Is authenticity real?
I recently attended the Digital Day Out (DDO) and noted that pretty much every speaker spoke about the need to be authentic. Speakers included a Google exec, a panel of social influencers, an AR/VR specialist and an...
i recently attended the digital day out (ddo) and noted that pretty much every speaker spoke about the need to be authentic. speakers included a google exec, a panel of social influencers, an ar/vr specialist and an online e-sports gaming marketer. i couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of a whole bunch of people making money by distorting reality espousing the virtues of authenticity. it made me question my own interpretation of what authenticity is.
i’d forgotten all about it until a couple of days ago when i saw ecostore was awarded nz’s most authentic brand. they are a company i admire – and genuinely think are authentic. and that’s not just because we were part of the team that launched the brand from niche category to mass marketing.
for me, being authentic is about being clear about what you stand for (beyond making money) and consistently speaking and acting in a way that reinforces this position. i find brands like whitaker’s, kathmandu and air new zealand highly authentic because every experience i have with them reinforces what i know they believe in. it’s not just about supporting good causes but delivering consistent brand experiences.
when dove began its campaign for real beauty in 2004 it transformed from a commercial soap-seller to a company with a strong social vision - “beauty should be a source of confidence and not anxiety.” by consistently aligning its marketing efforts with this vision, dove has truly championed women’s empowerment. the sustained effort and resources dove have consistently put into changing the advertising industry’s view of beauty has made them genuine and credible. as a result, people listen, believe and buy from them with confidence.
one of the ddo speakers referenced patagonia, a company i’d heard of but wasn’t fully up to speed with. patagonia is committed to building the best products, causing no unnecessary harm, using business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. this informs everything they do. it comes through in their product design, manufacturing practices, culture, company fleet, energy choices, labour policies and their communications. so when we see it in their ad campaigns we know they really mean it. they’ve become my new favourite company to follow.
i’ve worked with the mercury team for about seven years now and they are another company who said the right things but didn’t always act in a consistent way. the rebrand three years ago created a new mission and a shared vision. we see it in everything they do now. from the focus on renewable generation, to the promotion of electric vehicles, to customer offers, to staff engagement programmes, right through to their new office environment and creating wonderful experiences for their customers. they’re a company who are quickly moving up my list of authentic brands and will, without a doubt, be up with ecostore in the awards in the next year or two.
on the other side, while everyone is pointing to nike’s applauded colin kaepernick ad as an example of authentic, i find it somewhat disingenuous (though i support colin’s stand). firstly, because they are using the cause so blatantly for commercial gain and secondly because it still doesn’t align with my perception of their global practices. i know the underage child sweatshops are gone but i still need to see a string of ‘good behaviour’ stories before i start believing in a genuine social purpose behind their messages.
'authentic' is fundamentally walking the talk. so if this is all about being true to what you stand for, then the ddo influencers, the kardashians and even donald trump can be as authentic as ecostore, dove and patagonia. who cares how manufactured what they stand for is, as long as they do it consistently! i get that but i also suspect that it’s more than just my interpretation of authenticity that is a little bit fake here.
so if this is all about being true to what you stand for, then the ddo influencers, the kardashians and even donald trump can be as authentic as ecostore, dove and patagonia.
is authenticity just about being true to yourself, consistently? or is it about genuinely thinking good thoughts and being true to that in your behaviour and communication?
can you manufacture authenticity and call that authenticity?
is authenticity an admirable quality when you really think about it?authenticity, authentic brands
Get personal or don’t bother
I recently got a ‘Dear Valued Client’ letter from a supplier offering me a discount for the next time I used their services. It’s a supplier we work with lots and have done for a long time. I suspect they’d be...
i recently got a ‘dear valued client’ letter from a supplier offering me a discount for the next time i used their services. it’s a supplier we work with lots and have done for a long time. i suspect they’d be horrified to know that their letter was the catalyst that finally led us to look elsewhere.
i’m sure they had good intentions – after all they were trying to reward my loyalty by giving me a discount – but little did they realise that this communication reinforced my niggling feeling that they really didn’t give a shit about me or what i wanted.
the problem started at the top of the letter when they didn’t even bother to use my name. the dear valued client introduction suggested this was a mass-mailing to all their clients, and i was ‘important’ enough to be a line in their spreadsheet. this did nothing to make me feel known, let alone valued.
