Why do consumer brands fail to communicate?

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Shake the bad brand habits

Communication. The backbone of every good relationship. The way your brand communicates to the world says everything about your brand purpose and what you believe in. Yet many consumer brands find effective communication a challenge and fail to maintain brand engagement. 

We ask what the common pitfalls are and how brands can avoid them… After all, better communication is more beneficial to all.

1) Forgetting the consumer

What’s the problem?

Brands feel they need to communicate a number of things all at once, whether it’s how brilliant their latest products are, keeping abreast with industry news, or responding to social media comments (to name a few examples), juggling the many different avenues of communication can get convoluted.

Why it’s a problem?

The consumer may be overlooked and will not engage. Brands may forget that the way to earn the respect of their audience is not to constantly reassert their brand value, but to focus on the needs of those they’re talking to. Just as we are unlikely to put up with friends that only talk about themselves, our attitudes towards inward-facing brands are exactly the same.

How can we do it differently?

Keep this in mind: a conversation, in whatever form, is only engaging when it takes both parties into consideration. Consumers DO want to connect with brands. They want to hear about what is being done for them and how they can get involved. Above all else, consumers should feel better off as a result of any brand communication. A tangible benefit to the audience or wider world, whether it’s emotional, functional or societal, is vital.


2) Getting in a muddle with data

What’s the problem?

Marketing is one of the fastest evolving industries of the 21st century. This is largely down to the way that we adapt and evolve with new technologies, and try out all sorts of daring and creative things with it. But technology has opened up a new minefield: data collection and how we use it. What do we do with this additional layer of information about our audiences? 

Why it’s a problem?

It’s not so much a problem as an untapped opportunity; a lot of the information that brands hold just isn’t being used to its full potential. We’ve got to a stage where understanding customer behaviour, and using this to target brand messages, is a given. Now we have the opportunity to be even more customer-centric.

How can we do it differently?

First of all, marketers need to ask more questions. ‘Why are consumers doing XYZ?’ ‘What motivates them?’ ‘Why do they visit certain places at particular times?’ ‘What do audiences really want?’ Consider the ‘essential human truths’ – like finding a partner and achieving a sense of purpose – are these at all helpful when it comes to understanding the behaviour of your audience on a deeper level? New consumer insights enable marketers to target their communications and better meet the needs of individuals.

Feel-Good Example: How Nike used data to motivate and inspire

Nike+’s suite of personal fitness products and services successfully delivers a seamlessly integrated, insight-driven service, which appeals directly to their active audience. No matter what platform (web, app, smartphone, tablet, etc.), Nike+ puts the relevant data to the best possible use by considering why consumers use certain apps and devices at particular times, and for what purpose. The great thing about it is that the experience of a first-time runner will be very different to that of an experienced marathon runner.


If we assume that users want to improve their fitness and feel a sense of achievement, data collected via sensor technologies embedded into wearable devices – and the insights gleaned from these – can help shape a bespoke user experience. For example, running routes and times may be valuable to the user in their raw form, but this becomes even more valuable when Nike+ uses the same information to monitor progress, create training programmes, offer motivation and connect like-minded users. This refined experience takes the product beyond being purely functional and adds an (all important) emotional element as well. What’s more, users are given the opportunity to post their accomplishments on social media (an example of purpose-led platform integration) therefore heightening their sense of achievement within a social setting.

3) Keeping ears open

What’s the problem?

Brands are fantastic at talking about themselves and the world as they see it, but sometimes fall down when it comes to listening to evolving social conversations and adapting to changing customer needs.

Why it’s a problem?

People switch off if the conversation is always one-way. The desire to be reassured of our self worth is an inherently human trait. A one-way conversation is belittling — it puts the views and opinions of one party (in this case, the brand) over and above those of another (the consumer). Where a brand talks insistently about it’s own interests, and shuts its eyes and ears to audience feedback, it will miss valuable insights and make people feel undervalued. The opposite of what we want to achieve. 

How can we do it differently?

In order to adapt, evolve and keep consumers happy, marketers need to know exactly what is being said about their brand and their current campaigns across all media channels. They need to assimilate the ways in which people engage with content produced, and decipher what works well and what falls flat. So listening is absolutely key. After all, without the consumer, all brands become meaningless.

The style in which a brand communicates should help the consumer feel accepted, respected and appreciated. They should feel better off as a result of it. Consumers enjoy having opportunities to talk to brands, so actively invite this through what you say and through creating a supportive, friendly and helpful environment in which to ‘talk’. The way to improve customer experience is to listen to, and develop ideas with, the consumer — allow people to be part of your brand story going forward. Together brand and consumer can clarify, energise and amplify brand experiences.

Evolve with your customers

Communication is not just about what marketers say to their audiences, it’s about mutually beneficial conversations. To communicate effectively, brands must know and understand the customer journey and why people take the pathways that they do. When brand purpose is imbued with customer insight, brands can deliver richer and more rewarding experiences. Times are changing, there’s no longer an excuse for not being customer-centric with a plethora of data, and various different customer touch points at our disposal. Brands that use this knowledge to provide informed and insightful communications, and meet the ever-evolving needs of the consumer, are likely to succeed in the long term.

Image credit: Tom Fishburne™ Copyright © 2015 Marketoonist. All rights reserved.

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