Trust is now at a premium, with sceptical consumers rejecting traditional media and advertising in favour of transparency and truthfulness. People no longer want to be sold to, they want to feel part of a brand’s story – which is increasingly bringing the concept of authenticity into question. However there are ways to navigate this landscape. Co-creation, ultra-transparent campaigns and design can all be used to establish a more honest and intimate relationship.
The Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year 2016, ‘post-truth’, suggests that appeals to emotion and personal belief have more influence on public opinion than objective facts. Global forces are leaving consumers disconnected and disillusioned, and according to a recent Media Research Center and YouGov poll, 69% of US voters do not believe the news media are honest and truthful.
“Business is the last retaining wall for trust,” believes Kathryn Beiser, global chair of Edelman’s Corporate Practice. “Its leaders must step up on the issues that matter for society.”
To rebuild trust, branded communications need to be opened up. Meaningful messages have the potential to become one of the most powerful tools to restore battered consumer faith.
Business is the last retaining wall for trust, its leaders must step up on the issues that matter for society
The key targets are Generation Z and Millennials, with a study by The McCarthy Group showing that consumers aged 35 and under don’t like advertising, and are much more trusting of information sources that are not actively focused on selling messages.
Co-created content can also persuade shoppers to make a purchase, with Olapic’s Global Consumer Report 2016 revealing that 56% of consumers are more likely to buy a product after seeing it featured in a relatable user-generated image. “Ultimately, if you allow consumers to personalise their own experience, this empowers them to pick what they want, without imposing it on them,” says Olapic founder Pau Sabria.
Consumer involvement is key to creating affinity. “Digitally native brands such as Tesla, Google and Uber have a constant conversation with their consumers about how and why new products are developed and used,” says Bruce Duckworth, co-founder of design agency Turner Duckworth. Such brands are breeding a different type of consumer: the New Evangelical. “People who love Uber don’t just advocate it any longer, they insist you love it too,” adds Duckworth. Findings from the Edelman Trust Barometer 2017 show that a person ‘like yourself’ (60%) is now considered a far more credible source of information about a company than a CEO (37%) or government official (29%). Brands need to invite interactions by providing online platforms for customers to review, critique and praise. However, these kinds of conversations will also drive another demand – for radical transparency.
According to a 2015 study by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 47% of US internet users and 39% of UK internet users have installed ad-blocking software on at least one device. Aimia reports that 69% of consumers close down accounts and subscriptions and unfollow brands on social media to get away from irrelevant messages.
People don’t expect perfection. They expect honesty, good intentions and the understanding you’re working towards doing the best you can.
With consumers refusing to engage with brands that don’t offer opportunities to contribute and collaborate, companies that focus on improving society and making our lives easier and healthier will receive higher levels of engagement and trust in return.
“People don’t expect perfection,” adds Felix Morgan, senior strategist and innovation lead at youth marketing agency Livity. “They expect honesty, good intentions and the understanding you’re working towards doing the best you can.”
Co-creation of campaigns can humanise brands’ outreach and loosen control of communication strategies, allowing consumers to become part of the conversation. Global advertising agency Y&R reports more than 50% of Fortune 500 companies have already made co-creation integral to their innovation strategy.
According to Olapic’s Global Consumer Report 2016, 70% of 18-24-year-olds describe earned content as ‘more honest’, while the presence of real people in branded content emerged as a key component of authenticity for 33% of respondents in France and 37% of 18-24-year-olds in the US.
“Authenticity is becoming more and more about evolving a symbiotic relationship with consumers,” says Pau Sabria. “When a brand is willing to recognise the way it has been creating content is not the optimal one, that maybe consumers can also be creative, that can trickle into new ideas and ultimately create the dialogue.”
Beyond co-creation, typography is increasingly recognised as a signifier of trust, and a way of standing out from the crowd. But with thousands of existing typefaces, and the ability to modify font families and explore customised typeface creation, brands have such an abundance of choice that deciding on a direction can be difficult. “First, it’s about knowing who you are, how you want to speak to your customers and what impression you want to leave,” says Dr Nadine Chahine, UK type director and legibility expert at Monotype.
“Trust for a brand and authenticity come from having the right voice,” she adds. “If you want to be unique then you need to look different.”
“This level of font recognition will become a must for brands seeking to future-proof their authenticity,” adds Sabria. “A bespoke typeface will be the most powerful and ownable way of establishing it.”
Beyond branded typefaces, the rise of co-created content will open the door to personalised fonts – those that consumers can switch between and edit to express themselves. “Put fonts at the disposal of consumers and allow them to pick the one that they want, instead of imposing it,” says Sabria.
We are on the brink of a new era, requiring brands to introduce strategies that go beyond slick messaging and catchy advertising campaigns.
Businesses are obliged to build trust by showing trust, and by believing that consumers will appreciate a transparent warts-and-all image, a personalised experience, and a chance to co-create, they will in turn become loyal partners.
Carefully chosen typefaces will further cement this quest for true authenticity in the minds of the public, who will help communicate a brand’s unique voice through shared responsibility and a new vision for design.
This is an edited version of the Brand Authenticity Report, by Monotype, Olapic and The Future Laboratory. Visit monotype.com/beyondauthenticity in order to read the full report.
Don’t miss Can You Manufacture Authenticity? at Cannes Lions, Tuesday 20 June, from 15:30 – 16:15, with speakers Michelle Oliver – Mars Chocolates, Ed Couchman – Facebook, Bridget Angear – AMV BBDO and Jose de Cabo – Olapic.
To register for the talk visit olapic.com/cannes-lions-2017