We live in uncertain times. What’s a marketer to do?
An unstable world order swirls around us with climate change looming, Russian interference in our democracy and now Romaine lettuce could kill us. People are walking around with an uneasy feeling about the future.
Will algorithms become our boss? And where does the responsibility lie for some of the bile spouted on social media and disturbing content on YouTube? And whether you are a fan of the current administration or not, political vitriol is at an all-time high. Add to that the revelations of the #metoo movement, and there is a powerful disruption in cultural norms.
So: how is a marketer expected to thrive in such uncertain times?
Technology and big data are certainly a starting point. Each is a powerful tool that can help us get closer to customers, intercept them at their point of need and in some cases even predict that need before it happens. Certainly, we have come a long way from the days of spray and pray. But getting in front of customers is only half the battle.
People need reassurance. They need brands to understand the complexity of their world and not complicate it further. Brands that understand and resonate with core human values and needs, such as the desire for community and human interaction, have a better chance at creating a true connection. Businesses that recognize the value of the customer and embrace more human-centric qualities in their approach by prioritizing sincerity and fairness and responding with agility to changing demands will prosper over those who don’t.
Inflated claims and ill-judged alignments to broader causes in a bid to demonstrate brand purpose will certainly fail. Remember the Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner? Consumers were not amused. If brands are going to claim social purpose and join bigger conversations, they need to make sure they have the right and get it right. Otherwise, they are best advised to find a purpose that they can really live up to.
Marketers are right to embrace technology and data as a way to understand and connect with customers. This understanding will drive relevance, which, in turn, can drive sales. But we have to remember the human component. Brands that recognize the need for sincerity and fairness, simplicity and transparency and the complex context in which consumers absorb their messages are the ones that will succeed in the end.
To put it simply: be the good guys, and people will reward you for it.