Here’s a quick thought experiment.
You receive an email from your bank. The logo and design looks authentic, the email address include the bank’s name but the font seems different to the one they use on their website, the one you see in the bank’s leaflets, and come to think of it, the one featured on the posters in the branch. Maybe it’s just down to the medium or the device you’re using… or perhaps not.
Do you trust the email enough to click on the link?
Being consistently consistent is one of the most vital ingredients in establishing an authentic and trusted brand. Our innate ability to perceive inconsistency when it comes to brand messages isn’t something new. The life of early hunter-gatherers might well have depended on their ability to identify the one berry that isn’t consistent. Our senses, it seems, are primed to seek out inconsistency, and our brains are programmed to distrust it.
Marketers are increasingly seeking to create authentic experiences, where consumers feel a genuine and lasting human connection to the brand. You don’t have to be an evolutionary psychologist to know that establishing authenticity requires consistency – and that we can only communicate consistency through appealing to consumers’ senses… senses that were programmed way back in our primordial past.
Delighting consumers with visuals has long been a primary focus (and spend) of marketers. But in an age where consumers are primed by social media to spot inauthentic content, marketers in 2019 need to up their game. I’m always amazed by how many consumer-facing brands still rely on highly-artificial stock photos. Even well produced, quality brand content doesn’t necessarily feel relatable or trustworthy to consumers – especially when shared on social platforms where authenticity is king.
A 2017 study by Mavrck found that influencer-generated content is 6.9x more effective than a brand’s studio content at generating a purchase. Through our research at Olapic (part of the Monotype brand family), we found that consumers trust images on social media created by other consumers 7x more than they trust conventional advertising.
To appeal to consumers on social, the verdict is in: marketers need to keep it real and leverage user and influencer content. At the same time, they need to do this in a way that’s consistent with the brand’s wider identity and ethos.
In the last five years, we’ve seen tech companies and brands appeal to our sense of sound more than ever before. Smart speakers have become the fastest ever consumer-adopted devices, surpassing the adoption rate of the smartphone. Part of the key to their success is the fact that talking to a voice assistant feels more authentically human than tapping on a screen.
Smart speakers are now an integral part of our homes, but missing interruptive advertising, they require brands to be more conversational in their approach to consumers. Cue myriad brands hastily building ‘skills’ or ‘actions’ for users to deploy.
We’re in the midst of a voice gold rush, but brands need to take care that they apply the same strategic approach to designing voice experiences that they would for designing say, an online or print experience. If the brand’s voice experiences diverge from its wider positioning, as consumers we’re far less likely to trust it and engage. Innovation is not an excuse for inconsistency.
Every brand has a complex identity – from the typefaces it uses, down to the brand colours, the logo, choice of visual assets, voice experiences and even pack designs. Brands need to make design and technology choices that ensure consistency across every touch point whatever the device, channel or region. Like that inconsistent email from the bank, anything less undermines authenticity, erodes trust and ultimately could mean today’s very modern humans simply decide not to pick the berry.