Consumers are growing up and they don’t want their brands to shout at them any more.
If you’ve brought up kids, you’ll know what a culture shock it is when yours become adolescents. In my case, this time last year I had a gorgeous 13 yo daughter living in my house who was a joy to be with. I now have a surly 14 yo lodger to endure.
And, through a load of failed attempts, mistakes and experiments I’ve realised that I’ve got to learn to communicate with her in a completely different way if it’s going to have any effect.
For 13 years I’ve been ‘god’ in my house. I’m an adult you’re a kid, so do as I say. I’m wise you’re not, so believe what I say. I’m big you’re small, so I’m right. It worked for a while but not now. She now demands a rationale for every decision and won’t concur unless she gets a logical one. She disagrees with my opinions and tells me so. If she thinks something’s not fair she simply won’t do it, no matter how much I rant and rave. So, eventually, I’m learning to speak with her, not at her. I explain my decisions and change my mind if she persuades me otherwise. I try and not get upset if she has very different views on life to me.
There’s lot of similarity there to how brands are having to adapt the way they communicate with their consumers. For years they’ve ‘broadcasted’ their values and attributes at them. All media channels and the web have been used to shout how great we are. And, like me and my daughter, it worked very well for a while. Huge and successful brands have been built on the back of some great campaigns – both on and off-line. But it’s not working anymore. We consumers are growing up. We’re media and propaganda savvy. You can’t just talk at us any more or we won’t listen, you’ve got to talk with us. You’ve got to listen and take part in a conversation with us. And when you’ve done that, you’ve got to do something about what you’ve found out.
As a social media marketing agency we’ve our own jargon for this process – buzz and sentiment monitoring, engagement etc. but we don’t think for a moment that social media is the be all and end all of communicating with your consumer. All the traditional methods have their very effective place, DM, advertising, PR, events etc etc, but they’ve all had to adapt to the new savvy consumer.
The good news is that, if you get it right, your relationship will be stronger than it ever was before. Mine and my daughter’s is getting there.