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Overused phrases are eroding brand authenticity

Posted on Tue 30th Jun, 2020 in: Insight by Tim Downs

Have you turned on the TV recently and found yourself longing for a time when all the adverts weren’t seemingly filmed on someone’s phone and where large high street brands with turnovers in the hundreds of millions of pounds weren’t shouting at you that we're "all in this together"?

Well, you’re not alone. It would appear that big UK businesses are failing the authenticity test by telling consumers we’re “all in this together” during these “unprecedented times”.

Two new research studies from Census Wide and YouGov have found that almost three in five consumers said that the way a brand behaves during Covid-19 will have a direct effect on their purchasing behaviour in the future.

However, just over half agree that brands are over-communicating with them and, more worryingly, 43 per cent agree that currently messaging and advertising from brands are coming across as inauthentic.

When it comes to the most overused phrases “all in this together” topped the list with 42 per cent, increasing to 45 per cent for 18 to 25-year-olds. This was closely followed by “the new normal” and “unprecedented”, both at 34 per cent. This has led to nearly 70 per cent agreeing that brands are delivering the same messages to one another.

That means there is a disconnect between what brands are trying to say and what nearly half of UK consumers are hearing. That disconnect is around authenticity.

The fact is, we’re not all in this together and telling consumers that we are is contrived, patronising and demonstrates a lack of audience understanding. Yes, we are all experiencing the pandemic, but it is impacting each and every one of us in different and very personal ways.

Going back to the TV adverts, making real employees who can work remotely, and in many cases who are still actually working, front and centre of your campaign does not represent the experience of lots of people and just because we can see the inside of their back bedroom does not make it authentic.

In times of uncertainty you need to offer clarity, support, transparency and in some cases levity to create a sense of relief. Not simply that you too can identify with people as one homogenous mass.

It can actually be a golden opportunity to build a ‘human’ connection with consumers.

That’s not to say that there aren’t organisations out there getting it right and thankfully we can look close to home at Yorkshire brands and our public sector partners for good examples.

Doncaster Council’s social threads have gained a cult following and attention from national media, including the Daily Mail and BBC, for using the stories of lesser known historical and comical figures and events to reinforce the stay at home messaging. Their informality and quirky tone of voice is different from many local authorities and means what they are saying sticks.

The efforts by Leeds City Council have also been welcomed, both as an employer and a resident. From regular communication around business support to emails and mailings covering the seemingly mundane, such as bin collection, it all goes a long way to providing a much needed sense of reassurance and calm.

Yorkshire Tea has remained at its very best by simply maintaining its strong brand personality and not jumping on the lockdown bandwagon. 
Leeds United has recognised its role in the local community with its players delivering stay at home messages and The Yorkshire Post’s own campaign to encourage people to support local media by subscribing to the paper has struck a chord on a national level.
There is nothing wrong with showing empathy in your marketing. But then don’t fall into the trap of telling your audiences you understand their problems and then treat them all the same. First and foremost whatever you do has to be genuine and honest.
And that’s what Yorkshire businesses and people are good at.

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