Making audience heroes: how brands can connect with consumers

As a marketing director I've lost track of the number of brand rankings and accompanying articles which have told me that disruption and innovation are key to driving growth.

Position the audience, rather than the brand, as the hero in your campaigns, advises Emily Dickinson
Position the audience, rather than the brand, as the hero in your campaigns, advises Emily Dickinson

Whilst these capabilities are important, not every brand’s success is, nor can be determined by, its ability to disrupt the market.

We can’t all be like Amazon, all of the time.

Every brand, however, has the opportunity to create growth by forging a connection with the people who have the power to build, define and sometimes destroy the brands and businesses we create: the consumers themselves.

If this sounds simplistic, it’s because it is.

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As marketeers, we tend to get wrapped up in what we, the experts, believe, rather than what the public think, feel and do.

We tell stories about our brands which are intended to drive connection with consumers, but fail because we position the brand instead of the audience as the hero of the narrative.

This presents us with both a challenge and an opportunity when we create communication strategies.
The brands that successfully build long-lasting relationships place the brand as the mentor and allow, through their products and services, the hero to succeed.

But we’re often wary of telling our brand’s stories in this way.

Positioning a brand in a potentially supporting role, in a story which they do not explicitly evidence their brand strengths, and that doesn’t seem as shiny and new as those of the disrupters, can be seen as a risk; as devaluing the brand’s power, prominence and potential for growth.

We shouldn’t, however, shy away from this.

From Opinium’s Most Connected Brands 2018 report, it is clear that telling a story that draws on the brand’s heritage doesn’t equate with nostalgia.

It doesn’t resign the brand to irrelevance or the past. Nor does it preclude a reputation for innovation.

Indeed, a staggering 31 of the top 50 'most connected brands' in the UK were founded before 1950.

What enables these brands to break the dominance of the tech disrupters and continue to connect with consumers of all ages is that they don’t pretend to be something they are not.

They maximise opportunities for connection by embracing their heritage and their supporting role in consumers’ daily lives.

And all of the stories told by these brands are based on a product truth or a consumer need.

If we want to improve connection with consumers, it’s perhaps worth therefore remembering that we can’t tell that story if it’s not ours to tell.

Emily Dickinson is the marketing director at Opinium

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