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Passion, purpose & play: Building a successful social brand in 2019

It’s probably the hardest time for marketers to make an impact, ever. Torn between competing channels and buzzwords, fickle consumers, and contradictory marketing science, we have to navigate a world that challenges us to be faster, smarter, harder working and ultimately sell more. Nowhere is this harder than on social media.

The average non-marketer has a similar experience. It’s possible to be an infinite consumer, jumping from feed to feed. The most recent numbers from YouTube report that users upload 400 hours of video per minute – a staggering 65 years of video every day. Instagram reports 500 million daily active users of Instagram Stories alone – assuming those stories are only 6 seconds long, that’s 95 years of content per day . That’s just two of the many platforms we use every day.

The attention economy is real, and for most people – exhausting. Imagining that we can change perceptions by doing things the way we always have is dangerous.

This year also represents the real start of the US election cycle – and in Australia, state and federal elections that will dominate newsfeeds across the board. There’s also the looming threat of climate related disasters that are directly impacting the communities we talk to every day, which will ultimately impact how they buy – and the time they have to consider our brands.

The following approaches are important not only because they reflect the core of why people use social in 2019, but how brands can actively participate in that those behaviours of usage – and the type of work we need to make to make a difference to how our brands are perceived.

Play

Work in the Play arena is focused on creating moments that will distract us, just a little bit, from all the big and serious things news feeds are full of.

There are entire social platforms are built on this premise – Snapchat is the traditional player here, but the emergent challenger is TikTok, 2018’s most downloaded app. These platforms give everyone the opportunity to play – the challenge for brands is how to make that Play valuable to the bottom line.

Beyond these new platforms, brands like Netflix and Sunny D are subverting expectations on social to stand out and drive preference and consideration. While simple, these playful activities drive significant reach – and ultimately associate the brand with audiences that have been difficult to reach on social in the past.

Passion

In many ways, Passion is a tried and true pillar of all advertising – finding what consumers love and appearing alongside it. The biggest shift that we need to be aware of this year is the shape of those passions, and how you can appear next to them.

The most pressing example is probably gaming – and in particular, Fortnite. With 200 million players, and even more incidental reach due to streamers and media, it represents an opportunity to reach millions of incredibly engaged consumers with deep and abiding love for the topic.

In past years, influencers and sponsorships have allowed brands to dive into these passions. This year, expect to see brands exploring different ways of showing up in the passions of consumers – from direct participation to support and development.

Purpose

Purpose driven work tries to make a difference – either to a small group of people, or to all of society. Arguably the hardest to pull off but also perhaps the one with the highest rewards.

According to recent Accenture research from the US, consumers support brands whose purpose aligns with their beliefs – and they reject those that don’t, with one in five walking away forever . Nike’s partnership with Colin Kaepernick is the most powerful recent example of this, demonstrating direct positive impacts on the share price of the brand.

A word of warning here, however – without authentic and true ties to the purpose you’re leaning on, you run the risk of doing more harm than good. Remember Pepsi?

What this means for marketers?

The above themes might seem general at first, but we need a simplified approach to advertising and content in a more social world. Think about it this way – Facebook has its 15th birthday this year, Youtube has hit 14, and Twitter is coming up on 12. There are people who can’t remember a world without social and – for better or worse – they are your brands future. Beyond them, nearly every person is spending time on these platforms and is affected by them.

How your brand is encountered – and what it chooses to be encountered alongside – will define its future. Building a social brand in Play, Passion or Purpose can give you the focus to stand out. Good luck!

Alex Watts

Alex Watts is the Head of Social at Ogilvy Australia, Passionate, friendly and (generally) smiling, Alex has extensive experience in QSR, FMCG, NFP, fashion and finance. Alex also hosts a podcast about fiction books, keeps bees, and wishes his garden was just a bit bigger.
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