We are living in an era of backlash against government and media, which has trickled down to businesses and a lack of consumer trust therein. The lack of confidence in leadership, credibility, and overall distrust in these institutions has led to a shift in consumer influence and power to the consumers themselves. Rules are also changing in digital media as a result of an oversaturation of ads and a shift to more socially conscious consumerism.
Start From The Inside And Work Out
Companies are realizing how integral employees are to the success of a brand through organic marketing. Consumers trust employee opinions more than what is presented by the company. One powerful response corporate marketers can take is to engage and leverage their influence. Your employees have a story to tell about your company based on their first-hand experiences. Your employees also have a voice and an audience. Their audience has an emotional connection to the employee, which gives them influence. Information shared by employees is seven times more likely to generate online conversation among consumers than the same information shared by the brand.1
So, what’s the best way to get them to share corporate content on their personal accounts? We think the key is to make them feel part of something larger than themselves or the company. If your company has a mission that is clear and your employees feel a part of, they will be more inspired to help you market what you want to do in the world. Get employee input—people respond favorably to inclusion and feeling as though their opinions are valued. Many companies have started employee ambassador programs or have created social media toolkits to encourage sharing. Most importantly, be authentic. Consumer trust will be earned by baking purpose into your company in an authentic way.
Let Partners Share Your Story
Instead of delivering branded content over owned channels, companies are forming partnerships with nonprofit partners to take their purpose, activate it, and funnel it into the channels of the purpose partners to reach the target audience. A nonprofit is able to create powerful stories that tackle real issues through their social media channels, in a way that is more authentic than a brand sharing the same message. By aligning with organizations that share a brand’s values, they can build long-term relationships with their already engaged audiences.
An example of a brand and nonprofit forming a complimentary partnership is the Red Cross & Weather Channel’s “Weather Red Report” —a weekly news segment focusing on weather and emergency preparedness, home fire prevention, Red Cross response to weather-related happenings, and information about Red Cross humanitarian services. Another example, Proctor & Gamble partnered with the World Wildlife Fund with a goal to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions from its facilities by 30% by the year 2020. These partnerships will not only reach their target audience but will actively engage them in a shared mission.
Influencers & The 1-9-90 Rule
Consumers are influencing the purchase decisions of other consumers now more than ever. Preferences are learned and formed through social norms and interactions, which are absorbed and altered at an exponential rate in the age of social media. But in a sea of profiles, ideas, and opinions, who is the most effective target within your target market?
Your audience is smaller than you think and your audience’s audience is bigger than you think. The old model is trying to broadcast from one point to millions through advertising. Don’t speak to the millions, speak to the hundreds and thousands, who will, in turn, reach the millions. This concept is modeled in the 1-9-90 Rule: 1% influencers, 9% advocates, 90% enthusiasts. Within a given internet community, 1% of users will actively create content, 9% will participate by commenting, rating, or sharing the content, and 90% will look, watch, and read without responding.
The 90%—the silent majority—isn’t actively engaging, yet they are reading your content and learning about your brand. In the past, marketers focused on reaching the 90% directly, however, the audience you want to focus on is the 1% and in some cases the 9%. Use the 1% to reach the 90%. By focusing on the 1%, your message will not only reach the 90%, but it will be better receipted coming from an influencer and will have built up a loyal following—a niche community that engages with them on a much higher and intimate level than brands can with consumers. In order to maintain that trust with their audience and the integrity of their content, it is important for influencers and brands to create partnerships they truly believe in.
More Focus On Gen Z
The rise of socially conscious consumerism has been especially prevalent among Generation Z. Gen Z—born between 1995 and mid-2000s—will continue to become the focus for marketers. They contribute $44 billion to the American economy and by 2020 they will account for one-third of the U.S. population.2Because Gen Z is less brand-loyal than Millennials, companies will need to win over Gen Z with every purchase.
Gen Z is the first digitally native generation and the first generation to spend more time online on their mobile phones than all other devices combined.3 With an attention span of eight seconds while viewing digital media, only personalized, thumb-stopping content will get their attention. Gen Z responds to storytelling, relatability, and conversations created around brands. The challenge is for marketers to find new compelling ways to tell a brand’s story in a matter of seconds and within the parameters of the mobile space. This will require brands to think more outside the box than they have previously.
Brands and nonprofits are starting to engage with their consumers online and drive them to take action offline and connect in person with issues they are passionate about. This really speaks to this generation, born into an age of global concern, eager to help co-create and make a difference. Gen Z is more likely than previous generations to donate and volunteer more of their time for a worthy cause, educate their friends and family on an issue, or boycott the activities and decisions of a company.
In 2018, we anticipate a continued rise in social activism across many groups. People are taking action for causes they believe in and expect companies to do the same if they want to earn their business. This creates an opportunity for companies to choose a cause they firmly believe in to showcase their values. Companies must go beyond traditional marketing and CSR strategies and activate real, long-term commitments that inspire real change. Trust for your brand will grow by starting from the inside out and enrolling employees, other organizations, and consumers to help share your vision.