Love her or hate her, US Democrat representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) is a marketing force to be reckoned with. Her politics and wider policy might not be to everyone’s taste, but the way she communicates with a disenfranchised and fragmented group of voters is something that anyone who deals in comms needs to take note of.
AOC has mastered her comms methodology. Whether it’s sitting on Instagram Live putting together IKEA furniture – glass of wine in hand – while answering hot topic political questions from her followers, or tweeting epic comeback burns to comments that may be deemed bigotry from other politicians. Utilizing the power of the social networks, AOC engages younger generations who typically don’t want to listen to politicians – even if they agree with their stance.
Why should brands and agencies take notice of what a politician is doing? No one likes politicians!
People don’t trust politicians, with the group only receiving a rating of 19% in the Ipsos MORI ‘Britain’s most trusted professions’ ranking. But one of the few professional groups to be ranked below politicians? Advertising executives. A measly ranking of 16% also put advertisers below government ministers (22%). With the state politics is currently in, that’s quite terrible.
Having grown up in a world where they can get in touch with anyone at any time of day – from friends and family, to brands and celebrities and total strangers – younger generations are more sensitive to how brands communicate. And if it doesn’t suit their style, they reject it.
When engaging with a younger audience, it’s this sort of authentic engagement that marketers and advertisers need to take note of, as they move to strip themselves of the inherent fear of getting up close and personal with consumers.
Despite not trusting marketing, younger people are more than willing to engage in the Wendy’s National Roast Day annually and then tweet how they’ll go and buy a square burger if the social media manager likes their tweet. 84% of millennials stated that they did not like traditional marketing, and that they don’t trust it [McCarthy Group]. This concerning stat helps build a picture as to why brands such as Wendy’s who utilize more unconventional marketing methods are winning favor. Last year’s proclamation that they’re stopping advertising, and their all-out McDonald’s abuse on social media are personal highlights.
Don’t fake it ‘til you make it – you’ll get lambasted
Brands just looking to jump on the cultural train or carbon copy the Wendy’s approach won’t succeed. Consumers will immediately spot the lack of authenticity behind a half-hearted attempt at non-traditional comms that doesn’t stay true to the original brand personality. The key principle in taking a non-conventional approach is to remain true to who your brand is and who your target consumers are.
A lot of brands still get this authenticity wrong – an example of this is the plethora of brands hopping on the Game of Thrones bandwagon for the launch of season 8; from razors to dating apps (how either of these link to Westeros I’ll never know). Authenticity is different for every single brand. Getting it wrong is costly and leaves a brand looking like dad at the dance.
Chase Bank, missed the mark when trying to tap into meme culture and ended up getting a bit of abuse. They failed to stay true to what people have come to expect from their brand. Brands must get personal and relatable while knowing your boundaries. In Chase’s case, maybe they should have looked at how they communicate as a transactional, critical service instead of trying to crack a joke. To put this into context, recall a time you were really mad at someone and they tried to make light of the situation… it probably wasn’t comfortable right? A lot of people aren’t happy with their bank, so trying to make a joke will probably just get people’s backs up.
Brands need to stay true to their OWN authenticity and understand how consumers want to hear from them. Banter is not the be all and end all of being open and relatable. But at the same time, brands need to stop acting cold and standoffish if they want to compete in what has become a massively informal communication space. AOC finds space to relate to her audience – her brand and everything she stands for is all about “being for the people”. So, sitting in her front room with flatpack furniture and a glass of wine is something regular twenty and thirty somethings can appreciate and relate to. Could Theresa May get away with this? Probably not. But her dancing attempts and twitter jokes, that make you cringe like your mum has just said something thinking she’s cool, probably won her some favor for similar reasons to AOC’s furniture building.
The agency outlook
The examples referenced above look more at brand activity, but agencies must take note of these principles too. Whether working with clients on a campaign or establishing their own marketing strategies, agencies need to realize where the need for authenticity fits in their comms. The agency landscape is crowded, and potential clients really need to relate to a partner they decide to invest their time and money with – and who they totally trust to represent their brand.