Why brands must leverage what people really care about - McKinney

Why brands must leverage what people really care about

March 15, 2016

By Gail Marie

No matter how much money you have, you cannot force people to care about a brand. I’m reminded of a presentation slide our CCO Jonathan Cude used at a VCU Brandcenter Friday Forum last year.

No One Cares What You Do

That’s why brands hire us — to change that.

Last week, Cude shared a Harvard Business Review article on Twitter, which I met with him to talk about while he ate a sub sandwich and drank his signature half Coke/half Diet Coke. “Branding in the Age of Social Media” by Douglas Holt argues that success happens when brands are able to “break through in culture.” Here’s what he means by that: Because consumers who control what they see and when they see it are no longer apt to make catchy branded content — like Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” — a part of their culture, brands must make existing culture a part of their content.

When this is done well, consumers want to share it, and they often take to social media to do that. Today it starts with a brand that genuinely holds an idea, a cause, a platform that is already important to a group of people and champions it like no one has done before. Holt calls this cultural branding and points to Chipotle’s film, “Back to the Start,” as Exhibit A.

While talking with me, Cude quoted Howard Gossage, who said, “People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.” That’s still true, sometimes. But today it starts with brands becoming a part of something people already care about. “To get people to care about them, brands must first care about whatever is most important to their consumers,” said Cude, echoing Holt. “And if they do that well enough, they may just get people to fall in love with them.”

We often use the word “conversation” to describe what brands are trying to build between themselves and consumers. The problem is that “too many of us (A) assume that people want to converse with brands and (B) expect it to happen one-on-one,” said Cude. “Neither of those things is true. But what can work is when brands become a genuine, powerful part of an existing conversation.” Thanks to social media, this is easier than ever.

Platforms like Twitter and Facebook make it possible for brands to take part in what Holt calls crowd cultures, “communities that once were geographically isolated” like espresso fanatics and bird watchers. “Back in the day, subculturalists had to gather physically and had very limited ways to communicate collectively,” says Holt. That also made it impossible for brands to become a part of their conversations. No longer.

And when brands leverage what people care about using social media influencers, brand heaven can break wide open. Holt fills paragraphs with numbers proving that people on social media are far more powerful than brands (even Red Bull). So use them.

“The point is, people don’t inherently care about brands. They care about their dreams, their hopes, their concerns and things that interest them,” says Jonathan. “Successful brands don’t have conversations, they join them and build on them in meaningful and relevant ways to the people having them. One of the most seamless ways to do that is through influencers.”

Care about something your consumers care about, too, care more than they do, prove it by what you sell or how you do business, enlist the help of people whose voice is naturally more trustworthy than yours, and people just might fall in love with your brand.