Not long ago, marketing was simpler. You bought some ad space and printed a message about your product or service. But the people exposed to that message couldn’t communicate back. It was a one-way conversation from companies to consumers. You put “Enjoy Coke” on a billboard and assumed that the people that read it did just that. “Got Milk?” was all you needed to get a laugh and hopefully a sale. But advances in communication technology have changed all that, moving marketing from a monologue to a dialog.
It’s a conversation now. Consumers are expecting to be heard by the brands they’re loyal to. They’re expecting companies to share their politics, their outlooks, and to answer them when they’re not getting what they want. The response to “Enjoy Coke” today would be a skeptical “Why?”. Brands have to go deeper in defining themselves, be more active in supporting that definition, and be ready to react when they’re called out for not being who they claim to be. It’s a higher level of social accountability than companies are used to and some are adapting better than others.
Some brands excel at finding their voice on social media. Take for example fast food Twitter accounts like Wendy’s and Denny’s. Their understanding of who they are and being able to laugh at themselves resonates with their audience. They’re not selling a serious product and their communication reflects that.
Some brands are more serious and rally behind important causes, at the risk of alienating their consumers. Nike took a gamble in partnering with controversial sports figure Colin Kaepernick, but in addition to generating a lot of conversation on social media, it also drove huge financial growth.
Voice and tone don’t just apply to static taglines anymore. It’s how brands speak to their consumers, to one another, and how they represent themselves to the world. Sales aren’t driven by commands anymore, rather, they’re driven by interaction, engagement, and loyalty. Every brand has a story to tell and consumers are ready and listening.