(Editor’s note: [a]listdaily is the publishing arm of the Ayzenberg Group, the parent company of [a]insights.)
Marketing is a brand’s voice to the world, and just like our human voices, misunderstandings can occur with disastrous results. A well-intentioned marketing campaign can either inspire or completely insult an audience, illustrating the need for communication’s most powerful tool—listening.
“The voice of the people on social media is stronger than the voice of any brand. That’s why it’s so important for brands today to listen,” Talin Koutnouyan, associate director of analytics and insights for [a]insights, told [a]listdaily. “As humans, we grow up learning to read people, understand their motives and social cues. Those skills are what keep us from experiencing embarrassment in social settings. The same is true for brands—they must observe, listen and respond accordingly to build meaningful and strong connections with consumers.”
The word “authenticity” gets thrown around a lot by marketers, but when a brand’s message results in public outrage, it becomes clear how important that idea really is, especially on social media.
“Without authenticity, you don’t get resonance,” says Larry Hitchcock, who handles strategies and partnerships at Ayzenberg. “People will disregard or even stop listening and not be able to receive any of the messages if they feel like there’s a falseness or something disingenuous about it. We do this just as people talking to each other interpersonally—when someone is not being truthful, not being authentic or doesn’t know the cultural language or the cultural behaviors, we tend to dismiss them as not in our group. Not all branders recognize how highly trained the audience is at sussing out that authenticity or whether a campaign represents tone alertness, or tone deafness.”
A recent study found that fewer than three percent of millennials’ purchasing decisions are influenced by traditional advertising such as TV news, magazines and books (traditional media sources) and only one percent said that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more. Examples of authentic brand messages include “Taste the Rainbow” from Skittles and Taco Bell’s emoji engine that created fun images based on Twitter messages from the fans.
Both campaigns celebrated audience interests through humor and understanding as opposed to traditional campaigns. Knowing what will be perceived as authentic versus forced or fake is a challenge not easily overcome. To tackle this dilemma, experts stress the importance of using the right tools to know an audience before sending a campaign out into the world.
“If you’re not using tools just sitting around in your creative room with the doors locked and not hearing the audience outside, you may invent or create things that once you get them outside on channels have no reality,” cautioned Hitchcock.
“It’s critical for branding efforts to incorporate listening at all stages of a campaign,” added Koutnouyan. “We are able to do this today by analyzing textual data. Text is such a prevalent form of communication and social media is the largest source of unsolicited consumer opinions. We use textual data from social media to understand the consumer’s brand and non-brand related interests, psychographics, experiences, and sentiment. The insights extracted from textual data help deliver efficacy and efficiency to marketing efforts.”