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Brands Are Dead. So What Do People Care About Now?

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Written by: Shane Wolfsmith

It’s a strange time in the world of marketing. Digital technology has changed the way consumers behave, while the content marketing era has changed the way brands engage—and it’s all happening at lightning speed.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves. The fact is, most people don’t care if brands exist. Worldwide, the majority of people wouldn’t blink if 73% of brands disappeared overnight. People care about what brands do and who they are, versus what they have to sell or offer. Brands need to extend their value with content that feels meaningful, that people can act on and that makes them feel smarter and more interesting for having read or shared it.

On-demand brands. The strategy of interruption doesn’t work anymore. We can’t simply stop people in their tracks, present them with an idea and expect them to remember or care. There are too many other bright, shiny reasons out there for people to ignore, delete, fast-forward or click away.

Inclusion is key. With every brand trying to tell a story, the challenge is to build brand narratives around the people you’re trying to reach. Give them irresistible ways to become part of your story, add their own experiences to it and then spread the word.

Here are three instances of brands we think are getting it right.

Humor done well resonates.
Authenticity is key to building trust, and trust is a key ingredient to building a genuine relationship. If done right (and we admit it’s hard to do), a sure-fire way to create a connection to—and therefore interest in—your brand is to show your sense of humor. Inviting people to participate in an inside joke makes them feel like they get you, and they will appreciate that you’ve made them laugh.

Newcastle
Check out Newcastle’s approach to Super Bowl advertising this year, which has been well received by practically everyone. It let viewers in on the game it was playing and invited them to be accomplices. Last year, it successfully launched a (fake) commercial featuring actress Anna Kendrick. Comically ahead of the curve, Newcastle has already beaten every other brand to the punch with its funny and fitting ad for the 2016 Super Bowl. Yes—as in next year.  

Invite people to tell their own stories.
Giving people something they can infuse with their own personalities and narratives creates an affinity for your brand in very powerful ways.

Warby Parker
Recently named the world’s most innovative company by Fast Company, Warby Parker knows how to attract people to its brand—and bring them back again and again. Owning a pair of Warby Parker glasses means you are part of a certain accessible coolness. The company’s annual review is presented in a friendly, picture-map fashion. The make-your-own annual report feature invites you to remember key elements of your year. Telling your story produces a report that analyzes key fun findings like your favorite color of 2015, your spirit animal and possible nicknames for the year to come.
You don’t own your brand, your audience does.
Your customers are your brand ambassadors. They determine who you are to them and what role you play in their lives. Everything you do as a brand should prompt, engage and empower your audience.

Apple

It’s no surprise that Apple tells its brand story well. One way in which the company ignites its audience is by making people believe that every individual possesses the power to create, inspire and learn. People drive stories, and Apple products simply put that innate sensibility to tangible use. With its start something new campaign, Apple showcases talented artists who are using its products to create stunning works around the world. Front and center are the artists and their work—not the specific technological device they use—sparking a desire to tap into our own inner artist. Apple excites audiences and prompts us to take our creativity by the reins and create something new.
If you want people to start—and keep—craving your story, follow the lead from these relevant brands. When executed with intrigue and honesty, your brand story can spark true interest and action.
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