We don’t mate for life anymore. We try things on for size and spit them back out. We talk behind our “loved one’s” back and then name and shame online. Admit it: Your consumer habits are no longer monogamous, are they?
Social media has officially become the battleground where global brands fight it out for customer affection. The biggest brands don’t always win; shelling out big dollars for a huge ad space on Facebook or infiltrating everyone’s Instagram account doesn’t make you any friends in the same way street billboards used to do. According to last year’s Forrester report, 70 percent of consumers rely on friends for brand recommendations, while a mere 10 percent trust advertising. It’s a sobering figure, one that highlights how the ever-rising power of word-of-mouth advertising is rapidly drowning out big brands’ boastful voices.
Now, audiences demand to be instrumental in constructing the face of a brand or product. Just recently, gyro Madrid put Sandisk, a global digital storage company, in the hands of students around Europe in an attempt to break the world record for the “biggest-ever selfie.” A university campus was new terrain for a company whose campaigns traditionally took on a more extreme, exotic setting in Mount Everest or the Amazon. This new geographical position articulated a marketing shift, where audience-centric engagement fueled the entire campaign. Suddenly, the big-brand persuaders were completely dependent on 18-year-olds to turn up and run the show.
Advertising used to be a clear-cut lecture between adult (brand) and child (consumer), but that child has grown up – fast. Thus, we are seeing this shift in the power dynamic of brand content. ASOS, an online fashion retailer, is a perfect example of how brands are increasingly relinquishing control and passing the torch to a new generation of consumer. Born out of the noughties obsession with copycat celebrity dressing, ASOS turned that philosophy on its head with the As Seen on Me campaign, which lets customers share fashion selfies of their ASOS-inspired outfits. It’s complete U-turn politics; now consumers are basing their purchase decisions on people from the street, not the big screen. ASOS is even giving valuable screen time to other brands, coming to terms with the fact that its fan base won’t be dressed head to toe in its own label. Instead, these customers are likely to traverse numerous shopping channels, picking and choosing from the heaving buffet of e-commerce. Aware that the future is not a one-way street, ASOS has taken it upon itself to control consumer participation via an independent platform, claiming a healthy chunk of the social media pie in return.
Of course, it’s fine to say, “Let’s put the customer in the driver’s seat,” but that’s not all smooth sailing if things go wrong. Company reputations – years in the making – can be quickly ripped to shreds with a stroke of a hashtag started by some ill-thought PR ambition to #getustalkingaboutthem. Indeed, Michael Kors’s foray into Instagram-sponsored content last year was a reminder that brand management needs to develop a thick skin when today’s customer feedback is direct, uncensored and perhaps more worryingly, so public. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying; rather, we should fine-tune our tactics.
Today’s marketing landscape insists that we ignite conversations, not interrupt them. Slapping a “social element” on a creative concept is destined to fall flat on its face, but ripping up the rule book and allowing brands to take on a life of their own (without too much PR intervention) may be the only way customers will stop playing the field and settle down.
Clementyne Chambers – Creative Copywriter, gyro Madrid
I favor using the right side of my brain, and choose gut instinct over rationality every time. Fortunately, that’s a winning combination here at gyro, where I am constantly in pursuit of ideas that make stomachs flip and mouths gasp. I am a textbook copywriter: witty taglines are my weakness.
After studying English Literature at Manchester University in the U.K., I worked for several high-end fashion labels and travel websites in London before worming my way into the gyro Madrid office.
I love dogs and humans in equal measure, and feel most at home when I’m living out of a suitcase; Africa is the next trip on my bucket list.
Follow me @humanorange