Ep 45: Serious Social – Shake your brand thing

With customer trust at its lowest, your branding on social is more important than ever. In this week’s Serious Social, Katy Howell is joined by Founder of Dawn Creative, David O’Hearns, sharing best practice tips and brand stories to help you set yourself apart and show you why branding on social is a must.

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Full Transcript

Welcome to the Serious Social podcast, created by the straight-talking social media experts at immediate future.

Katy: Well, hello, and welcome to another Friday series social. So, this one is all has a dance theme, it’s time to shake your brand thing on social and strut your values and dance into the hearts and minds of your customers. Why? Because while social is a fantastic performance marketing tool chasing click throughs. And engagement can quickly become this massive race to the bottom. So, the pool of buyers is on every competitor, radar loyalty is very low. And as I said last, in my last live, audiences are horrendously unfaithful, you’ll eventually hit the wall of diminishing returns, you need to work harder for every sale and pay more for every connection. This year, businesses need to also bring strong and brilliant branding to the social feed. But brand is not social only building a brand is not just in one channel. It has to be at the heart of an organisation, not just communications. So, to help flesh out best practice, I am joined by David O’Hearns, founder of Dawn Creative, let me add him to the feed.

David: Hi, everyone.

Katy: So welcome to serious social. So, Dave has worked with brands such as Adidas, AstraZeneca, Rolls Royce and Bentley. And I’m going to pick his brains. So, I’m going to start with a really basic question. But one I feel that sometimes really needs answering. Let me explain. So, in our latest benchmarking report, 54% of companies said their core social objective is brand awareness. Yet I rarely actually see branded campaigns play out on social. And the reality is that there’s some confusion about what a brand is even for very senior marketeers a brand is more than a logo. So, can you explain Dave what branding really is?

David: Yeah, you’re completely right with that that final line, there is more than a logo. And I think too many people associate the word brand with a visual identity. So, a logo colour palette typography. And I can appreciate why because that’s what people see. But a true brand is everything that the company stands for, and the promises it wants to keep. So, it’s a case of understanding every aspect of your business and how you want to deliver that to a particular audience that’s looking really strongly at your brand values, brand purpose, vision, mission points of difference, and making sure that I’ve documented that all the leaders of the company believe in the words that are there, and then really use them creatively to drive the brand forward. And that’s not just from the visual campaign type stuff that could be operations or picking up the telephone. It’s thinking about every single touch point and making sure that it when we say on brand as a phrase, I mean, making sure it’s reflective of your values and your purpose and that everyone in your team fully understands where you’re trying to go and what you’re trying to do.

Katy: And that, you know, that just so plays into what I’ve been talking about for the last couple of months, which is inside our organisations. But one of the one of the big challenges that we have is trying to explain to maybe non marketeers. Why branding matters. So why does it matter?

David: Is the first place that we will start with any conversation, regardless of what we’re being asked to do, I need to know one, have they got a brand? And do they stand for something? And if that isn’t in place, then we’ll go through the process of wanting to create that. Now, as soon as you know, what you stand for decision making becomes easier within the business, it starts to remove the conversation away from personal opinion, within the architecture of a business and someone who’s higher up the ranks, having a view on something, actually then becomes a collective decision to say, Well, this is what we actually stand for. This is what we want to reflect. And we agreed this a year ago, five years ago, 10 years ago. We have a document we have a way of doing things and then it loses that personal opinion, and it means that it galvanises all decision making to create complete consistency. And I think unfortunately the day to day and the speed of communication in the way decisions are made. Decisions are made within the company over a desk or a conversation, weather we’re back in the offices on a zoom call in the modern world, and they are just made like that – we’re doing it that way, make sure you add that, make sure you say this. And suddenly the communication is completely forgotten for what you’re supposed to stand for as a brand. And why you’re trying to create some kind of difference in the world that you sit in.

