Our Perspective: Brands Must Talk To People, Not Consumers

It is incredible to see how the digital culture has changed the way the world operates and how it has inundated every part of our lives. Its produced a generation of consumers that expect speed, interactivity and endless choices and as a result, its created a shift in consumer interaction with brands. The constant accessibility to consumers provides a great deal of opportunities for brands but do all of the interactions come at a price that consumers and brands will soon struggle to afford?

With the changing times and the breakdown of traditional institutions and traditional media, the way that we engage as humans has become largely digital. Although this has provided a myriad of benefits including faster access to information and a more accessible global reach, it has also created a barrier by removing the ‘human’ aspect of everyday life and interaction. Ironically, as people become more connected, we’re also becoming gradually disconnected. The result? A new generation that is demanding true emotion from brands they engage with.

US firm Networked Insights concluded that emotions play a considerable role in buying decisions for millennials because as a generation they feel freer to express themselves. In 2015, the oxford dictionary’s word of the year was an emoji – a reflection of the language that people are communicating with. Culturally conscious brands are recognising the changes and creating solutions that tap into current social situations. Pepsi is a great example, they quickly replaced their brand identity with an emoji on a limited edition pack because they recognised that the way we’re communicating is increasingly digital. Incorporating pop culture on to their cans allowed them to communicate with consumers in a language that they are becoming incredibly fluent in. It also highlights the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words.

With all the benefits that the digital realm provides though, it has also created a crucial global challenge for brands to consider. The eroding of real human connections has heightened the demand for emotion through digital channels. In 2015, Henry, a virtual reality cartoon about a hedgehog was released that allowed the central character to look you directly in the eye when you wore a VR headset and it was the most important movie of the year according to Wired magazine. By creating a character that could look the audience directly in the eye, the technology facilitated the nurturing of an emotional connection between the character and the audience allowing the animation to come to life. Brands need to think about how to manage this point of tension and ensure that they engage consumers as humans first and foremost.

If you are engaging consumers as humans, then recognising that humans are fallible will be paramount to creating a compelling and truthful connection. Moving forward, brands will need to create a culture of honesty and transparency. The next generation, Generation Z embodies a culture that rejects the idea of perfection as inauthentic. This new generation of consumers aspires to explore, learn and grow and a sense of vulnerability is highly valued. They identify with brands that share the same values and it is no longer enough to simply claim ‘authenticity’ as a brand value. Authenticity has become a too-often used buzz-word that holds little meaning. All brands should be authentic, because as humans, we are all authentically ourselves. Rather, brands need to truthful tap into a more involved, humanised connection.

Ultimately, if you speak to a consumers mind to encourage them to purchase your brand, it may result in a transaction. However, if you would like to create a relationship with them, then aim for their heart and engage them emotionally by talking to them as a human.