Full disclosure – I’m a brand research executive and skilled in what is sometimes called “empathetic listening.” This means I’m an inveterate people watcher, instinctively put myself in others’ shoes and strive to figure out what makes people tick.
I’ve been reading up on trends in UX and brand design recently and find that an empathetic approach is highly prized at agencies as various as IDEO, frog design, Landor, and BBDO. Empathy is considered an essential component in up-front evaluation of user needs and, as well, is often leveraged in creative strategy and execution. Consider P&G’s amazing new campaign for the 2012 Olympic sponsorship, “road to glory”, that recognizes the role played by moms in supporting their young athletes. In this work:
Empathetic listening drives insights that fuel creative/design strategy
Empathetic messaging is at the center of the executional elements celebrating the games’ unsung heroes…moms
To check out the campaign click here. And look below to see another amazing example of empathetic listening driving empathetic creative – part of a pro-bono campaign by BBDO for the Ad Council.
Moral of the story – empathy opens doors to human understanding and is an irresistible force that breaks down barriers and brings people together.
Here’s a surprising fact. At some point between the 1970s and the 1990s, the venerable AT&T brand reputation transitioned among certain audiences from “Ma Bell”… to “the death star.” Something similar transpired for Microsoft, which became widely known as “the evil empire“.
I’m not a corporate historian, but I know it has not been uncommon in recent years for large, public companies to find themselves similarly demonized. Think Enron collapse, Nike sweatshops, BP oil spill. Why?… generally it ties back to perceptions of company greed, thoughtlessness or incompetence. Regardless of ultimate culpability, our impressions are tightly linked to judgments about human motives underlying company behavior.
Enter the science of corporate reputation management and brand/messaging strategies designed to signal that company motives are pure, particularly B2B companies which are one step removed from public view. Here’s a sampling of recent B2B advertising in which employee voice-overs are used to create a softer, gentler company feel:
IBM – “Let’s build a smarter planet.”
Siemens – “No question is too tough for us to answer.”
FedEx – “Solutions that matter.”
Dow – “Together, the elements of science and the human element can solve anything.”
Heightened expectations for corporate social responsibility, combined with increased public transparency (internet, social media, 24/7 news cycles) have accelerated the race to put a human face on large B2B enterprises. But working to humanize the company in the eyes of stakeholder audiences has value beyond simply defending reputation. It signals the existence of a higher business purpose, one that can guide employees to do the right thing, help partners to engage in a spirit of true collaboration, and inspire customers/prospects to trust not only the product itself, but the intentions behind it. And trust is the glue in great long-term customer relationships.
Moral of the story here – if you are engaged in B2B business communications … be human, build trust, inspire custom.
Guerrilla marketing is not new. But it remains an incredibly effective way to captivate consumers.
Check out the dance riot created for T-Mobile in Liverpool station in 2009 (click here). Or look below at the guerrilla campaign for TNT Network in Belgium. In both cases, marketers inserted gripping theatrical drama (brand content) into the humdrum venues of daily living. Then all hell breaks loose.
The result – hundreds of people stop in their tracks, establish an indelible memory of the brand/concept and then share it with all their friends. Eventually it goes viral thanks to Facebook and YouTube sharing.
Moral of the story – in this age of viral media, well executed guerrilla marketing can engage consumers and drive brand registration like never before.
I have long thought that logos serve a dual function.
The Beacon – for newbies seeing a brand logo for the first time, it serves as a beacon…identifying the landmark and inviting passersby to investigate. The Window– for experienced users, it serves as a window into the tapestry of ideas, thoughts and emotions that constitute the brand’s equity and, hopefully, appeal.
Here’s an example. Most Americans driving by a neon sign for Super Duper Weenie, if they see it, will think “hot dog joint” and perhaps stop in for a bite. This is the beacon effect. In contrast, for anyone living in Fairfield CT, home of Super Duper Weenie, this logo is already incredibly well known. It conjures up associations of fabulous hotdogs, incredible fries and an authentic welcome from owner Gary Zemola. This is the window effect.
If you want to see the early stirrings of logo power (as seen through the eyes of a 5 year old) check out the video below. And don’t neglect investing in consumer experiences that drive the power of your brand and your logo over time!
I’m not talking about Stevie Wonder here. I’m asking you to think about that very private, quiet, creative place in your mind where you go to imagine things – memories, mental geography, story lines, loved ones – the place you go to reflect on things when eyes are closed.
Imagine a new kind of brand communication – brand experience really – that speaks to this private part of your mind – bypassing verbal appeals and speaking directly to the non-verbal core of your imagination. Powerful stuff – a new language really – and some forward thinking brands are learning how to do it.
Consider the campaign for Legoland UK resorts – agency gurus installed tiny pigeon-sized Lego billboards around London and invited passers-by to tweet #legolandminibreaks with a photo if they spotted one. Alternatively, watch to video (attached) describing an experimental brand installation for Absolut India. These efforts bypass all the normal filters we consumers throw up, and speak directly to our inner vision – powerful stuff!
I'm Dave Nemiah - a brand insights & strategy exec who delights in uncovering hidden (or simply overlooked) drivers of consumer behavior. This blog is a holding pen for raw insights into human nature & impulse that I stumble on during the course of my day.