Marketing in “turbulent times” calls for a contextual understanding of what your customer needs, in that exact moment your customer needs it.
That was the key takeaway from Forrester’s Consumer Marketing 2017 conference in New York City Thursday morning. “Brands need to analyze all of the contextual signals they’ve got, while remembering that your audience’s values are also part of their context,” said Melissa Parish, VP and research director at Forrester. “Aligning with those values can be your competitive differentiation. But remember: Disruption requires risk.”
It also takes money, support, and others believing in you, said Joanna Coles, chief content officer at Hearst Magazines (pictured, right, next to Parish). “Disruption ultimately requires creativity. If you want to push the boundaries,” Coles told the audience, “then support the creative talent around you. You cannot have really great creative talent without nurturing it.”
Coles also talked about the importance of authenticity, which she said helps build trust among current and potential customers. She pointed to Airbnb and Snapchat as examples of authentic brands.
George Sadler, senior director of marketing and customer insights, Adobe, told attendees that “relevance is the new ROI” for marketing. Relevance helps brands be more authentic with each and every customer.
“Data, and connecting the dots, is going to be key in meeting customer expectations and earning their trust,” Sadler said. “Stop thinking about the return on your marketing investment and think about whether your current experience is more relevant than the one before it.”
Sadler’s advice to the marketers in the audience was to build a single view of the customer, feeding all customer data into one repository. That’s the only way to truly understand and provide them with relevant experiences, he said.
According to Anjali Lai (right), senior data analyst at Forrester, consumers are talking about company values more so today than they have in the past. In fact, consumers actually evaluate a company’s values when they are making a purchase decision. But, Forrester data shows, just 67% of companies live up to their stated company values, and only 53% show empathy through experience design and delivery.
“People expect brands to take a side,” Lai told attendees. “The days of being neutral are over. You have to stand for something because the data proves that values deeply stand for something for today’s consumer.”
According to Hearst’s Coles, there is a continuing erosion of trust in our world, be it lack of trust in government or media; collectively, trust is down. For brands trying to build trust during this time, the key is educating every touch point to behave like a decent human being, Coles said.
If you are a brand that has made a mistake and is now attempting to restore trust, Coles said, “Customers are very forgiving, but what they can’t forgive is you not acknowledging the mistake. You have to acknowledge it.”