Magazine article Marketing

Forward Thinking: Skip the Storytelling - Now It's Time to Listen to Consumers

Magazine article Marketing

Forward Thinking: Skip the Storytelling - Now It's Time to Listen to Consumers

Article excerpt

People have stories to tell, which means marketers can respond to their needs more relevantly than ever. Brands just have to listen harder and use today's sophisticated technology to tailor the shared narrative.

Storytelling is up alongside 'wearable', 'content' and 'urgent' as one of the most overused words in our industry. (Just look at the number of Cannes-hours dedicated to it in recent years.)

Delivering brand stories has become a marketing obsession. To be fair, there are some great examples of stories connecting brands with people on a more human level: The Lego Movie, Toshiba's 'Intel Inside' and 'Pick them back up' by Procter & Gamble, to name a few.

However, in our consumer-controlled, connected world, where people choose what they watch, share and interact with, 'telling' feels like the wrong starting point. If it's the modern brand's job to listen as much as tell, perhaps it's time for us marketers to shut up a bit more. Because it's not just brands that have stories to tell: people do, too. With the 'internet of everything', we now have the perfect platform for sharing narratives as well as providing a meaningful response.

Your Mercedes-Benz, through its DriveStyle app, can now tell your Nest thermostat when you are on your way, so that it will have your house ready with a warm welcome home. No brand communication takes place between you and Nest or Mercedes, but you can view your usage data at any time and read your own story about energy efficiency. The sequel to that is possibly an ongoing brand-consumer dialogue, where the heroes of the story are financial sense and eco-sensitivity.

Listen for relevance

Listening harder to consumers means we can respond more relevantly. The data we all generate as we live our lives tells the story of all the different people we can be. There's you the parent, the employee, the gym-rat, the shopper, the bar-hopper. Transactional, social, time and place data lets on who you are at any given time, and what you might be feeling or thinking about. Too often we ignore this information and tell our brand stories regardless, flooding our audience's attention span with irrelevancies.

If a new mother is online at 2am, we can be fairly sure that she's sleep deprived and needs advice on how to settle her baby. The last thing she needs is a reminder to stock up on nappies.

What's the consequence of ignoring what people tell us? They ignore us - or, worse, we risk losing the right to speak to them.

Our 'Frequency, Familiarity and Fine Lines' research (2014) has shown us that excessive retargeting, where we think we are being clever and relevant, can put people off buying from brands. …

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