Katy: And you know, that’s really, that’s really important because when it comes to social, we, we kind of have, the temptation is it’s so easy to put fingers to a keyboard and just bash out something, we need what post today, and one of the things that we do is take that broader branding structure and create a filter system. That means that when somebody comes to us and says, I’ve got an idea, and another stakeholder says, Well, we need to put this out, we run it through the filter system and say, Is this on brand? Is this the right language? Is this the right look and feel? Is this representative of our insides? And the way that we function? And that, I think is essential to social media? And why we see so many off brands social media posts, but one of the challenges that we often find is that we’re we talked to companies whose, whose brand is just this brand book of brand guidelines. So where do you where do you start? Where do you start when you try to build a real brand in the way that you’ve just explained?

David: Yeah, I mean, you mentioned the brand guidelines that I remember the days where the rule book used to be 200-300 pages long, and it’ll tell you how many millimetres a logo needs to be the top left of an A4 piece of paper. And I think, naturally, some of that has now slipped, and rightly so because the world is too dynamic and too flexible. So, guidelines, obviously still exists, but you need that degree of consistency from a visual output. But guidelines can take you so far, when you start to be known through the consistency of having delivered your brand in a in a certain way for the first two years or three years, then you’re allowed to express yourself a little bit more. And for me, that’s when you start to look at the values that you’ve agreed you want to stand for. And you can dial them up or dial them down depending on the audience that you’re talking to. And if you start the dial them up, and the audience is attracted by the types of values and tasks necessary to say it, then you’ll get a complete engagement from the audience equally, you might switch off a load of people, but that is fine. Not everyone on the planet loves Apple, 50% of the world probably hates the company. So, it doesn’t matter, I’d rather have 50% of the world loving my company. Because we stand for something and we get a collective audience that starts to be called fans of our brand, and actually self-promote it for us because of the experience that they get.

Katy: And therein lies the challenge. It’s hard work to be a consistent brand. But you mentioned something there, which is you know, back in the day, by the way, I still see brand guidelines like that. It’s just like, you know, there’s more to these. But there is a there’s a kind of a change in language, which has happened over the last couple of years where sort of the language we would have used, you know, when I started in industry has kind of changed and there’s this big thing. There’s been this big thing about brands must have purpose. And now there’s a bit of a trend for pooh poohing the term purpose. I mean, are the naysayers correct? Is purpose just another bit of marketing jargon?

David:  I mean, like you’ve seen the language change over the years, you know, vision and mission have always been promised, or a member promise being kind of one of the phrases used. And then it did shift to purpose years back. I’m a big believer in it myself. I think if people poopooing it as you say, I just wonder whether it’s actually because it’s not been delivered correctly within the organisation. So, it goes back to what we would call a brand core values and purpose and things like that, that are documented and written and agreed and actually mean something to the business. Now, if the written and the never used, you know, they’re stuck in some frames in a corridor and never actually implemented then then they are nothing. Some people will poopoo them because they don’t do anything. But if the driven from the top down, and people can see where the company is trying to get to, then the purpose is very important. I know Unilever’s is to make sustainability commonplace. And when I say it in workshops, people will say No, they don’t they don’t do that, and I say but if they don’t write it down and decide to change their business and have a reason for being that never get that they’re a big ship that’s got to turn around, but at least now they have something to guide them to where they want to get to which will have an impact on people in the company to design packaging differently. Source the ingredients within that product differently. Cycle to work schemes, whatever it is that they want to do, they can drive forward have a purpose and customers will see to understand that Unilever has a different approach in the world, and are more likely to engage with our product, because they can see they’re doing not only making a profit, which all companies need to do, but they’re actually trying to do it in the right way.

Katy: I think you’re spot on one of the, one of the problems with any kind of format or way of thinking or framework is that if you just skitter across the surface of it, if you just do here’s our brand purpose, without the thought, without the energy that allows you to go talk, to employ employees to get everybody on board, to, to build that into the culture of an organisation, then purpose is a bit rubbish, because it’s just a made-up thing. Whereas if you if you’re really focused on your purpose, you can actually drive the whole business, as you rightly say, towards a goal. And I think, from our perspective, one of the biggest challenges is, the challenge of trust. Everybody in anybody can advertise on social media, and trust it is in decline across the board is not just social, but social really doesn’t help itself. I mean, the latest, this latest insight on e-consultancies pulse, kind of blog thing that they do, which is, which shows that whilst people are shopping on social, they’re disappointed with the results. I mean, feeds are often littered with poor quality goods that are kind of tempting them on price, because that’s where we are right now. And then slowly eroding people’s confidence in the company. I mean, how can branding, build trust?

