Bank on emotional capital or risk sinking without trace

kate howeMarketing history is full of gory PR disasters, but there are few roles you’d hate to have had recently more than P&O Ferries’ corporate PR chief. Trust, confidence and expectation have become watchwords for modern brands. And in the space of one foul month, P&O pretty much eroded all it had built up.

That’s not easy to recover from. With consumers bombarded by up to 10,000 marketing messages every day, it’s imperative for brands to deliver against that triumvirate of terms as consistently and cogently as they can.

Emotion is the essence of all of these qualities. If a consumer feels a sense of safety and mutual understanding with your brand, has a positive or even surprising experience across touchpoints, and feels their needs have been met, they’re more likely to buy from you and come back for more.

Sounds simple, right? And, as outputs, they probably are. But that just means that the inputs become increasingly complex.

Savvy brands have spent most of the past two decades building their tech stacks to handle slews of data from disparate sources. The marketing industry is more advanced than ever in its understanding and use of both martech and customer information – but whether their potential is truly being grasped is in doubt.

This matters because data and technology are the twin engines of true customer knowledge and the best route to engagement.

The symbiosis of data and technology, and the creative excellence that results, can improve experiences based on a powerful mix of brand utility and brand promise.

Emotional capital for a connected world
As we all all well and truly know, every brand’s audience is now better-informed and better-connected. But consumers are also far more critical of businesses, especially when firms don’t behave well.

Adapting to an unprecedented weight of exposure to modern marketing techniques, most consumers are now well aware of when, where and how a brand is selling to them. They understand what’s going on and react with scorn to interruption, irrelevance, hyperbole, copycat creative and other tactics that turn them off.

Social media sits at the centre of this shift in customer-brand relationships. It’s moved marketing from ‘push’ – one-sided, top-down broadcast – to a dialogue in which today’s worldly-wise consumer expects to be a valued and respected participant.

By elevating trust in the relationship, brands are transforming marketing from an interruption to a communication to be embraced. Consumers will expect to hear from the brands they love. They might not want to consider your offer in the moment, but they don’t mind hearing from you.

Acceptance is half the battle. Think about when a friend knocks on the door; you don’t mind seeing them, even if they weren’t expected. But when a stranger unexpectedly knocks on your door, simply getting up to answer the door is irritating.

It’s therefore no exaggeration to say the end is nigh for brands that ignore the need to build better “emotional capital”. Consumer bombardment by brands is real and it’s driving consumer distrust.

But with relevant, timely messaging, delivered via a smart choice of channels, brands can turn the tide. Those that realise the true potential of data, creative and technology can strike gold – because it’s the winning formula for earning superior emotional capital.

Finding the power of emotional capital
Against this backdrop, marketers must ask themselves a burning question: am I spending enough time reviewing and building my brand’s levels of emotional capital?

It’s time to mine data for true insight, harness creativity to develop big ideas that turn heads, and use technology to turbo-power the customer experience.

First, brands need an insight champion to translate all the data they can access into true insights – and subsequently into creative inspiration.

Creativity, the second part of the formula, is required so that when insight has pinpointed the opportunity for new and enhanced connections, the brand message is delivered and driven home in ways that enthuse, not exasperate, the consumer. Despite what you may read elsewhere, the ‘big idea’ is still vital, to be informative, entertaining and relevant – and to get your brand noticed and expected.

Technology is the third part of the strategy. It brings scale and speed to complex considerations needed to find the right person at the right time through the right touchpoints. In a world of fragmented channels and constant brand noise, knowing where to place your bets is increasingly important.

Smart marketers will view our ever-changing world, driven by a technology revolution and greater consumer control, as an opportunity, not a crisis.

And brands that manage to build superior emotional capital into everything they do – founded on a winning formula of tech, data and creative excellence – will be trusted and welcomed in by consumers even as they exile others that make no effort to know who they really are – not just those who very publicly fire 800 staff over Zoom.

Kate Howe is executive director at MSQ

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