Consumers are crying out for brands that create relevance

It seems that globally, the subtext of every conversation, every thought and action at the moment, is crises and revolution. At the Cannes Lions Awards 2012, it was no different.
Jason Xenopoulos
Jason Xenopoulos
During his Cannes in a Can presentation held recently in Johannesburg, Jason Xenopoulos, CEO of NATIVE, reported that speakers at the event, be they celebrities, intellectual luminaries such as Bill Clinton or Huffington Post's Arianna Huffington, or marketers, all touched on crises and revolution, and what consumers want from brands.

Shared values resonate

"Consumers are crying out for brands that stand for something that resonates with them. We have reached the point of 'considered consumption' with shared values being an essential for brands wanting to succeed. As David Clark said at the Awards, 'Brands aren't judged by what they promise, but by what they do.' In essence when you stand for something, you stand out," said Xenopoulos.

Partnerships are key to making this a reality and brands have linked with NGOs, innovation specialists, celebrities and consumers to create meaningful partnerships. This growing trend of partnerships has lead to branded content and user-generated content, which has given rise to "earned" media; positive sentiment from consumers.

"The issue for brands is no longer about creating awareness but about creating relevance, which leads to awareness," he added.

According to Xenopoulos, not only is having shared values essential but also creating shared value. "Brands have to deliver value to consumers and make an impact on their lives bearing in mind that for these consumers, advertising shouldn't look like advertising." Band Aid, which received an award at the Cannes Lions Awards with its Muppets Band Aid Campaign, nailed this concept.

"Kids were so busy enjoying scanning their band aids and meeting the Muppets on their iPads that they forgot about their injuries," Xenopoulos said, describing the augmented reality app that saw the popular animated characters spring from the Band Aids.

How to create shared value

Part of building shared value is creating an ecosystem of services. According to a study conducted by RightNow (Contagious Magazine), 86% of people will pay more for products that offer better experiences. This means that brands need to move from having a one-night stand with their consumers and work towards long-term relationships. "No-one understands this concept better than Nike, which was awarded the Cannes Lions 2012 Grand Prix award for its Nike Fuel campaign which saw Nike market a 'movement monitor' that lights up to highlight a user's activity target for the day. The device then updates a social profile, creating an evolving online conversation and seamlessly slotting into the Nike philosophy, as stated by its vice president of digital sport, Stefan Olander, that when someone buys a product it is the beginning of a relationship, not the end.

Anticipating consumer needs in order to tap into them

Xenopoulos said that in order to really tap into consumer trends, brands need to understand the zeitgeist and anticipate what consumers really want and where they are headed. "But," he added, "marketers and brands need to also realise that at the heart of global trends is a need to disconnect. We are in an era of hyper connectivity and consumers are starting to resist. They are realising that they need to disconnect in order to reconnect with themselves." This has given rise to ideas such as checking mobile phones in at the door when arriving at a party. Who would have thought? But it makes sense in a world where consumers are constantly plugged in.

"This brings us back to crises and revolution. In essence it's about giving consumers what they want. We are in fact in the midst of a consumer revolution and need to embrace the challenges and innovations that will stem from it. As author, William Gibson, so aptly put it, 'The future is already here, it just isn't evenly distributed.' Consumers want access to options and opportunities and will fight, actively or passively, to have them," concluded Xenopoulos.

26 Jul 2012 12:50