David: Yeah, it comes down to every part of the business or brand, however you want to categorise it, and to deliver on everything that they say they will do, at every point in that journey. And it’s the same as some part of that journey breaks, then obviously, trust is lost. And that that could be a number of things, it could be that someone has that brand, but it’s not positioned effectively. So, they’re positioning themselves are looking a little bit cheap. But as you go through the buying cycle, it turns out to their items are quite expensive compared to what you thought. And then you might still go ahead and buy the product and find out the products quality is somewhere in between two, so you confused and disappointed, and you’ve ebbed and flowed throughout that journey. So, it’s about being completely consistent, and when I dumb it down to people what our brand is, for me, it’s replacing a person. So, we are all human, we have our own values that have been built into us, from our parents, our friends, and so forth. And I like to think my closest friends, I like them, and they like me is because we’re consistent in the way that we go about living our life. And if we say we’re going to do something, we do it. And if we say we can’t make it, we give a real reason why we can’t make it not a fake reason. And for me that’s exactly the same for business around, just position yourself effectively, say exactly what you’re going to do and deliver on it time and time again, and hopefully, maybe improve and delight as well where you can, so people actually surprised by the levels that you’ve actually gone to.

Katy: Yeah, is such an at what is one of the reasons why one of the things that we always do is try and build out personality for the brands that we work with. So that we take that brand, and we give it a much more human interface, because on social, it is exactly that in front of your face, you’re like a talking to someone. So, you need personality. And actually, it’s much harder when you have a brand personality to break your promise. It makes it much more challenging to do that without feeling that your kind of breaking the mould. So, we know that the purchase journey is including that bit more research. I mean, basically we all are home a lot more. So, the consideration phase is lengthening. One of the factors is that customers are looking for ethical and sustainable or even in the UK, in particular, diverse businesses to buy from, I get that but many companies on a journey to being better. How do they How do they end up not virtue signalling?

David: Yeah, I mean, it can take a long time there is a there is a movement to walk towards companies doing good, essentially. And I believe it’s come about over time, hopefully because people want to run better businesses and do good in the world. I also think through social media companies have been exposed more than ever before, because customers can actually say whether having a good or bad service from them, that can be escalated quite quickly, and millions of people can see it rather than just your friend in the pub. So, because of that companies have suddenly said well, actually we need to behave differently as well. And one that will help with customers understanding what we do and what our place in the world is, also will help to attract better talent, people that want to work for companies that believe that they’re doing well. So, I think there’s a long journey everyone’s going on. It’s a movement that I’m really happy to see. And I think it’ll take them a long time to shake off some shackles that they might have. And I think when we’ve chatted before, Katy, I’ve mentioned the McDonald’s journey, I can remember back in the 80’-90s, McDonald’s was red plastic seats, red and yellow interiors. And the whole point was fast food, you get in and out very quickly, and you go, and now over the years, it got pointed out for, you know, being part of the obesity claims, and they have to change it in a way. Now, we also know it’s a fast-food joint with burgers, but now it introduces wraps and salads. So, it’s trying to be a little bit healthier. But the whole brand changed globally, over those years that the shop prompts on red and yellow anymore, that dark green with a bit of yellow, they have good chip outside, they have comfy seats, the other Wi Fi, you can stay for a coffee for two hours and work from there. And they use the term cafe and things like that. So, they’re trying to compete with the coffee culture market of Costa and Nero as well to make it a place to stay, where you might then buy up to because your length of stay is longer. So even though your food is fast, they’re still trying to become a bit more friendly and a bit more sociable. And you can see the lorries on the road, say that they use the excess oil from their food to run some of their transport system. So, you know, and people will still go well, you know, there’s still a global feeling from the play on and that there are big, big company, but they’re still making that shift. And all the big companies got the biggest shift to make small start-ups can start off how they want too today.

