In a recent social experiment, couples were asked to chose who they would most want to have dinner with on a special evening, and everyone named their favourite celebrities and modern day heroes. In contrast, when their children were asked the same question, they all said that the people they’d most like to have dinner with on a special occasion were their parents!
Even though it brought their parents to tears, it was not the answer we were expecting from the kids because through our jaded eyes we believe that familiarity breeds contempt and as a result we tend to take for granted those closest to us. Clearly, for their parents the grass is always greener on the other side, but for their offspring, the grass that they want is right here.
This might be the reason why executives in interactive advertising lay a particular emphasis on the role of the social media influencer when driving engagement with brands. Research shows that people don’t really want to connect with brands and things, and that they prefer to connect with other people and stars instead.
The insight from the children in the experiment is quite poignant though, because the same research shows that the people we connect with most are family and friends, and that this group has the biggest influence on our brand choices and in the purchase decisions that we make. The aim of interactive advertising, therefore, is to convert ordinary people into advocates of products by promoting exceptional brand experiences and ultimately in fulfilling the brand promise.
When your consumers are so excited about your brand, and know more about its attributes, features and benefits than your marketing team, then your job is truly done. When they can say things like ‘mbili mbili kama kawaida’ (give me two of those as usual) and build a pub culture that has run for over 3 decades, where any beer under 500ml is served in pairs, then you have reached the epitome of consumer engagement as it were.
The Tusker big brand advertising of old created the kind of talkability that transformed their loyal consumers into advocates and ensured that the brand remained in pole position within the category, guaranteeing excellent growth and commercial success.
The word-or-mouth element of social media marketing relies on the ability of the promotional content to drive talkability among the target audiences. The influencers role may be to get the word out and set the tone, but the bulk of engagement has to come from ordinary consumers when they bring the brand into relevant discussions with family and friends.
WhatsApp and Facebook are the dominant channels that people use to connect and this reinforces that fact that people want to link with others who are like minded and are considered as friends. They’d rather connect with people who are concerned about their wellbeing and who therefore share content that addresses their needs, rather than engage with a product that is intent on preaching its cool credentials in order to attract followers — ‘we’ve got swag, so you should be with us to have swag’ type of thing.
They want to express themselves in a familiar language with a group that is homogenous so that they don’t stand out like a sore thumb. Dominant groups in social networks tend to alienate the others, and this creates a need to establish communities based on target segments that allow for natural patterns of group formation as demonstrated in school playgrounds.
As we delve more into understanding how people spend their time on social networks and online media, we get better at delivering experiences that are both personal and that create the type of emotional connections that form widespread social movements.