Move over Google, it's about the personal touch.
We used to pay celebrities tonnes of money to endorse products in the vain hope that their glitz would rub off on us. While endorsement marketing still exists and works, what is evolving now is a style of marketing less associated with the bling and disingenuousness of a celebrity and more akin to the down-to-earthness of our next-door neighbour.
As we continue down the information super highway, clutter is building up all around us. The volume is increasing at an unfathomable rate and the channels we’re using to access it are growing almost as quickly. It’s a constantly accessible information overload that is sending us into a bit of a tizzy – both as marketers and consumers. It’s beyond overwhelming.
Where to start? If I’m looking for a product or service, how do I get to it? There’s just too much choice. With search manipulation optimisation in its maturity, finding what I’m looking for is getting harder. It doesn’t feel like it should be that hard; I have money in my wallet and I know what I want. So how do I search for it? The answer? I don’t. I skip Google, bypass publications and go directly to my mates. See two examples of me looking for
services from my networks.
It’s not new. We have always taken recommendations from family and friends into consideration when making purchase decisions. However, the way we’ve now expanded that into our social networks – where the people we ask are not necessarily just our family or immediate friends – is the major change. They’re often associates, at best. Take Twitter as a great example. I’d personally know less than 1 percent of my followers, yet I ask and often take recommendations from these perfect strangers several times a week. I’ve employed electricians, plumbers and caterers. I’ve found flatmates, new employees and all manner of suppliers. But the clincher for me is that I’ve been able to see them online too – they’ve also been users of social media, so their profiles are there for me to inspect.
Which leads nicely to my point. What we’re seeing is an increase in businesses building trust and loyalty by using real people to front their brands, not just create brand personalities with no real world substance.
I call it personality marketing. These people don’t need to be famous or on the telly. They need to be genuine, approachable, likeable and honest. That means brands need to employ people who are approachable, likeable and honest.
Start-up brands do this type of marketing best – it’s almost just an accidental benefit or byproduct of being an entrepreneurial brand. It’s likely you’ll have founders doing the marketing grunt work. It speaks to the natural inclination that we have to support the underdog and while many of us in the start-up tech world wouldn’t want to position ourselves as underdogs, there’s an element of ‘us against the world’ that goes with trying to launch a brand (if you purely look at the odds of success). We’ve found that customers really buy into this and want to support you and your ‘cause’. If it’s worthy, of course.
In the past, businesses never liked building personalities up around individuals – what if they left? Where would this leave us as a company? Although I can understand the argument, the cool thing is that the cache developed can be passed on. For instance, one of the pillars for our Flossie.com brand is exceptional customer service. I work hard within our social media tools to deliver above and beyond expectations – I’m building my ‘number 1 fan base’ and I want every person who touches this business to simply rave about it. That’s not actually that hard to do – be honest, upfront, friendly, consistent and nice. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about what they would like – what would make them feel special, cared for and looked after. They’re the ones with the money and should be treated accordingly.
But none of those things are unique to my personality – it’s an ethos. So it’s very easy for me to pass that ethos onto others. Every other person in our company knows how important this is, so our measurement and KPIs are built around it. Lead from the top and it will flow through. So if I decided – which will inevitably happen at some point – to pass the grunt work of marketing on to another individual in the company, I can feel confident that in doing so our brand values will remain intact and not depart as I do, just because I’m not doing the heavy lifting.
The upshot is that in today’s economic climate, people need to feel confident that they’re going to be getting value for their hard-earned money. They naturally feel more confident if they are spending their money with people who care about the outcome. After all, don’t you, too?