Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Biggest Brand In The World Has Just Changed Its Tactics. Should Your Brand Follow Suit?

The United States of America has just changed its positioning. Part of the new positioning is to represent a clean break from business as usual. Putting it simply, to become more honest and transparent.

As President Obama said yesterday, “I will, I hope, do something to make government trustworthy in the eyes of the American people, in the days and weeks, months and years to come.”

Trustworthy. Transparent. Honest. Three words that any brand would be happy to have associated with them. And yet, so few do.

The fact is that brands have no choice but to change if they want to survive. With the new communication tools now in the hands of the majority, transparency is here whether brands want to accept it or not.

It used to be that consumers would take advertising at face value. Today, that is no longer the case. Today, advertising is, at best, an opinion.

What’s more, it’s the marketer’s opinion, which means it’s from a biased source, quickly verified or found to be false through a few clicks of a computer keyboard.

To make matters worse, it’s not the only opinion being offered about the brand. In a matter of seconds, a consumer can quickly find other opinions, from current and past users of the brand. Opinions that are assumed to be less biased and that will instantaneously confirm or refute the advertising that an advertiser has spent months and millions on.

Not surprisingly, it’s these less-biased opinions that consumers most frequently act upon.

What is surprising is how slow advertisers have been to recognize that transparency is here to stay. If they had, you would think that the tone of advertising would have changed. Authenticity and honesty would be the over-riding theme that most marketers would want to communicate.

Of course, it’s impossible to create authenticity in a brand if none exists. That would be inauthentic.

Which is probably why so many marketers fall back on superlatives, claiming that their brand is the best, or the fastest, or the cheapest. All the while, making the disclaimers so small that they figure no one bother to read them.

Legal? Yes. Right? No.

Today, too many marketers still believe that people take advertising on face value, when, in fact, that is no longer the case.

We took a former president on face value and look where it got us. This new guy's different. This new guys seems to understand that while rhetoric is important, it's who he is and what he does that puts meaning in his words.

Over the course of this last election, this country has learned a lot about how a brand should communicate if it wants to be believed.

And, that only if it is believed, will it ultimately be voted for.

Or, purchased.

Look at the tactics of the last administration as advertising as it used to be. And, the tactics of this new administration as advertising is it will be.

The people know that the world has changed. And, along with it, the art of communication.

It’s time that brands start to understand this as well.

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