the truth is they know who i am - they used my name on the address sticker – so how much effort would it have taken to address the letter dear steven? it’s just an extra field in their mail merge that could have set the communication off in the right way.
secondly, the letter gave me no indication that they understood the nature of our relationship. they talked about how long they’d been offering their services and proceeded to list them all. we use some of these services but most of the stuff on their list had nothing to do with us. i would have liked to see something that acknowledged that we’d been working together for x years and that they partnered us with services x, y and z.
and finally, the simple percentage discount offer failed to acknowledge what was important to me in working with them. they might as well have offered a free set of steak-knives in terms of relevancy for our relationship.
here’s how i think this should have gone. first, i would have chosen a different communication medium. we have a relationship manager and i think something that is designed to make me feel personally valued should have come from them, face-to-face or at the very least by phone. this would also avoid the generic message issue, as the relationship manager can talk about specific things that demonstrates how they value our relationship.
for a while i’ve been talking to this company about a couple of things that were bugging me. they could have easily rewarded me by addressing just one of these things. now that would have told me that they’d listened and understood me (and probably cost them less than the discount).
technology has made communicating much easier but the fundamentals of thinking about your audience and what you want them to think, feel and do hasn’t. relationships are always personal so if you want to tell me i’m valued, show me and make me feel it, otherwise don’t bother.marketing communication, personalisation, reward loyalty
Writing for Awareness
Do you know what type of content our clients should be creating when they’re wanting to: Educate customers about their new strategic direction for this year? What about inspiring their...
do you know what type of content our clients should be creating when they’re wanting to:
educate customers about their new strategic direction for this year?
what about inspiring their customers to engage with their product more?
or convincing their customers that they should lease that new property…
or perhaps our client’s goal is to entertain their customers
what sort of content should we help them create?
+ + + + + + +
i have a super cool infographic to share with you that will help you answer all of the questions above – the content marketing matrix.
what is it? it’s a content creators dream. it’s a tool that suggests the type of content clients (and therefore us, #clientfirst) should be thinking about creating, depending on what they’re wanting to achieve.
the content marketing matrix
source: smart insights
as you can see there are four quadrants that categories are split into (entertain, inspire, educate and convince) and along the outside are the overarching type of content you’ll be creating (rational, emotional, awareness, purchase). inside the quadrants are the recommended best type of content to create!
let’s give this some perspective, examples are our friend!
buying a bbq.
last weekend (after years of wanting one) my husband and i bought our first bbq. pretty exciting, right? a lot of thought went into the purchase as we wanted one that would last, but didn’t want to spend money unnecessarily.
i’m sure you can appreciate that if you were in the market to buy a new bbq, you’d want to shop around. compare features, read reviews, compare prices, perhaps even watch videos about how to use them.
if you’re shopping for a bbq then the goal of the marketer/content creator is to convince and inspire you to purchase one. using the matrix above the best types of content you should have are: celebrity endorsements, ratings/reviews, checklists, product feature documents and price lists.
do you agree?
what about an annual report?
the primary goal of an annual report is to tell the corporate story and educate and inform shareholders of the companies activities and financial performance throughout the previous year and propose new goals for the year ahead. shareholders are wanting to be reassured that their money is being spent well, and be convinced to continue to invest in the company. some of the content created is very rational and analytical – very different from buying a bbq - while the storytelling components are very much about painting a bigger picture: inspiring and convincing.
do you agree?
we use these to support our strategy and design to deliver what the client is wanting to achieve.
+ + + + + + +
there has been a huge amount of research poured into this way of thinking – it’s fascinating. you probably looked at the sheet above and thought “well yeah, that’s just common sense” – exactly – it’s all about knowing and creating the right kind of content for our customers, and their customers.
ps. we bought a weber bbq
Can you resist?
