Stuart had taken part in a panel at the event on the topic of retaining relevancy in an integrated world and one of the topics that came up was the authenticity of brands, and how this is spread across different channels. To highlight this, he talked about his own media diet during the first couple of hours of that morning, where he had already checked his social media feeds on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, watched BBC News and had read the Metro newspaper on his commute. Stuart used the example of Lloyds Bank being a stand out story across three of those channels that particular morning.
Talking differently across channels can be a way of, as Stuart puts it, fooling people to think of the brand in a different way. It is not to say that brands can’t tweak their adverts, stories or news between channels. But he believes the challenge for brands, as in that situation with Lloyds, is how they need to be credible, relevant and ensuring the brand DNA remains authentic across each of those channels.
Stuart calls communications the ‘conscious’ of the business as he feels it’s closer than any other department to the true feelings and understandings of the customers about the brand because the comms team has direct customer feedback relayed to them in real time every single day through journalists [and social media], who are very clear about what the customers are saying about the brand.
Stuart added that more and more, Communications is being trusted as a barometer of your customers’ feelings, and therefore being able to advise what actions need to be taken as a business to respond to that customer need by the CEO and Chairman. He therefore sees Communications has its place on the Board, where they can advise, not just on a communications issue in terms of how to speak/respond to a customer or journalist, but actually on what action the business needs to take, or even the money it needs to spend to resolve a problem.
He used the recent United Airlines case as an example where a lot has been written about how the initial response wasn’t very well handled, but since then, the company has come out and said it will never happen again and that ‘these are the things we are putting in place’, offering $10,000 to any customer who wants to put their hand up and leave the plane.
Another recent PR disaster to hit the headlines was the controversy over the recent Pepsi advert that was criticised for exploiting the Black Lives Matter movement and subsequently pulled.
Stuart’s assumption in this instance is that Pepsi is a very marketing led business, and therefore, he questions how much weight is put on the idea of the communications team being the conscious of the business and challenging the business ideas. He said it’s very easy, when you are within the ‘planet of your own brand’ to think everything you are producing is great and all the data tells you it’s going to work and its tapping into the zeitgeist, but it’s equally easy to get that so wrong if you don’t truly have that real time customer feedback.
[If anyone from Pepsi is reading this post or listening to the podcast and would like to respond about this campaign with an interview on the show, please get in touch.]
To emphasise the point of listening to your customer, Stuart drew on Nissan’s recent campaign to raise the profile of their X-Trail, where their aim was to tap back into peoples’ passions, looking beyond the product itself, and focus on how their customers used that particular model. As it turns out, one of the things they do, is use the car to stick the dog in the boot, take them down the park and give them a good run out!
Due to the fact that the communications team were given a very small budget of under 70,000 EURO, Stuart stated that they had to be ‘very agile creatively’ and can’t be ‘lazy’. They therefore came up with a concept to create a prototype of the car, specifically focusing on the needs of the dog and actually then produced it! They then made a three minute film with a completely natural launch, with no additional paid media around it.
As the campaign was focused on the feedback from customers and had tapped into the passions of dog lovers, it was natural that they were extremely interested and Stuar said the video has now received over 110 million views, globally. The prototype car is now being looked at to go into full production and it was recently showcased at the New York Auto Show.
However, one of the most important statistics for Stuart is that, since this campaign launched, the natural search online for the X-Trail is the highest it has ever been globally for five years.
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