• September 30, 2020
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Required Reading: Marketing Without the Filters

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CONSUMERS TODAY no longer trust traditional marketing, preferring instead to make their own decisions based on raw footage, real-time updates, and unfiltered livestreams. How, then, do marketing executives and others gain consumer trust?

Authors Stephen Denny and Paul Leinberger, principals in the consulting firm Denny + Leinberger Strategy, have developed a process for rehumanizing the digital brand experience and regaining customer loyalty, which they outline in their new book Unfiltered MarketingCRM Editor Leonard Klie recently spoke with Denny to find out more.

CRM: In the book, you assert that consumers have come to distrust curated content and traditional PR. Why do you think that is?

Denny: This is largely due to the ubiquity of technology. When we look at enormous societal trends, the only thing we trust is ourselves—our own eyes, ears, and judgment. We’re no longer willing to be told what to think or believe by people we no longer trust.

Once we embrace this big idea, it not only explains a lot of what we see around us, but it changes how we look at how we, as businesspeople, need to approach our internal and external stakeholders.

One of the main premises of the book is that companies can still “re-humanize the digital brand experience.” What does that mean?

Consumers increasingly control the brand experience. Consumers are the decision makers, influencers, broadcasters, and often co-creators of their experiences.

When the consumer controls the experience, the company’s ability to be the hero diminishes. And that’s fine. The company’s role is to be available, to answer questions when they occur, and to be as human as possible in an increasingly flattened digital world.

The book outlines a process for this re-humanization. How does it work?

We looked at the framework emerging from the data and realized it was self-organizing around three big ideas.

The first we called “Seeking control in an out-of-control world.” We no longer trust the institutions around us. We want more visibility, control, and access on demand.

The second we called “Raw.” But as our research went on, this idea began to diverge into several sub-concepts.

The first of these branches we named “Raw Means Unscripted.” We believe information when it hasn’t been manipulated or heavily produced. We trust the off-the-cuff more than what comes from post-production.

The second we called “Raw Means In-Process.” We are more trusting of processes in which we are personally involved

The third is “Raw Means In-Context.” This speaks to the audience’s need to know more, to become an expert. We want to explain where our products came from, all the way back to the farm. We want to explain the backstory to viewers so they understand what they’re seeing. Creating experts is more powerful than simply attracting fans, because experts spread the word in a deeper manner, providing context to those they meet.

This last big idea is “Heroic Credibility.” Breaking through in an increasingly polarized age means we have to appeal to deeply held values in a credible manner. It’s not enough to simply be the loudest or brashest. We need to tap into something deeper. Companies need to stand for something and have the fortitude to stand up for themselves.

Individually, each of these macro consumer trends are powerful and can be used effectively by smart students of business to be more effective in their communications, marketing, design, and management decisions.

If there is one message you want readers to take away from this book, what would it be?

Technology has had a profound impact on culture, so much so that how we view credibility, authority, and value have all changed. This is not a subtle shift. This is a fundamentally important change in how people view brands, candidates, movements, and other institutions.

Smart companies need to pay attention to this. The old rules can no longer win hearts and minds in an age where consumers expect to be spoken to in a radically different way.

As one CMO of a Fortune 500 told us, “This changes how we need to look at everything.” We couldn’t agree more.

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