Last week, a couple of us from St. Gregory Group’s creative team attended the inaugural Brandemonium conference in Cincinnati. Billed as an event for anyone whose work is touched by branding, the conference featured marketing guru Seth Godin; the band OK Go, known for their delightfully innovative music videos; and big brains from Kroger, Google, Target and more.
As marketers, it’s all too easy to slip into a meaningless patter, and for those of us listening to nod meaningfully lest we be unmasked as imposters. Thankfully, the feather fluffing at Brandemonium was kept to a minimum—and the branding conference seemed to be taking a cue from the marketing industry itself. In session after session, successful branding experts discussed the rising power of the customer as a force to be reckoned with—and just as attendees like me were sniffing out the speakers with something genuinely useful to say, consumers are demanding authenticity from the brands they spend their money on.
Obviously, customers have always been king. But a couple of newish factors are amplifying individual buying power. First, consumers now have so many choices—many of which can be accessed online without setting foot in a retail or dealer environment—that brands have to compete more intelligently than ever before. And because forums and online reviews allow buyers to communicate with one another, they’re no longer dependent on the marketing message alone to evaluate a product.
This means brands have to find new ways to compete in a crowded, well-informed marketplace. The consensus solution seems to be that to survive and thrive today, you need to provide an experience customers can’t get anywhere else. Interactivity, input and personalization are the name of the game, whether you’re marketing cars or groceries. Belonging and connection inspire loyalty, and savvy customers can see through artifice.
· To make a connection with passengers and make travel more efficient, the TSA started a highly entertaining Instagram account that now has more than 800,000 followers.
· Microsoft launched their #makewhatsnext initiative to get more girls interested in STEM careers—simultaneously shining a light on a very human problem and helping to solve it.
· Coca-Cola quite literally personalized their 20-ounce bottles, replacing their logo with names (a stunt that increased sales by 19% in 2014).
So: What are you doing to authentically connect with your audience? Do you know what they actually want from your product? Are you supplying it? Are you creating community, or just squeezing them for money? Are you doing things the way you’ve always done them, or are you taking note of changes in your industry and connecting the dots?