Power to the People – Building Legitimacy for Brands

We’ve been thinking a lot recently about authenticity in the context of brands. Current marketing wisdom says that Generation Z is sceptical about brands which seek to impress with their ethical stance.  Brands that jump on the bandwagon of sustainability, for example, will be very quickly unmasked if their behaviours fail to match up to their stated beliefs and standards. If a brand chooses to trade publicly on its governance credentials or environmental vision, it had better be authentic.

It goes deeper than that though. We are witnessing a trend towards ‘people power’ in all areas of life – not least in politics – which reflects a high level of dissatisfaction with disingenuous promises and a desire to challenge the status quo. For some, global brands are part of the problem, with commercial power viewed as a cynical, self-serving influence.

One of our clients, Danone, is determined to build genuine legitimacy for its brands by being authentic in its relationships with consumers and recognising that purchasing a brand is a vote of confidence which has to be earned. On its website, there’s a summary of Danone’s commitment to building brands that genuinely act for good. This approach has been explained recently in a number of interviews and articles featuring Danone’s CMO, Valerie Hernando, including this one in AdWeek.

The authenticity of this approach hinges on something that we at Tribe call Audience Closeness. This means creating brands from the customer’s perspective – gaining a deep understanding of their lives and the role played by the brand in the consumer everyday experience. Our case studies include examples of work we’ve done for Danone in the UK over many years as part of a multi-channel programme called Mums at Heart, putting in-house teams in the customer’s shoes with insight-training, immersive experiences, co-creation workshops, film & display content and employee engagement activities.

Tribe uses the principles of Learn, Share and Apply to help clients put themselves in their customers’ shoes, gathering insights that help build strong connections between brands and their customers. Often, this entails changing organisational perceptions and behaviours as much as it involves influencing the way consumers think and act. For brands to be legitimate in the age of consumer power, it sometimes means throwing away the rule book of product-centric marketing operations and re-aligning around a clear vision and purpose.

Audience Closeness helps create brand legitimacy by understanding the expectations, aspirations and challenges of customers in great detail. The brand is seen as being authentic in its quest for genuine understanding and in its response to what it learns. Only then can it achieve true social acceptance by reflecting the moral norms and values of those who buy its products or services.

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