What’s next?

Here’s my prediction for 2011. The brands that will be most successful this year are those that tell the truth.

It’s the next phase in the Age of Dialogue that we at MediaCom have been talking about for three or four years now. The conversations that consumers are having about brands and products are not diminishing. Instead they are getting louder and faster.

If you tell the truth, not only is it easier to make every part of your communication package integrated at every stage (ie pr, ads, after sales service etc), but you will gain a competitive advantage. If you spin the truth too far and your audience catch you out then they will find it hard to forgive you.

Telling the truth can work in a number of ways. It can be about a big emotional truth in the way that T-Mobile’s Life is for Sharing taps into a big human need to share events. It can be about a pragmatic truth as NatWest’s Helpful Banking describes its goal to be the most helpful bank. The truth can be a personal and specific one – adserving enables a brand to talk to you personally and deliver a specific message for you that differs from the one sent to your neighbour. And real time planning means that the message can be immediately relevant to you today.

There is no reason that truth telling can’t be commercial and entertaining.  Remember Steve Jobs public apology for the iphone 4 reception problems last summer? This is a marked contrast with other brands in the sector, but very true to the values that Apple has been investing in for decades.  Apple have managed to deliver innovative products which both entertain and are commercially successful. Their army of advocates means they can be reassured that any online criticism is usually drowned by a chorus of fans. 

Not every brand will want to commit to the same level of fallibility as Apple but what advertising mustn’t do is exaggerate or overclaim. If you buy a product that doesn’t live up to its advertising, you will easily find a chorus of disapproval online to join.

The message for 2011 is to stop selling the sizzle and start marketing the steak. Make sure that the dialogues the consumers are having about your brand are fuelled by reality rather than by fantasy and hype.

One Response to “What’s next?”

  1. Sam Learmonth says:

    It’s very interesting how brands have been trying to represent an image of unvarnished honesty in the recession.
    Aneurin Bevan’s phrase “this is my truth tell me yours” came to mind, the acceptance that truth isn’t an objective absolute, like a mathematical equation, it is also a subjective interpretation of how things are.
    Maybe now there is less tolerance for a brands self-representation to be very different to how they are viewed by the public.
    Personally I suspect what is more in vogue at the moment is the idea of ‘unpolished’ truth. Presumably as consumers we’ve never had a time where we have approved of being misrepresented to, so it could be more a movement to an ‘honest’ or ‘simple’ image. A warmer, more emotional representation appeals to people more at the moment, and that is where brands have to be careful. Because there’s nothing that leaves a bitterer taste in your mouth than an emotional plea that you know is false.