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The Way Businesses Treated People In 2017

It has been a rough 2017. However, what it has highlighted is the importance of having something to say, to a specific audience.

There has never been a more important time to have meaning with someone else, so they see you as a place of relevance, trust and more importantly, want to work with you.

Are we starting to lose a sense of who we are and the role we serve for others, whilst access to self posturing and the scramble for acceptance ramps up to even higher levels?

2017 has been a year that highlights the importance of leaning into an audience who are going to care, whilst on the other side isolate even further from the people with whom companies want to connect with.

Lets share some of the highs and lows from this year, but also a bit of a deeper meaning for what you can make work your side.


To Get People To Pay Attention To You, You Are Going To Have To Earn It

It has been a well presented piece in many spaces in 2017, but trust has hit an all time low.

In 2016, I took solace that people trusted businesses far more than the media and the government. It really became the life for the whole ‘you are the media’ mantra. Then things took a different turn.

UK business trust (as highlighted in January), is at its lowest since 2012, it has plummeted. Whilst people do not trust the media (24%) and government (26%), business is now falling into the same bracket (33%). This is highlighted by the Edelman Trust Barometer survey from February.

Lets look at it though in another angle. You can either throw the towel in, or recognise that it is time for a clean slate. We are now all on a level playing field. Lets see who can grab the momentum, whilst the others stick to what they have always done before to get us in this mess.

Message – you can treat everyone the same as the rest of your industry, or recognise that to build trust, you have to dig deep and show that you really do provide value to others. The content you create helps nurture relationships. Relationships build trust and trust leads to loyalty.


Meaning Has To Be Key For Others To Say ‘I Get It’

Havas Group and their Meaningful Brands study during 2017, was quite blunt by highlighting that 60% surveyed, from a population of 300,000 people, recognise that the content created by companies is ‘poor, irrelevant or fails to deliver.’

So, it is safe to say that while a company thinks that a message is one where people are going to form an orderly queue, the majority of people think differently. As a business, your audience at the end of the day, is never you.

Message – just because you can send a message and think that reach is the ultimate goal, you still have to be interesting enough for people to be bothered. Then they might do something ie. click, open, react, converse. You can’t go heavy on substance, when no one is bothered in the first place.


Be Responsible To Those Who Make That Commitment

Google have recently stated that they will employ 10,000 staff to tackle extremist content. Back in March, things started to look worrying. Google were looking at mass boycotts from brands such as The British Government, Pepsi, Johnson & Johnson.

Banners appeared over videos posted by extremist groups. Whilst Google acted and now have a workforce, at the end of 2017, it highlights a brand with a transparency problem while their focus has been making money, by any means necessary. It also further highlights the lack of trust between consumers and business, as seen in the section above.

Message – You can’t just tell people you have their best intentions at heart. Everything you say and do has to come across as a stamp of authenticity or people are going to easily see through the veneer.


When There Is No Connection, We’ll All Turn Our Backs On You

This has been in abundance this year, when there is an absolute lack of connectivity with an audience that causes mockery and outrage.

The most well documented example this year has been Pepsi. A privileged reality TV star (Kendall Jenner) became the beacon for a generation embracing world peace upon the streets of social unrest, but from a brand that has never stood for rebellion or social exclusion. The advert was lifted and wiped off the face of YouTube.

When you get found out for being false and going way off the mark for who you are, you are castigated. This also happened after the World Athletics Championship, during August, when the National Lottery ran their #Represent campaign on Twitter.

This was intended to retweet messages where members of the GB team held up placards showing the text sent and thanking people for their support.

What should have started as an innocent response, resulted in athletes making reference from Jimmy Saville to Madeline McCann. It wasn’t until the following day (Tuesday) that the National Lottery took action and cancelled. However, the damage was already done. The British public had a field day, similar to the one they had with #WalkersWave this summer.

There was absolutely no form of connectivity, just a campaign driven by automation and people stood up to have a play.

Social campaigns, such as #Represent are completely backfiring. This is because brands are walking out of the room and expecting to come back where we have all behaved obediently and done as we were told.

others for granted

Message – forced messages that have no relevance or are forced upon others are then kicked into touch. Whatever you create and share has to resonate with others. When it is not believable, all it represents is what has been happening for generations with companies paying to rent a space to tell everyone else what they think they should be. In 2017, people stood up and called others out.


