Uncovering Unlikely Spokespersons


Every year, brands spend billions on celebrity endorsements in an attempt to break through the clutter and make an emotional connection with you, me, the consumer.  But in an age of social media and radical transparency, people are looking for real stories about real people and the amazing, triumphant, courageous, tender, or selfless things they do here on this planet - aptly termed "Sadvertsing." This new breed of commercial wants to do more than sell, it wants to move us. Today's post builds upon this "Sadvertising" trend by asking the question, "do you know your customer's story?"

Old School Celebrity Push 

I don't know about you, but I'm a big fan of soccer-phenom Lionel Messi - he's a once-in-a-generation talent in the world's most popular game. However, despite all his accolades on the pitch, he's a woefully unconvincing spokesperson in "Futbol y Pepsi" where we find Messi walking the streets of Rio with a bag of Lay's potato chips and in need of a cold drink. It's pretty flat -- the YouTube views don't lie. The product is obviously the star, and honestly, I'm not invested emotionally in whether or not Messi finds something to drink and I'm definitely not going to share this video with friends. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Uncovering Your Storytellers

Skype is a video conferencing software, but when you watch this video about two friends growing up literally half a world away, I dare you not to get a little misty-eyed. 

Follow that up with an inspirational story that will get you to take a second look at the Holiday Inn.

Now, it doesn't hurt to have the master storytellers from a firm like Ogilvy & Mather at your disposal, but it shouldn't be up to an advertising firm to develop intimate knowledge of your customers, users, or shoppers. I'm sure with a little effort you'd be amazed by the stories happening "in your own backyard." Which leads me to ask, what systems do you have in place to connect with the people truly responsible for your paycheck?  Admittedly, it's easy to create a "hunter/hunted" mentality where customers are demographics and data meant to be optimized and manipulated to drive growth, but each and every one of these data points is a living, breathing person with a unique narrative and life experience. 

Here are four ways your brand can keep a pulse on your customer base and mine for the authentic success stories.

  1. Find where the conversation is taking place and listen. Where are people talking about your brand? Twitter, Facebook, message boards? Where do your advocates/detractors live? This probably involves a good ol' Google search on your category and see where the rabbit hole leads.
  2. Explore the fringe. What's happening at the extremes of your category? We previously posted about the benefits of exploring the fringe back in April. 
  3. Create clear communication channels between leadership and the "front lines." Your store managers, customer service reps, field techs, cashiers, and/or salespeople have an unvarnished perspective on your consumer that a spreadsheet can never match.
  4. Explore the context in which your brand resides. Your brand doesn't live in a vacuum. Having stakeholders spend time in people's homes, offices, cars, classrooms, etc. will help you assess how your brand is being injected into an individual's narrative in a very tangible way.