Over the weekend, I read a great book called Hidden Persuasion (Andrews, van Leeuwen & van Baaren). It’s a book about the persuasive techniques used by clever marketers to get us to buy or do...
over the weekend, i read a great book called hidden persuasion (andrews, van leeuwen & van baaren). it’s a book about the persuasive techniques used by clever marketers to get us to buy or do stuff.
every day we are bombarded by hundreds of messages designed to persuade us how to feel, act, do and be. most of the time we lack the conscious awareness to process them. but some of these really get through, changing our perceptions, attitudes and behaviours. often we don’t even know it’s happened.
so what is that hidden persuasion technique that creates this cut-through?
the book outlines 33 persuasion techniques (many i know and use already) including metaphor, humour, scarcity, attraction, authority, fear, disruption, self-persuasion, social proof, promised land and of course, sex appeal. these techniques have been proven again and again and the authors give us lots of examples of results delivered in advertising.
i particularly like ideas like decoy: where consumers are choosing between two options, and a third option is introduced to create a bias. you often see this in cafés with a small, medium and large coffee offered. the large option costs just 50 cents more that medium, making the medium the decoy designed to make the large look like the best value. end result, we end up upsizing (just as the café wanted us to).
what strikes me about these techniques is that they’re not just gimmicks but rooted in psychology and social influence. as you read through them you can practically hear maslow saying “see, i was right about people’s basic needs and the priority they come in!” these techniques work because they operate at three levels:
- they appeal to our hardwired responses, such as the fight or flight response, which are core to what makes us human;
- our deep social needs like love, respect, popularity and belonging; and
- our self-needs like self-worth, identity, pain avoidance, wealth, safety and survival.
when marketers use imagery and language that taps into these fundamental needs, resistance is futile. and our unconscious bias for attractive faces, symmetrical design or humourous copy means we don’t resist because we don’t even know we’re being persuaded.
the other thing that i like about these techniques is how they still apply today, even though the way we reach and engage audiences has changed. they work on websites, in video, on social media pages, in smm and sem campaigns, e-marketing and they still work just as well across traditional marketing and communications mediums.
Trending away from Trends
A well designed future may be informed by trends but shouldn’t be slavish to them says Brian Slade. At the start of each year, just as are getting back from that glorious summer break, there seems to be an...
a well designed future may be informed by trends but shouldn’t be slavish to them says brian slade.
at the start of each year, just as are getting back from that glorious summer break, there seems to be an ever increasing array of trend predictions - from retail trends, to sports, oscars, careers, celebrities, cars, the work place, sharemarkets, technologies, the list goes on. i find these lists really interesting, as i’m sure half the things on them wouldn’t stand a chance of getting anywhere without these trend predictions and then our own innate human curiosity. interestingly self-fulfilling!
the design industry isn’t without its own predictions. these need to be navigated carefully in order not to simply fall into the trap of being relevant one minute and not the next.
until last year, some marketers had considered cross-device optimisation as a fringe benefit. no more. “mobile first” is the catch cry for online design now. agility marketing (likes and tweets) looks to increase as marketers and audiences talk ‘face to face’ more online than ever before and rich media and video become more commonplace. there’s a growing desire for simplicity and cleanliness in communications with flat simple graphics continuing to lead the way. countering this desire for clarity is a resurgence of crafted typography with an expressive personality and humanity. the colour for the year is apparently masala (pms 18-1438), with pantone claiming it is appealing to both male and female, hearty, yet stylish, universally appealing and translating to fashion, beauty, industrial design, home furnishings and interiors.
i think part of the trick is knowing when a trend is relevant to your communications task and when it’s not, but more importantly understanding what’s behind the trend and relevantly applying this to a project. as a rule of thumb it’s safe to say that if you’re working on a one-off campaign or communication that speaks to a more youthful audience you’ll want to be employing visual elements and language that resonate as being ‘on trend’. having said that, part of a designer’s role is always going to be ensuring that the visual language they are using resonates with their primary audience.
our work on the nz super fund’s website is an example of this. the nz super fund was set up for the government to save now in order to help pay for the future cost of providing national super to kiwis. they have a clear understanding of what their audiences are looking for and speak to them consistently over a long period of time. our design approach needed to be current but, more importantly, be relevant to many audiences and for a number of years to come.
their primary external audiences include investment managers that follow them closely with strong relationship-based communications, interested members of the public and international and local media. we’ve worked with the fund for a number of years on visual identity streamlining and various offline communications including their annual report which has achieved international recognition.
the website held quite different challenges, speaking primarily to audiences that look to track the fund’s performance and understand its investment approach. working closely with the client and undertaking user testing, we built on their existing website’s good bones by refining the ia (information architecture). we put a lot of focus on the ux (user experience), looking to optimise intuitive site navigation with an enhanced site search to achieve transparent, clear, accurate information. gaining clarity through clear design thinking.
the design solution involved moving the existing abstract imagery to more human imagery of children, parents and grandparents interacting in natural new zealand environments. once again looking to the trend of connectivity and belonging, these give an essential reality to why the fund exists. this approach also delivered on the inter-generational aspect of the fund – saving now to benefit future generations.
rich content such as video was used to explain more complex content, once again on trend but clearly functional and beneficial to the end user, putting a face to the investments. the design uses a combination of subtle but important humanist design assets such as soft shadowing in the navigation and layered colour tones. while these go against the flat graphics trend, they create a warmer experience that supports the fund’s purpose.
the nz super website is a well designed site that, although isn’t slavish to a trend, is clearly informed by them. it just takes a bit of courage and judgement.
