to a purpose should absolutely expect to hear from detractors; those directly opposed to or threatened by that purpose. The key questions for the brand to consider is whether there’s significant overlap between likely detractors and the target audience and whether the brand’s message will be perceived as authentic and therefore believable by its target audience. Brand purpose can generate tremendous value and loyalty but if there’s a poor fit with the company’s real-world actions or the target customer’s values – in other words, if brand purpose is perceived as phony or tone-deaf – the resulting backlash can be seismic and potentially terminal.
Data and authenticity belong together
The pressure to capture data, protect it and use it responsibly has led many brands to put a greater emphasis on data and metrics within their organisations. And yet, according to a study by Dentsu Aegis, 61 percent of CMOs believe that despite the deluge of data, it has actually become harder to gain real insight. With all the hype about the power of data, consumer expectations of brands and their ability to predict individual preferences or needs have increased.
That’s why the future belongs to those brands that are able to leverage technology to communicate personally and predictively with their customers. AI-driven platforms and chat bots enable companies to personalise and tailor their customer approach, so it’s data-led but with an authentic brand voice.
Small is beautiful
Influencers are now a staple part of the marketing mix and absolutely central to global consumer culture. A study by Statista predicts that brands will invest up to $2.38 billion in influencer marketing by the end of 2019. Interestingly, the study found that the more famous an influencer is, the less likely followers will be influenced when making a purchasing decision. Micro-influencers – those with relatively small but highly engaged follower bases are often able to generate far higher conversions (on average 6.7x more). At Olapic – a part of the Monotype family that provides brands with visual marketing solutions – we’ve found consumers tend to regard them as more relatable and perhaps more trustworthy than mega-influencers with millions of fans. Brands seeking authentic connections with consumers should prioritise working with influencers who share a common purpose with the brand over famous influencers who only offer an outsized reach to an unengaged audience.
Having purpose and being authentic takes commitment. Once committed, brands need to stay the course. And that doesn’t just go for million dollar campaigns like Nike’s. Consistency is vital to all brands regardless of their size or sector.
Brand consistency isn’t just important for the ‘big’ messages. To build authentic consumer relationships, brands need to sweat the small stuff too. Inconsistent typography and design, differing tone of voice, ill-fitting choices of imagery and influencers – consumers intuitively spot these brand fails and each fail undermines trust.
A purpose-led brand isn’t built in a day. It takes time, focus, commitment, data, creativity, a wise mix of technology solutions – and a solid foundation of consistent and authentic brand expression across every channel and consumer touchpoint.