An in-depth understanding of consumers sits at the heart of what we all need to do, but we know it’s not always easy to uncover insights that will unlock a true innovation opportunity.
It’s the brands that can reflect culture back to consumers through their content, brand proposition and creative experiences that are going to win, according to AOL digital prophet, David Shing.
Speaking at today’s AANA Reset conference in Sydney, the digital and advertising industry commentator and futurist said the challenge for brands is to reflect the cultural values and contexts consumers are experiencing back to them in order to build relevancy and authenticity. He put forward three key ‘Cs’ to do this: Culture, the code and creativity.
“If you understand human needs, you’re going to be way ahead of the curve,” he told attendees. “The trick is understanding that technology might be changing the way we do things, but it isn’t changing our needs. We’re humans - our needs are wrapped up in the culture of where we are and you can never change it.”
As examples of products that didn’t stick to culture and failed or were superseded as a result, Shingy pointed to the Sony Walkman and Google Glass.
“Culture, code and creativity all need to be combined together,” Shingy said. “If you overindex on code and forget about culture, you end up with no friends.”
As emerging technologies such as augmented, virtual and mixed reality, drones, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence come to fruition, it’s important for marketers to frame each in the context of the conversation and engagement consumers want to have, he continued.
Shingy also pointed to a shift from awareness to advocacy, noting 70 per cent of consumers would rather read about a brand than be advertised to. In response, he advised focusing on storytelling, but in particular, the story over the telling. These experiences also don’t need to be literal, they can be latent. Importantly, they should be shareable and reflect the growing “community of conversation”, he said.
To help, Shingy outlined a next-generation ‘4Ps’ of marketing required to meet the needs of millennials and next generation consumers: Platform, partnerships, pedigree and performance.
Shingy also stressed the importance of uniting the digital and physical experiences, noting that “currency is just currency to a consumer”. “Whether it’s board games or online gaming with a controller, they’re all games. Or if you think about images, it doesn’t matter if it’s on Snapchat or a billboard, it’s all imaging and context. There is no translation anymore,” he said.
“What is different is that they’re not just consuming content – those days are dead and buried. They are creators and curators of experiences. .. You have to deal with these cats, these are the next generation of adults.
“Personal expression is the new form of entertainment. And as more stuff comes to you, you have to think about how you reconcile that.”
Shingy also advised marketers to analyse what consumers are doing, their habits, identifying the things they find interesting and where your brand can help.“It’s about driving the why – we don’t think enough about the why, we’ve got how and why, but we have to ask about the why,” he added.
Shingy suggested innovation is out, and the focus now must be invention. “Invention is about creation, and that’s the opportunity for you in the marketplace,” he said.
Experimentation is a vital part of this process. “Not everything works, that’s the thing about experimentation,” he said. “To do that, you need to think about reframing then find the right people and authenticity of influencers, build authenticity.
“You do need to fall forward – not everything can win.”
The theme of brands as part of the fabric of popular culture was echoed by Unruly founder and CEO, Sarah Wood, who took to the stage during the Reset conference.
“Have the courage to commission purposeful brand messages and campaigns that change the way people feel about themselves, and that address real people. Then we don’t have to worry about the future, we can just help shape a future we can be proud of,” she said.