Katy: Yeah, and actually, that’s a very good point, big ships take time to change. And also, so does culture. So, you know, we have seen quite a lot that’s changed, you know, ignoring the little trends, I mean, real behaviour change, which is very different these days. And I’ve seen a number of out now rebrands, that worked really well. So, as you’re talking, you know about what McDonald’s are doing. But there’s been some incredible stuff like Old Spice, which you know, was the sort of, you know, the scent you bought for your dad has become a very young brand again, it was kind of languishing in the dad gifts section. And then Burberry, which, you know, when I was a kid, if you will Burberry, who were kicked out the pub, a whole different meaning to where we are now in the kind of luxury kind of market. But those are great examples. And you talked about McDonald’s, but can traditional brands, tweak and change what they are? And can they keep doing that to meet this changing audience? Or is the brand principle or was fixed? And do they just look like they’re like, they don’t know who they are a bit schizophrenic.

David: I always come down to consistency. And you can, you can argue, if you’re consistent forever, then obviously, the world will have changed around you. And you might, you might suddenly look and realise that you’re not where you supposed to be. And I think get any good brand, again, coming back to its core, that that should stay for quite a long period of time, you may review it and tweak it as the world changes around you. And quite often it can be things that happen in the outside world that make a difference, you know, like a pandemic, for example, will change the way that some people decide to do business moving forward. But always remember my tutor back at Newcastle college saying to me to look after a brand is not dissimilar to looking in the mirror each day in the fact that every day that you look, you basically look the same. It’s only when you look back three years five years ago, but you are drastically different; different types of clothes, different hairstyles, and your kind of embarrassed how he used to look. But the evolution, day to day is quite steady, so you don’t really notice the change. And he references KitKat’s rapper is one of those things. And the fact that in your head for KitKat wrapper feels like it stayed the same your whole lifetime. But if you put them all together from the day, it started till now is tweaked every year, the way that it looks and feels so it’s keeping its brand current from a design perspective. But it stayed very true to itself. And in an ideal world. For me brands, you know, should be born try and stay consistent, like you’d like to think a person would in their world. And people then build trust with that brand because it does a certain thing in a certain way. And over time. As I said you can celebrate the values more and have a greater personality. You can introduce new products and services. You can delight your customers where you want to, but you can be very consistent in the way that you go about doing it. And then obviously if something dramatic happens in the world, then It’s the brands that are able to then adapt, stay true to themselves, but adapt and change their model. Don’t be the ones that are more successful.

Katy: And I think there’s actually a really interesting question from Katie Colburn. She says, do we think people are more fickle now, though, as an example, Boohoo have been in the press for poor working conditions, etc. But yet their sales have surged in lockdown. Do you think that is that that is temporary due to lockdown? And when we’re all kind of back to normal will people make wiser choices? Or do you think it’s just the fickleness of the faster consumer today?

David: A tricky question, really, I mean, you could argue either way, couldn’t you some people do want just fast fashion and items at a certain price, you know, like Primark have done well, in the past. I personally don’t like the process of online shopping and finding products at the cheapest price and having them shipped around the planet, the whole thing just feels wrong to me that we can’t produce something closer to our own landmass that we actually want. And obviously, that might come with a slightly higher price, but how much does one person actually need. And there’s also then a movement of people that will only buy things that have come from a particular source, or they’re only UK made, or their eco-friendly, or they give back to whether it’s charities or pantries or do something else, some people are very, very fixed on that. And mean, the one thing it does do is allow new companies to spring up and compete and do something different. I mean, who the thought that likes Boohoo whether they’re doing things right or wrong, it’s down to reach people’s personal opinion. But Who’d have thought that they’d be buying all the retail stores that we’ve known for 30 years, when they were just an online brand that technically came from nowhere? So, you know, that you could argue they’ve done very well, whether they go about doing their business in the right way? You’d have to do your research; wouldn’t you dig into that? That’s the beauty of online is that every company can be exposed. Hence why when we were talking about purpose before, get that right and deliver on it, then you should have no problems to less problems anyway. Because you should be sticking to what you believe in as a company.

