In a time when people across the globe begin to emerge from periods of isolation as a result of the pandemic, many of us are reflecting on the impact that it has had on our everyday lives.
Staying connected with others resulted in a huge shift to online. No longer could we meet with friends and families, or hug and kiss our loved ones, leaving many of us craving a return to normal as soon as possible.
Throughout the pandemic, many brands recognised the basic human desire to forge and maintain connections – and have been able to capitalise on it as a result.
While a number of companies, unable to evolve quickly enough, were destroyed, others excelled. Those who stayed connected to their audience, offering not only the products and services people needed, but also filling the void of loneliness by fulfilling its customers on an emotional level, did particularly well.
A study conducted by Opinium into the most connected UK brands of 2021 revealed some common themes that contributed to their success – a need for entertainment, escapism, and distraction.
Brands were measured across four key characteristics:
- Prominence – the brand’s prominence and scale
- Distinction – the brand’s unique identity and ability to set trends
- Emotion – the brand’s ability to form emotional relationships
- Dynamism – The brand’s momentum and social traction
Focusing on the emotional characteristic only, it probably comes as no surprise to see the NHS and Boots appearing in prominent positions on the index.
What may come as more of a shock is seeing retail brands including Hotel Chocolat, Next, and Clarks all ranking highly when others were collapsing due to their reliance on generating revenue offline. Why? Because they had already forged strong relationships with their customers before the pandemic, are perceived to be trusted and reliable, and deliver content that resonates with their target audience.
Marketing with purpose
Being seen as a trusted and reliable brand doesn’t happen overnight. Perception of a brand is not something that can be forced upon people – and using dishonest or manipulative marketing tactics to lure people in can cause a lot of damage.
This doesn’t just mean being honest – it goes far beyond that. Research by Microsoft Advertising highlights that ‘authenticity is the most important attribute to brand performance’, focusing on the drivers behind trust, love, and loyalty. This is broken down into three core components – responsibility, values, and inclusion.
Responsibility is about transparency, but also includes factors like respecting privacy and supporting ethical practices.
It’s also important not to be seen as a brand with no opinion – most people don’t like a fence sitter. Shared values ensure a more authentic connection, and while taking a particular stance might not please everybody, those who agree with a brand’s principles are more likely to remain loyal.
Inclusion is no longer just about demographics based on gender, sexuality, race, or age. It needs to be inclusive for all people. What brings your audience together may not relate to these types of demographic at all, rather, it appeals to those with a shared set of interests, or mindset. For example, someone who supports black trans rights needs to be neither black, nor trans, to be an ally.
How to build a brand people love
Digital marketers have a huge advantage when it comes to understanding an audience – data. Lots and lots of data.
Research is a crucial part of getting to know your audience. Google Analytics provides a good starting point with its demographic and interests reports. Analyse your social media followers to determine what matters to them, and see if it aligns with your brand values.
Competitor analysis is another important component. Monitor mentions of them in the news, check out what their actual customers are saying about them in online reviews, and regularly check in with their social media channels to see what content is resonating with their followers.
Most importantly of all, listen to your customers. Ask them for feedback. Make them feel included. Take criticism on board, and learn from it.
To find out more, download the ‘Marketing With Purpose Playbook’ here.