Just Because You Want To Be Everyone’s Mate, Doesn’t Mean They Want To Play With You

During the summer, pub chain, Wetherspoons decided to delete their entire email database (nearly 700,000 people). The database has been wiped clean. This was a brave move to put everything in the bin. However, how many of those 700,000 wanted to receive emails about the curry clubs and cider festivals, or just wanted free wi-fi?

Businesses have been finding anyway they can become everyone’s friend by thinking that someone else is going to think that they are ‘a straight up’ person.

This is all about to change in 2018. The General Data Protection Regulation from 25th May 2018, is the equivalent of being in the same room as everyone else, but having a conversation that clicks with someone else and then it becomes reciprocal. This means that you get on, you shared contact info, you kept the conversation going, it became fluid, not forced.

This is something that switched in 2017 for Lloyds Bank where they made the change from product related information ie. the Wetherspoons mantra, to becoming audience driven, by creating and distributing relevant content. In the run up to Christmas, according to The Drum, ‘Lloyds might have previously emailed customers about the latest credit card deals or rewards for opening a new bank account. This year, customers will instead receive information about how to shop safely online or what to do if they realise they’ve been the victim of identity theft.’

Message – we are all part of a level playing field (no one trusts businesses at the moment, see at the top), so why not take advantage of it? People will be more willing to opt into your message when they see something they can relate to and not become coerced into something they never really wanted in the first place. Look at it this way, if you think ‘this company is just sending me rubbish,’ would you send relentless product messages to others?


You Find A Group, You Lean So Far Into That Group, You Get A Bad Back

This year has proven that if you transmit and distribute a message that does not make any connection to a targeted audience, then it is the equivalent of throwing a stick and thinking that it is a boomerang.

You create loyalty when people know you are ready to stand by their side. This happened in June’s General Election. According to YouGov, 63% of 18 to 29 years olds voted for Labour.

By having youth on their side, the ability for Labour to centre a relevant message to a targeted audience who hated austerity and Brexit, resonated. Labour shown that they cared about young people and their circumstances. The notable highlights were the end of tuition fees and a house-building programme with the intention for more people to find a way onto the property ladder. There was also the Grime4Corbyn campaign group for grime stars to encourage their audience to vote for Labour.

Message – the days of thinking that everyone is your target audience, is becoming a distant and expensive memory to hold onto. You have the ability to build a loyal audience whereby the content you create is what people want to engage with. You don’t need to be swayed into thinking that you should be putting all your eggs in the Facebook basket. They own the audience, not you.

Understand what it is you want to say and an angle that sits away from the rest of your industry and what you have heard for years. There are people out there too that are tired with the cut and paste messages that have filled spaces or just lack any kind of guts and conviction.


Lets Round Up

It is fair to say that 2017 has been a tough year. The result of Brexit, weak wage growth and rising prices are putting a strain on the UK.

Whilst we look around us and see companies disappearing up themselves where the future centres on bots, VR and AI, lets just put the breaks on first and get some basics in order. The ability to create a message that has meaning to someone else, is far stronger than thinking that connectivity is via a headset to take you away from reality.

Lets find a way of being normal to grow from. To treat others in the way that we want to be treated. We don’t need to live in automated worlds where a response is greeted in a vaccuum but create a sense of differentiation by bringing our characters, our vulnerabilities, our flaws and what we believe in to the front of the stage.

It is this that encourages engagement and response and where we become accepted, respected and acknowledged by others. Whether this is sharing what is broken within your industry, the lessons you take on board or the value you create for the right people, not everyone, this is where opportunity sits.

Even if you have limited resources, running a business to be more normal and is reflected both offline and online, can lead to abundance. This is opposite to others who use channels as free advertising and the mentality we have always had to interrupt, disrupt and manipulate.

The trends for 2018 are not about looking to generate a market from thin air, but to learn and develop what you already know and tailor it to be recognised of having value to others. It is ok not knowing, but more important to be inquisitive and trusting intuition and share the experiences gained. This is how you nurture a buying audience.

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