Katy: Yeah. And interestingly enough, you know, having watched what’s happened recently to Topshop, Debenhams, who kind of when we’re still going to do it our way, and we’ll do it our way will have Boohoo carries on what will happen is somebody else will come along. And it will just sweep market again. These are all indicators we’re seeing now. And change is actually quite gradual. And then it sort of goes bang, doesn’t it? Well, that’s kind of my experience. Over the last 50 odd years, it sort of suddenly switches and, and suddenly everything shifts in a different direction. So, you know, Katie, I would suggest that you’re right, I think, you know, it’s quite difficult in lockdown to extrapolate what might happen as the world opens up again, and we start to pay a little bit less attention to COVID and the pandemic, and more attention to the environment and what we’re doing around us, you know, there’s only so much headspace we all have at the moment. And I wonder whether or not that is allowing for that. That change not to happen just yet. So, you know, maybe Boohoo will come on board with it? Who knows? So, on social, that’s one of the other aspects of social is that branding? it, I wonder whether I’d love your opinion really is whether you’re not you think on social branding is different? Because it’s kind of a more, it’s more, I’ve put down, I put down in my notes here, a new era of people powered marketing, but I don’t actually think it is, I think it’s just, it is not a new era. That’s what social is, is People Powered marketing. And it’s the audience that actually can often be your brand voice. And I don’t just mean reviews and recommendations. I mean, so how do you manage that?

David: To me, I always come back to your own brand and your own brand core. And you could say what you can’t control everybody on the planet. Sometimes you can’t control all the people in your own company to follow the values that you’ve set out. But I think if you strongly stand for something, then you will have an audience that likes your brand and will be an advocate of your brand. At the same time, you’ll have people that just don’t like the brand, and they might not have even bought it. They just decide they don’t like it. You can’t do much about those people, they will comment, and they will share what they like about a particular brand. And you’ve got to try and manage it or deal with that. For me, you’ve just got to stand for something and have an audience that appreciates what you do. Don’t let them down, engage with them, you know, be as consistent as you can that would like to say, when I say consistency, it doesn’t mean just being the same. Because if you stayed the same for 10 years, and you look around, you will go where customers go. It’s about being consistent and evolving at the same time, you’re always being true to yourself, or you’re moving along with your audience. And again, people, for me over complicate a brand is replacing a person, ultimately. And over the 20 odd years that I’ve known some of my best mates, I will have changed and evolved. But deep down inside me, I’ll still have the same values that existed back when we became friends. And because I do things consistently, and they do things consistently, but that one of them may have gone to a new sport over the last five years, they didn’t like 20 years ago, well, that’s fine, we can chat about can’t we, we can engage at that new level, and I can ever appreciate that new sport or kind of disengaged with it. But there’s similar brands launching a new product or a new set or doing something slightly different. They’ve got to engage with the audience, again, you’d like to think done for the right reasons.

Katy: Yeah, and I think there’s another layer to it as well, which is, which we see a lot of because you’re right, consistency also doesn’t mean bland. And on social, you have got to have that distinctive brand. And so, you know, because you need to stand out, you need to you need to get attention. And there’s such a sea of crappy content out there, that in order to not just get attention, but draw someone into your brand, you need to think about storytelling, and you need to think about what makes you different? Or what makes you stand out or what makes you more relevant. So how do you tell? I mean, it’s a this is a huge question. And I’m going to make it our last because we’re beginning to run out of time. But you know, and I know how big this question is, I’m really sorry. How exactly do you tell brand lead stories?

David: Well, as you say it is a big question. Going back to what you said, on social about bad content, I think, because we’ve got so many platforms, and so many variations in sizes and so forth. And the fact that it needs to get out in two minutes time, everything seems to be a rush. And I think you can see that in the content, because it is basically spat out and typed in quickly, and you get typo errors and things like that, it’s clearly not being checked over for this urgency to get more traffic to a website or to people to an event or whatever it might be. I just think people need to try and step back be very true to themselves and their brand, again, build out a story and a plan of activity and try and get ahead of the curve. So, they’re actually producing content that’s have some time spent on it has been crafted, and then is launched in three to six months’ time, instead of just let’s get something out, get something out and just continually throw stuff at people rather than think through a strategy for really well thought through content. And then that content could be longer format or a shorter format. But as long as you know what the theme is, and it’s got a really strong campaign message based again on your brand values and your points of difference, then for me that will ultimately cut through is a longer-term game but would create more brand awareness and more raving fans rather than just throwing price and product of people left right and centre.

