It used to be that we paid celebrities tonnes of money to endorse our products in the vain hope that we could have their sex appeal, charisma and X factor rub off on us. In doing so people in droves would greedily grab said products hoping that the aforementioned attributes will have a flow-on affect and they might also become sexier, cooler and more likeable.
While there is plenty of evidence to suggest endorsement marketing still exists and works, what is evolving now is a style of marketing less associated with the bling and disingenuousness of a celebrity and more akin with the down-to-earthiness of our next-door neighbour.
I believe the reason for this is that as we continue down the information super highway all around us clutter is building up sky high. The sheer volume is increasing at a rate totally unfathomable to our mere minds and the channels we’re using to access it are growing almost as quickly – apps, tablets, IPTV have expanded our mobile and “always on” capabilities. Our power bills are going through the roof! The traditional channels are still holding on (albeit for dear life); TV, print, radio, billboards. It is literally a constantly accessible information overload which is sending us all into a bit of a tizzy – both as marketers and consumers. It’s beyond overwhelming.
The big question really is, where the hell to start? If I’m looking for a product or service, how do I get to it? There’s just too much choice. Okay, so Google it, I hear you say. But with search manipulation optimisation in its maturity, finding what I’m actually looking for is increasingly difficult. It doesn’t feel like it should be that hard; I have money in my wallet and I know what I want. So how do I search for it?
The answer? I don’t. I skip Google, bypass publications and go directly to my mates. For instance, two examples this last week of me looking for services…
What I’m saying here is of course not new or rocket science. We’ve always taken recommendations from family and friends into consideration when making purchase decisions. However, the way we’ve now expanded that into our social networks – where the people we ask are not necessarily just our family or immediate friends is the major change. They’re often associates at best. Take Twitter as a great example, I’d probably personally know less than 1% of my followers – yet I ask and often take recommendations from these perfect strangers several times a week. I’ve employed electricians, plumbers and caterers. I’ve found flatmates, new employees and all manner of suppliers. But the clincher for me is that I’ve been able to see them online too – they’ve also been users of social media, so they’re profiles and personalities are ready for me to inspect.
Which leads nicely to my point. What we’re seeing is an increase in businesses building trust and loyalty by using real people to front their brands, not just create brand personalities with no real world substance.
I call it Personality Marketing. These people don’t need to be famous or on the telly. They need to be genuine, approachable, likeable and honest. Which means brands need to employ people who actually are approachable, likeable and honest. Start up brands do this type of marketing best – it’s almost just an accidental benefit or byproduct of being an entrepreneurial brand. It’s likely you’ll have founders doing the marketing grunt work – like I do with Flossie.com; Vaughan Rowsell does with Vend or even Rod Drury with Xero. It speaks to the natural inclination we have to support the under dog and whilst many of us in the start-up tech world wouldn’t want to position ourselves as ‘under dogs’ – there’s an element of “us against the world” that goes with trying to launch a brand (if you look at purely the odds of success). We’ve found that customers really buy into this and want to support you and your ‘cause’. If it’s worthy, of course.
Curiously in the past businesses never liked building personalities up around individuals – what if they left? Where would this leave us as a company? Although I can understand the argument, the cool thing is that the cache developed can be passed on. For instance, one of the pillars for our Flossie.com brand is exceptional customer service. I work hard within our social media tools to deliver above and beyond expectations – I’m building my “number 1 fan base” and I want every person who touches this business to simply rave about it. That’s not actually that hard to do – be honest, be upfront, be friendly, be consistent and be nice. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about what they would like – what would make them feel special, cared for and looked after. After all, they’re the ones with the money – they should be treated accordingly.
But none of those things are unique to my personality – it’s an ethos. So it’s very easy for me to pass that ethos onto others. Every other person in our company knows how important this, so our measurement and KPI’s are built around it. Lead from the top and it will flow through. So if I decided – which inevitably at some point will happen – to pass the grunt work of marketing on to another individual in the company, I can feel confident that in doing so our brand values will remain in tact and not depart as I do, just because I’m not doing the heavy lifting.
The upshot is that in today’s economic climate people need to feel confident they’re going to be getting value for their hard earned money. They naturally feel more confident if they are spending their money with people who care about the outcome.
After all, don’t you too?