“Stop Shouting At Consumers And Innovate”: Edelman’s Michelle Hutton

“Stop Shouting At Consumers And Innovate”: Edelman’s Michelle Hutton

Australians are the most difficult, cynical people on the planet and are sick of being dictated to by brands says Edelman’s global chair of consumer marketing, Michelle Hutton.

Niki Waldegrave
Posted by Niki Waldegrave

“People feel like brands are shouting at them,” Hutton told B&T, “and what came through strongly is that ‘new’ is just not good enough any more. We’re really letting down consumers, despite the fact businesses are innovating.”

Edelman recently released results from a study that was conducted in 10 countries over 70 months around consumer attitudes and concerns around brand innovation, the power of peer conversations to shape those attitudes, and the behaviours of successful brand innovators.

“What we found really interesting,” she added, “was that in Australia, 67 per cent of the people we spoke to said, ‘actually we’re actually really bored and frustrated and constantly being told to, upgrade, upgrade’. That 67 per cent of Australians was much higher than the global average.”

She then laughed, “and as an Australian I can say this, but Australians tend to be the most difficult and cynical people on the planet. They’re saying, ‘stop yelling and shouting at me about upgrading – you’ve really got to work harder to inspire me’.

“And, almost from a marketing and communication standpoint, ‘give me more of the emotional reasoning behind what you’re doing as a brand. Why innovating? Why is this innovation important? How is it going to make my mind better as opposed to telling me about the upgrade, and what is it’? We found that people really believe in the promise of innovation.”

Hutton said the findings show that confused consumers don’t know what to believe anymore, with two out of three saying brands aren’t communicating innovation efficiently.

And due to photo manipulation in ads and online, the overwhelming message from consumers is “is what we’re seeing real?”

However, it was discovered that brands win if they really power through peer conversation, so they carried out the study through the lens of disruptive innovators like Airbnb and Uber.

“We really wanted to delve into why is that those brands are being so successful in changing people’s behaviour around certain categories,” revealed Hutton. “Most importantly, how that brand overcome people’s concerns around privacy, security in particular. Because if you think about it, the data that people now make available freely offline to those brands is extraordinary.

“So we really delved into this whole peer to peer conversation piece. We’ve always known the importance of peer to peer innovation and conversation. Now through the lens of this innovational disruptive innovation, where we went and talked to people, they were saying ‘well, actually, I’m more trusting of what my peers are saying’. There’s a great quote that we got out of some qualitative work we did, which was, ‘other people’s experience is now my evidence’. That came through really, really, strong.”

Hutton claims the other thing that came through that came through around brand behaviour and gaining consumer trust was around making your mark and having a purpose.

“Consumers are saying, ‘we want to be inspired by innovation’,” she added. “They expect innovation to come from businesses today and, actually, expect businesses outside of technology and mobile. Have a purpose. They said, ‘reassure me about my societal concerns’.”

Hutton, who currently lives in London, said the brands at risk of tanking are those that don’t make their peer reviews readily available, refusing to share the good, the bad and the ugly.

“Consumers are sceptical about those brands,” she added. “If you think of, TripAdvisor, for example. The way that now properties, airlines, etc are quite openly transparent on that side about their reviews.

“If you think about those properties that respond to challenging or negative comments in a constructive way often are the ones that are viewed as having more authenticity, that are behaving in a conversation. They’re the brands that are being trusted more.”