This year’s Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) RESET was all about helping advertisers do better and the various manifestations of that somewhat oblique phrasing (lead image: Josh Faulks, CEO AANA).
“My job, and the job of everyone at AANA, is to work with you to make our industry even better,” said Faulks in his opening remarks.
“It means better advertising, better marketing, better industry, better community, better sustainability, and better diversity.”
To that end, the show’s lineup was chock-full of speakers promising the insights to get adland thinking a bit more and performing a bit better.
Ukonwa Ojo, the former CMO of Amazon Prime Video in the US and more recently the founder and CEO of Zaia Ventures, explained that there are surprisingly simple steps that brands can take to better advertise to diverse audiences.
“If I go back to my experience at Amazon Prime Video, when you’re looking to bring in new customers, most brands realise that the biggest gap of customers they have are those that they have been ignoring for decades and centuries.
“I ended up seeing that organisations have the data but don’t necessarily act upon it or have the right folks on the team to act on those opportunities. It has never been a lack of data in any organisation that I’ve ever gone into. It’s never been a lack of data.”
Reaching these consumers, however, can occasionally require a change of mindset for businesses.
“The customers are there. They’re purchasing something, not yours, or they may not be aware of what they could be participating in because you haven’t told them,” added Ojo.
“It’s one thing understanding what insight is going to be a bridge to those communities and another having a team that has the know-how to connect with those customers in an emotional way.”
When it comes to data, Andrew Therkeslen, managing director of The Lab, Sydney, explained how consumer expectations of brands had changed irrevocably.
“We saw in the study that 66 per cent of people feel confused about and completely disregard the communications that they see,” he explained.
“There certainly is the sense that from certain companies that it can feel disingenuous, which, I think sometimes is quite unfair because I think that there is a real hesitation and nervousness from certain businesses to talk about the good that they are doing because they are worried that it will feel inauthentic.”
Bernard Salt, executive director of The Demographics Group, concurred.
“[Consumers have] a newfound intelligence, but there is also a newfound sensitivity,” said Salt.
“Customers today are more concerned about trust issues, authenticity, transparency, and meaning. I will look at where something is made, I will look to see whether there is an ethical element to it. So, I think that customers are more educated – some might even say opinionated.
“This actually leads to a better consumer world where you have customers making a choice not just on price. It’s price, plus whether it is ethically produced. Do they feel good about buying it and does that purchase make a contribution to how they see themselves as a brand?”
As a result, consumers are voting with their feet and leaving brands behind.
“More than a third of consumers have made definitive ethical choices because of the perceived goodness of a brand,” added Therkeslen.
“When you build goodness into the brand equity model and you see that 10 per cent of a brand’s whole equity is based on goodness, and if you equate that to the loyalty systems in supermarkets, for example, I think that’s quite a profound finding.”
However, there is a generational divide between consumers.
“That will only grow. That number is a baseline right now,” explained Therkeslen.
“As time goes on and Gen Z becomes even more of a purchasing powerhouse than it is already that 10 per cent can grow, and grow, and grow. It is super important for maintaining brand value and brand equity.”
“Australians are here to make a choice. Previously, people would just look at the price and whether they were prepared to pay that price,” added Salt.
“Now, people want to see whether it is ethically sourced and ethically produced.”
But with companies tightening their belts, is it possible for marketers to try and shift their brands’ outlooks to focus more on ethical business? Faulks believed that marketers don’t really have a choice.
“Our industry is facing a few challenges at the moment. We all know about the stubbornly high inflation and the 10 consecutive interest rate hikes and how that is causing a cost-of-living crisis for many Australians.
“That means brands are asking consumers to pay more for their products, with less, which is the ultimate test of brand loyalty. At the same time, the cost of doing business, for so many is rising dramatically, which is squeezing margins.
“So, there is a very strong argument that these economic times should be seen as an opportunity for brands: An opportunity to expand deeper customer connections; an opportunity to increase excess share of voice; and an opportunity to gain market share in the long term.
And, I don’t think we should underestimate the power of our industry to help businesses grow even during challenging times and to be a force for positive change. This is when we step up. This is when we thrive. So, I am going to keep talking up the industry and I encourage every single one of you to do the same.”
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