Pepsi is probably the most recognisable brand that tried to tap into trending social conversations (utilising Kendall Jenner to hand a can of Pepsi to protestors) but got it wrong, and faced a major backlash.
Being culturally relevant is important for a brand, but it must be done in the right way. And Ogilvy has developed an influencers tool to drive brands’ social conversations. It was created to meet customer demand.
“A year and a half ago, more and more clients started coming to us and saying ‘Business as usual isn’t working. We spent the same amount of money last year as we did the year before, but we are getting less results,” explains Serge Vaezi, strategy and creative officer for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Ogilvy.
The agency developed ADAM – its Advanced Data Analytical Model – to segment influencers with the same level of sophistication and precision as media agencies segment channels, and then match the most appropriate influencer with a brand. The system is a combination of automatic algorithms and input from people, and is designed to make brands more culturally relevant to consumers.
Why a brand should be culturally relevant
The most potent and powerful weapon in the marketing arsenal at a marketer’s disposal, according to Vaezi, are conversations. “Conversations are such a subtle but powerful tool. They can make or break reputations, brands and policies,” he says.
Two reasons that marketers are falling short are because firstly they spend their money in the wrong place, and secondly, they measure the wrong elements of a campaign.
Nielsen research done in 2018 found that the discipline most trusted by consumers is earned and recommendations and the least trusted is paid media. But more and more money is being spent on the latter, which consumers trust the least, and is one of the reasons that ‘business as usual’ isn’t working. Word of mouth and earned media are becoming more valuable for marketers to reach consumers.
As Vaezi says, “We are failing to measure the things that matter most for our client. We spend most of the time measuring the things we create, while our colleagues in advertising spend their time measuring the impact on consumers of the things they create … The only thing that matters is the impact on the consumer”, he reckons.
The truth is out
People who say that the world is scary and uncertain and unpredictable are talking rubbish, says Vaezi, as consumers are making it very clear what they want and how they want brands to interact with them.
“Consumers are demanding relationships with brands, not asking politely for it, and they will relentlessly pursue it and they will make their voices heard,” he adds.
Research shows they are not interested in marketing techniques of days past. Branded apps aren’t appealing to them, they are using ad-blocking technology to skirt adverts, and subscription entertainment services such as Netflix and ShowMax allow them to avoid adverts all together.
“For R130 a month, consumers never have to hear from marketers again,” stresses Vaezi. The days where adverts paid for consumers to be entertained are gone, replaced by consumers paying for their own entertainment without the need for adverts.
In many instances, pressure from consumers has forced brands to change the way they operate, or their strategy. Brands who surprise and delight them are talked about by consumers.
Listen to conversations
Vaezi has several pieces of advice for marketers. Firstly, don’t start with a campaign idea. Start by observing the social conversations that are taking place and then create a story that will become part of the conversation, not forced into it.
Secondly, ensure you have processes in place to react with speed to topical conversations. If a brand waits too long or their agencies take too long, then the conversation is over and it becomes irrelevant.
Thirdly, consumers shop with brands that share their activism. Sometimes brands get dragged into consumer activism without wanting to be, then they will be judged on the way they react. Consumers respect honesty and they trust actions, not words, turn your brand philosophy into reality.
And finally, ensure your brand meets these five cultural beliefs:
- Leadership – we stand for something
- Respond – what are brands doing to show that they are interested in what consumers are doing?
- Reciprocate – can brands use money to give back to their consumers?
- Create – develop experiences, products and services that inspire
- Convene – How brands bring people together to have an experience around their passions.
“Brands need to embrace a whole new approach to marketing. We need to foster cultural relevance in order to survive,” says Vaezi. “… You have to find a way to make your communication so relevant that it can’t be ignored, or avoided or side-stepped by consumers.”
Michael Bratt is a multimedia journalist at Wag the Dog, publishers of The Media Online and The Media. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelBratt8