People don’t care about brands anymore, so in order to engage with consumers, brands need to champion things people care about.
That was the idea at the heart of the Advertising Week Europe session “How Culturally Connected Brands Engage Customers.”
The session was introduced by Izzy Pugh, global director, cultural insight at consultancy Added Value. She started by outlining the consumer environment in which brands now operate, one in which thoughts are more important than things; where brands need to earn every moment of contact; where functional difference is dead, but disruption comes from new entrants rethinking function; and where marketing is a conversation, not a broadcast.
The end result, according to Pugh, is that “people don’t care about brands, they want brands to care about what they care about.” Research done by Added Value found that 83% of senior marketers believe that connecting with culture will help their brand grow, by helping them be more human, stand out in the world, and operate in what Pugh called “hyper-real time.”
Pugh went on to discuss what “connecting to culture” means.
“Brands that are connected to culture deliver value to people above and beyond the product or service they sell,” she explained. “They make life easier and better for the people they interact with. They use their resources to deliver usefulness. And they move culture forward for the benefit of the people they serve.”
Panellist Nina Bibby, marketing & consumer director at O2, argued that it’s easy for marketers to overestimate the role their brands play in customers’ lives.
“We think about this a lot and they just don’t,” she said. “So we need to think about how we can be relevant in their lives. We’re moving from a customer-centric culture to a people-centric one. We have to think of our customers as people.”
Alex Dimiziani, head of marketing EMEA for Airbnb, agreed that cultural value is becoming a key part of consumers’ decision-making, and that purpose needs to be central.
“Airbnb was created for a purpose, and that drives everything we do and every decision we make,” she said.
Tim Hulbert, MD, group head of insight & research at Barclays, explained that trying to re-inject purpose and meaning into the brand was “our biggest initiative in the past two or three years.”
Barclays Digital Eagles programme arose from the insight that older members of staff felt they were being left behind by technology. The bank set up a team to tour branches to help staff use tablets and understand apps. Those same staff then pointed out how valuable this service could be to the bank’s customers. Barclays now has 12,000 Digital Eagles helping customers understand and use technology.
“Our brand has the overarching purpose to help people achieve their ambitions,” Hulbert explained. “Yes, we hope that more people will use online banking, but that’s not why we did this.”