When people are bombarded with advertising and sponsored content, they turn to authentic brands with a genuine story to tell

Photo by  Matthew Henry  via Burst

Photo by Matthew Henry via Burst

With more people switching off from advertising than ever before, you could wonder how any brand can make an impact these days.

In 2019, PR and marketing continues to change. Not just because of technology and the vast channels that allow us to connect with audiences; but because people are losing trust in what they see. They’re bombarded online. On social media. Out and about in public. In what they read. It’s non-stop. And they’re getting pretty fed up with it all.

So how can a brand cut through the noise and connect with its audience?

Good old-fashioned media relations? As a PR consultant, I’ve always sought the more credible option in raising a company’s profile. A journalist’s endorsement of your product, for example, will always carry more weight than an advertisement in the same paper or magazine.

But as a lot of your audience is now “online”, influencer marketing is another great option. Popular “micro-influencers” help to push millions of fashion, beauty and interior products every year. Their endorsement can prove very fruitful and many marketers would agree: NeoReach predicts 4.4 million officially promoted posts in 2019 (source: Campaign).

However, beware, as there is a growing backlash against sponsored content on Instagram, too. Take, for example, influencer Scarlett London who received death threats last year over a sponsored post promoting Johnson & Johnson-owned Listerine whitening mouthwash.

Coupled with the results from a recent survey that revealed 45% of all social media users find sponsored post hashtags annoying – it’s clearly getting ugly out there for advertisers.

Perhaps the bombardment isn’t the issue. Maybe it’s a lack of authenticity that is turning off consumers.

In fact, when was the last time you resonated with a brand and happily followed them on Instagram? Think about it. Was it because you’d seen countless adverts on Facebook? Probably not. It’s more likely you made an emotional connection through an authentic story.

In which case, you need to take full ownership of your own story and build authentic relationships with your customers. You have to believe in something and have a purpose. And this must resonate across your brand and everything you do. It must start from the ground up. Any whiff of “fake” and your whole marketing efforts will come crashing down.

At Boomerang, I try to uncover the authentic, real story behind each client. The juicy angle that humanises a brand and endears it to its customers. You can’t just “sell” a product, you have to sell a dream, purpose or lifestyle. You have to consider what people care about. What they’ll resonate with. What will make them fall in love with your brand and become loyal customers.

Everlane does this brilliantly – its mission statement is that it offers complete transparency on both pricing and where its clothes are made. I love this stance. I, like millions of others, am totally bought into it. You can see that its entire marketing strategy is based on this strong foundation. It’s a sentiment it shares with its customers.

By all means, embrace influencer marketing. You just have to ensure those influencers share common interests and values and will help authentically endorse your brand. Everlane, for instance, works with much-loved influencers like Caroline Joy of Un-fancy, who shares Everlane’s values on ethical clothing and manufacturing. Caroline is very transparent about how she works with brands and does no harm in doing so (I have at least three items she has reviewed and recommended).

You could even take ownership by becoming an influencer yourself. Is there a niche hashtag you can tap into that will endear your audience to you? Take Gordon’s successful #YayDelay campaign. The gin brand capitalised on commuting delays by creating geo-targeted social ads to reach commuters stuck on trains and offer a free gin and tonic. Its little marketing experiment reached 7.4 million people with 10,000 taking advantage of the offer. That’s over seven million potential customers, just by thinking about what would resonate with its audience.

Dare I say it, stop thinking about “marketing”, as your first port of call.. It makes you consider all the usual owned, earned and paid media, and potentially forces you down the same old route. One that has, in many cases, stopped working.

Instead make “authentic storytelling” your main focus. Why did you start your business in the first place? What are you proud of? Who are the people that work there? What are their stories? How have they made a difference? What values do you share with your customers? What do you believe in? What are you trying to change in the world?

If you’ve never taken the time to consider your own story, perhaps now is the time to start writing your opening chapter. Because once you uncover what makes you authentic, interesting and unique, you’ll find your marketing strategy naturally falls into place and discover an audience that is keen to listen and learn more.