Trust in brands is in decline. There’s more technology than ever to measure things but it’s not necessarily making marketers better at what they do. On top of that, there’s a new generation of 20-something-year-olds that don't have the same kind of brand loyalty—they’re happy to jump around.
“I remember the days when my father purchased a Ford and wouldn’t think of buying from another brand for twenty years,” Sandy Thompson, Y&R’s global head of planning, said during her seminar presentation Wednesday. Those days are long gone.
According to a Y&R study, 73 per cent of western consumers wouldn’t care if a brand disappeared, compared to 43 per cent in Asia. The key to fighting this is to stay away from copycat syndrome, which isn’t just about making a piece of communication different, but rather making the brand stand out to begin with.
“Clients often ask how a piece of work is different to everyone else’s," Thompson said. "The right question is how is it more interesting."
She went on to talk about popular TV shows Game of Thrones, Big Bang Theory and Breaking Bad to illustrate that they’re compelling because of the tension and irresistibility of their content.
“Perfection is the problem," she said. "It does everything except engage real people.”
After a pause, she continued: “So how do these TV shows relate to brands?”
Advertising used to be about the single-minded proposition: one defined message to communicate to consumers. Now it’s not what makes you different but what makes you interesting that’s relevant.
Brands are no different from the TV shows captivating global audiences; House of Cards’ most engaged audience is in Beijing, according to research. Brands just need to be interesting to engage with people.
Some of Thompson's other takeaway points:
- Embrace inexperience. Brings something new to the forefront.
- Stay fluid to stay interesting. Grab every opportunity to adapt.
- Embrace new technology and platforms.
- Surprise and delight. Don’t confirm and contain. Focus groups tend to confirm and contain. You should instead measure how much you’re surprising and delighting.
- Encourage clients to measure for engagement rather than reasons to believe
- Things get more interesting the less perfect they are. They get more time because mysteries leave us wondering.
Thompson’s lessons to marketers, as told offstage to Campaign Asia-Pacific’s Byravee Iyer:
- Put an end to the word 'target' audience. Nobody wants to be a target. It used to be that it was harder for people to get away from us. Now they can turn us off and move away. Thompson is trying to expunge the word from Y&R’s vernacular.
- Embrace vulnerabilities. Don’t make things perfect. Vulnerability makes your brand more interesting. If you do make mistakes, react fast.
- Purpose is key. Understand who you are long before you communicate it externally. A lot of clients don’t know who they are.
- Replace believability questionnaires with engagement. People don’t need to know reasons to be engaged.
Campaign’s observation: It was refreshing to see a lean and visual presentation that expressed the merits and mechanics of engagement so richly and effectively. Thompson’s advice is relevant and accessible to those who want to strengthen their engagement strategies.