- published in nz marketing magazine, march/april 2015
IBBY Congress website goes live and gains instant plaudits
In less than 24 hours, this is the feedback received on the new IBBY Congress website that went live yesterday morning. The following is mostly from NZ so far, but some of this is from countries like Switzerland,...
in less than 24 hours, this is the feedback received on the new ibby congress website that went live yesterday morning. the following is mostly from nz so far, but some of this is from countries like switzerland, scandinavia and moldova!
see the site here.
feedback re ibby congress website
- congratulations and huge thanks to mike and his team. we simple could not be at this stage without his patience, ‘insight and creativity’. we, storylines and ibby congress planners, are very fortunate to have had his expertise and willing support.
- how absolutely wonderful, rosemary. thanks to mike and you for all the work that has made it one of the most wonderful websites for a conference i think i have ever seen!
- looks absolutely great – very clear and easy to access! a huge well done, mike and team. congratulations.
- fantastic rosemary – a huge milestone! will be sharing a lot – just saw it (and liked it) via frances on facebook!
- just brilliant!
- well done to mike and his team. have just cruised and perused the site and it is fabulous indeed. the look, the feel, ben’s illustrations, the enticing content, relating both to the conference and to nz as a destination.
- i agree! it looks really wonderful and the initial ideas still stand up superbly well. if i was 24 hours away i would want to come! (and the nz video has given me a great big lump in my throat … true pride! ). thank you rosemary, libby and all. thank you mike, it is brilliant!
- brilliant! congratulations to mike and his team. very easy to navigate and looks great
- looks wonderful – congrats to mike and his team. and to rosemary and libby for creating such compelling content.
- ditto. great job by mike and his team and supported by the committee
- completely gorgeous! how could anyone resist!
- beautiful! enticing, one would hope
- joining chorus of compliments for the website – looks fabulous, clean, user-friendly and very appealing. well done, all folks involved – especially to mike, who i gather has had something to do with it!
- thought you might like to know that it has gone out internationally. and my facebook post has been picked up by friends in australia and japan so far. amazing job, rosemary
- i have been exploring the website further and it is really excellent! the information is clear, comprehensive and easy to find, and the design is so clear and fresh. yes, it is fantastic! (ibby international president, lucerne, switzerland)
- congratulations! on a beautiful, easy to navigate, interesting and fun congress website. (ibby international coo, lucerne, switzerland)
- the website looks fantastic. the nz page with the 10 must see places looks great.
Pause all of life's chaos
It’s the end of a very full on year for us and our clients, so we wanted to create something which championed the idea of temporarily pausing our hectic lives in order to truly appreciate life’s beauty. We...
it’s the end of a very full on year for us and our clients, so we wanted to create something which championed the idea of temporarily pausing our hectic lives in order to truly appreciate life’s beauty. we started working with the nz symphony orchestra for the first time this year and were thrilled that they were open to incorporating the wonderful music they make into our video. the result is a solution that moves from chaotic to a delightful piece of story-telling. a reminder to take a break, re-energise and re-connect with the people and things that are important to all of us. that means you too. have a great xmas and summer break. see you when you are ready to press play again in the new year.
24% of New Zealand children are living in poverty
Wave upon wave of evidence tells us… 24% of New Zealand children are living in poverty. The longer they live in poverty the greater risk of physical harm, cognitive development and health issues they face. With this...
wave upon wave of evidence tells us… 24% of new zealand children are living in poverty. the longer they live in poverty the greater risk of physical harm, cognitive development and health issues they face. with this as a background to the brief we approached this years annual report for stand children’s services with a very serious hard hitting visual tone. feedback so far has been very positive, “(i was) very moved by it – loved the theme and the way it was represented with the sea – photographs are amazing and altogether a little gem…” it's good to be making a difference.