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How to use communications in the face of uncertainty

CreativeRace Comms Director Amy Airey

Marketers are working harder than ever to master the art of nudging consumers through to conversion, writes Amy Airey, Communications Director at Leeds agency CreativeRace. This is only going to get harder during the current climate, with people keeping a closer eye on their finances  and looking for value-led alternatives in some instances.

This will undoubtedly impact consumers’ relationships with brands so we need to re-think our strategies and make sure we have a solid understanding of rational unpredictability, and the role comms can play in counteracting it.

We understand the premise of Dan Ariely’s theory of rational unpredictability i.e. that what people say isn’t always supported by what they do (have a read of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions to learn more). A product might seem appealing when asked about it, for example, but there are so many underlying psychological factors that might prevent a target customer from acting in a certain way – and actually purchasing it – even if it seems logical.

This means that brands need to understand so much more about their audience than they may have previously realised, and filter this down into their comms strategies. It’s no longer enough to create comms strategies based on a simplified picture of a target audience e.g. based on the demographic, age and gender of your audience/customer. We need to understand their behaviours and what drives any [predictable] irrational behaviours in order to produce content that engages and counteracts these blockers and place this content within the right channels.

Let’s take a look at a few practical actions we can easily adopt:

Scrutinising campaigns

Think about your priorities for 2023. What are the core objectives of all marketing activity? Are you going to meet these through that big all singing, all dancing activation you’ve been planning for the last few months?

It may be planned to engage with your target customer and give you great content to amplify on your social channels, but will it drive behavioural change? Will it make your audience buy your product or service after the event, or will it be a flash in the pan one hit wonder (and potentially buy you – or your agency – an award win)?

Is there a way your activity can be adapted to counteract any blockers you know your brand will be up against? If so, why not face these head on and address them; lean into them to demonstrate that you understand times are tough but want to form a long-lasting relationship rather than a clumsy dalliance with your audience?

Simplifying activity

Less can be more. Picking your moments is key. People are time poor and cutting through the noise is hard. Strip things back and look at what’s worked previously and what hasn’t. Don’t fall into the trap of rolling out the same activity year after year because ‘that’s just what you do’. You’re smarter than that. Even if something performed well last year, doesn’t mean it will again…

We’re in the midst of a cost of living crisis – consumers will be watching what brands are doing with their marketing spend and assessing whether they’re spending it appropriately or being frivolous. Have they hit the right note or are they miles out? If your comms activity resonates with your audience, they’re more likely to engage with your brand, join your community and, longer-term, convert.

Staying on strategy

It’s so easy to set a strategy and forget to police whether all activity links back to it. You can get carried away with a big idea that could be brilliant but will take you off track and further away from achieving your long-term goals.

You can put a simple check list in place – does the proposed activity align with our key messaging? Will it reach the right audience? Will it help to meet our overarching objectives? Is it timely or are there any external factors we need to consider? There will always be exceptions to the rule, but the holy grail of successful marketing is staying in your lane and driving well.

Seeing what your customers see

Put yourself in their shoes. What would stop you from converting if you were on the outside looking in? Invest in making sure you understand your audience. Monitor the media they consume. What key events are happening in their lives that you can tap into or that might impact their purchasing decisions? Your strategies should include messaging and tactics to face predictable irrationality amongst your audience – as best as you can – head on.

Times are tough but people are seeking stability and this is something brands should latch onto. In a world where uncertainty is rife, be the brand that strikes a chord for the right reasons. Be tasteful with your marketing activity, be aware of what’s going on in the world and, most importantly, get under the skin of your customers to understand what exactly you can do to be a brand of choice for now and for the future.

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