Katy: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve got I was going to start to wrap up, but Catherine Hetherington just given us another question. She says, marketing week research indicated that winning brands include sales activation, as well as brand awareness. What are your thoughts on this bringing brands closer to the consumer?

David: Right. Okay. What are my thoughts on bringing brands closer as a consumer? I’m trying to work out.

Katy: I think it’s a good question is whether or not winning brands include sales activation, as well as brand awareness. So, in other words, how do you balance the two? How do you bring brands, close to the consumer and also do sales activation? I hope I’ve got that right. Catherine. Can you do both, I guess?

David: Sales activation, clearly making that final sale, I mean, bringing brands closer to that process. I’m guessing that’s what we’re talking about. And if we’re talking about the digital world, in particular, then again, for me, the digital world is guilty of putting out content that can be a bit robotic and a bit automated, not really thought through and kind of forget the fact we’re humans at the end of this this screen now. We’re both sat somewhere in the UK. And we’re real people with emotions. And I think it’s tapping into emotions and making sure that you think through every single step and every piece of communication, that there’s a personality there. And that you have a language and a way of doing things in a way of saying things. You’re not just after the sale, the sale should come from the fact that they trust you and believe in you and believe they’d be a good quality product. And equally, if it doesn’t go right, they know you’ll fix it. John Lewis brand is trusted, because if something goes wrong, or the products that right, you know, you can take it back and you know, you’ll get a refund.

Katy: Yeah, spot on, spot on. I was on clubhouse this morning. And they were talking about brands, and that listing all these really very sexy brands. And I thought if they asked me, I’d probably say Waitrose, which probably says quite a lot about me, I’d probably say Waitrose, because it’s consistent, and its quality. And if something goes wrong, there’s no argument, there’s no ifs and buts. You know, and there’s an element of the factors down the road from us. But you know, ultimately, I it’s a, it’s a brand, where I’ll go to if I’ve got a dinner party, because I know the quality of the goods is going to be good. And I’m going to get what I want from the delivery. So, I do think brands start not with social and they’re not like the frosting on your cake. They are they start with business. And it’s clear, it’s a whole lot more than visual identity, as you said, it is who you are, and how you think and how you behave. And you need to sing it loud on social to build trust and brand stand out, you need to stay relevant to audiences who are demanding purpose and ethics, and you need to live and breathe it. And you need to, as I said, you need to dance your branding through all your social media to ensure you don’t kind of narrow your opportunity to deliver best in class.

Massive thanks to you, Dave, you have been great. We must have you back. Because actually, you know, sometimes, you know, one of the challenges of social is that you can just think social media and, and actually social is the oil in the engine, and it leaks out into all your other channels and all your other marketing. And it is really important. We connect those things up. So, I really appreciate it, Dave, thank you.

Fantastic. Well, we’ll have you back, I can tell you that. Next week, I’m talking to two amazing marketers from Autotrader and McDonald’s about how they build on their brand identity to deliver bold and brave content on social. And that’s in a webinar. So, it won’t be in a live will be a live webinar, which you need to register for. And I’m just popping in comments, the registration details, but I will make sure that those are shared afterwards if they don’t appear. I’m hoping that worked. And then the brilliant thing is, you know, you mentioned McDonald’s earlier, but these are brands Autotrader, and that kind of almost a little bit traditional in a way who are breaking the social boring. So, again, Big thanks to you, Dave. And if you want to get in touch, I’ll add his Dave’s LinkedIn address to our comments so you can just connect up with him. And we’ll be back next week with a serious social live hosted by the amazingly talented Katie Patterson. In the meantime, have a cracking weekend. Have a marvellous and fabulous Friday. And I’ll see you in a couple of weeks. Take care Bye

 

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