Ninety percent of people want brands to share, but only 10 percent of people think brands do it well, according to Edelman’s consumer marketing study, brandshare. Consumers are craving quality content from brands and yet they feel that brands are missing the mark. According to a Yahoo!/BBDO survey, 54 percent of consumers want brands to provide info on “why we should care about them” and 45 percent are looking for interesting stories about the brand. Together, these studies suggest that people desire more brand interaction and sharing, but not in their current form or format. My take is that this simply stems from the way brands typically talk about themselves. More than ever, brands need to quit chattering AT their audiences and instead showcase how their brands share each audience’s values, and can seamlessly enhance their day-to-day lives.
This can come to life in multiple ways. Some brands choose to partner with and empower individuals to share their own stories of how they use a brand’s product or service in their own unique way. Some brands tailor their digital content accordingly so they are strategically mixing brand-owned content with non-branded, larger industry or relevant topical content their audiences crave. Regardless of approach, the strategy is the same: Quit talking about yourself so much.
Now, more than ever, brands need to stop clogging News Feeds with updates about the company and instead enable their audience to share in a brand experience or share content that fits into an individual’s larger life. One brand taking a step back and loosening the reins on their social content is Edelman’s client PayPal. The company launched an Instagram account in early 2013, but chose to strategically partner with influential and inspiring photographers and invite them to share their favorite ways to pay for their shopping, dining, traveling and donating life experiences. Product features and benefits unfolded in an organic way instead of PayPal talking about itself. The strategy was noticed – Instagram celebrated PayPal for taking an “experience-based approach to branding” and named the brand one of the most inspiring on the platform.
I’m also inspired by the viral holiday campaign from Canadian WestJet Airlines. This was an experiential campaign at two Canadian airports where passengers approached video booths in boarding areas and recorded their holiday wishes on a live chat with Santa. When passengers from both flights landed, they were surprised with the gifts they asked for in the video booth.
This is an awesome example of brands shifting their narrative around the holiday season from product-focused (in this case, buying flights) to experience-focused (surprising passengers at the WestJet baggage claim). I love how the campaign focuses on celebrating their passengers and fulfilling their holiday wishes, and the supporting YouTube video tells a beautiful story of how it all came to life.
The brands that are showing up differently are the ones that are shifting from babbling about their value proposition and instead inviting others to join them in telling the brand story and diversifying the content to relate to consumers in a brand-new way. By letting go of your brand’s reins and empowering others to share their unique perspective, businesses are able to truly show up differently and in turn, watch their audience unfold in a new way.