When it comes to trust, the economy and security, we’re a nation divided. In a world where connecting with consumers is more important than ever, how are brands navigating this divide?
The recently-released Edelman Trust Barometer revealed, unsurprisingly, that in the United States and around the world, trust is at an all-time low. Consumers trust businesses less than ever, but they trust individually-credible sources, like journalists and experts, more. Which begs the question: Where do U.S. consumers stand when it comes to the important issues that are determined by businesses and institutions?
We decided to launch a nationally-representative survey to understand some of the underlying dynamics of American sentiment today. We found that Americans think there’s a 41% chance the U.S. will be in better shape 12 months from now, and a 39% chance it will be worse off. When it comes to U.S. security, 39% of respondents said it would be in better shape and a 38% chance it would be worse. And regarding the nation’s economy, 42% said it will be in better shape and 37% that it’ll be worse.
When it comes to the future of our national and global economy and security, we’re also split down the middle. When respondents were asked to compare two words or phrases, picking one which they think more accurately represents the story of the U.S. this year, there was a 50/50 split between “truth” and “fake news.” In addition, of those polled, 51% chose moving forward versus moving backward as their current outlook. At least they could agree on the obvious divide; 72% said they see more division versus unity.
So, what’s a brand to do? How can brands continue to connect with consumers in today’s divided world? The key is the same as it’s always been: Brand marketers must find the thing that uniquely connects their brand with its most profitable consumer group.
In a consumer market marred by division, your brand can be a powerful connector, once you discover what your brand authentically stands for in consumers’ hearts and minds. Here are a few tried and true strategies that have worked for brands in the last 12 months:
Take a Stand: Does your most profitable consumer group have a specific belief or ideology? Does your brand have the history, identity and permission to take a stand on an issue? Does the opportunity to build a fervent group of loyalists outweigh the risk of losing consumers who disagree with you? Then join the battle. It’s a bold risk, but as we’ve seen over the past 12 months, it can pay off.
The pros: When you do it well, aligning with a group of consumers who hold a strong belief can grow your business and uncover opportunities for you to grow your whole category. Finding the consumers who spend the most and are most passionate about your product or service, and understanding why, is core to making this work.
The cons: Using your brand as a platform can be risky; with every heart you win on one side, you stand to lose on the other side. Make sure the profitability equation works before you jump in, and make sure you’re being true to what your most fervent consumers believe. If you’re even a little bit inauthentic, you stand to lose trust – and dollars – fast.
Appeal to Individuality. For brands targeting youth, appealing to your consumers’ sense of self can yield returns. According to Cassandra, a third of U.S. youth say feeling a personal connection to a brand makes them more loyal.
The pros: It’s possible! For the first time in history, the vision of personalized marketing at scale is getting closer. An intimate understanding of your most profitable consumers, using behavioral, location-based and emotional insights, unlocks a world of potential personal connections.
The cons: Beware the perils of losing your brand’s identity in appeals to your audience. Consistency is still key to maintaining long-term relationships with consumers, so set your brand guardrails and stick to them and make sure your customer service is exceptional, to ensure you’re keeping your promises.
Be a Connector. With all of this division in the country, does your brand bring people together? Brand can be a powerful community-builder, so if you have permission to be one thing consumers have in common, building a bridge may be a winning strategy. According to Cassandra, 32% of U.S. trendsetters say they know they can be friends with someone if they share the same love for a brand and 70% of U.S. youth say they’re more likely to buy a product or service if a friend endorses it.
The pros: this strategy works If your brand really does bring people together or stands for something bigger than commerce, and your product or service can live up to those promises.
The cons: Thread this needle carefully… Ensure you’re not inadvertently alienating in your attempts to unify.
Through today’s tumult, one fact remains for brands: authenticity rules. It’s more important than ever to connect with your consumers in a real, human way. And the first step is to understand them. Not just how they behave, but the beliefs and motivations that drive that behavior, and what they believe about your brand.