Dwayne Flinchum, President, ScientificBrandsTM
Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that the Biden administration had been recruiting online influencers to carry the public health message for vaccinations. Suddenly, 17-year-olds like Ellie Zeiler were engaged on TikTok, promoting a toolkit of scripted language to get Americans to make an appointment to get vaccinated.
Marketing in 2021 is rife with new challenges to present your message to the desired audience. The Internet is roaring with opinionated noise and information (or misinformation). Retail is in the midst of a revolution. News cycles are faster. It’s increasingly difficult to rise above the clutter of a mind-numbing proliferation of messages on social media platforms and pages.
Also, COVID is impacting consumer behavior in ways that is still being understood. As strategists and marketers, we are working through data to assess the driving factors behind motivations and mindshare. Promoting basic concepts like good healthcare and vaccinations to prevent disease have become politicized. Traditionally accepted government policy recommendations are upturned through conspiracy theories and misinformation online. Former President Obama remarked in June that disinformation continues to concern him, and should concern every American.
The result is a growing lack of customer trust in organizations, especially young or unproven brands. The dizzying cacophony of published content has created a dearth of trust online. Consumers are increasingly weary of their data privacy, according to a 2020 Report on Trust by Edelman. In fact, 76% of respondents in a survey worried about false information or fake news being used as a weapon. And 57% of respondents think the media they use are contaminated with untrustworthy information. So, trust is still the Holy Grail and it appears to be growing even more crucial to achieve desired actions or a change in behavior.
How do we combat this growing level of mistrust? Influencers, like the ones that the White House engaged, is a wise option and should be considered by every marketer. Increasing press or earned media in quality outlets is another, and the importance of striking smart, effective content-sharing partnerships with established peer organizations can help validate a brand.
But these solutions will require that we deliver even more, often with less bandwidth. Existing marketing teams are strained and many organizations are managing workforce change as the “great resignation” takes hold and as successful recruitment becomes more difficult.
To compound matters, internal teams are struggling to populate and manage the ever-growing universe of digital media. We understand that we must expand reach, validate our branded messages through recruiting trusted messengers, and extend our communications onto new platforms and channels with greater frequency. If managing the brand status quo was difficult in 2011, ten years later it is one of the most complex and confusing conundrums in history. We are either moving forward or losing ground; there appears to be no time to rest on our laurels.
Is it time to pull back? To the contrary, now is when we must “pull out the stops” — a perfect metaphor. The “stops” in this instance originally referred to the stop knobs on a pipe organ, which are used to regulate the instrument’s sound by selecting which sets of pipes are active at a given time. The stop knobs control which ranks will have air flow, meaning which ranks will have sound. To pull out all the stops literally, then, is to pull out every knob so that air (content, in this case) is allowed to blast through every rank (channel) as the organist plays, creating a powerful blast of unfiltered sound. Applied to marketing this would require a well-researched, strategic plan to allocate budget, messages and creative.
This work is not for the faint of mind or heart. Such a rigorous approach demands a level of expertise and an enormous investment of time. Many organizations are not equipped internally to meet the demands of these emerging needs. Their experience and level of authority do not enable them to embark on a top-down, enterprise level research, planning and implementation. Such an endeavor to elevate the brand should be developed, or at least guided, by experienced, trusted consultants.
In 2021, and looking ahead to 2022, now is not the time to retreat or temper marketing operations. Because with every disruption there are challenges, but there are also opportunities to reset strategy, innovate, and pioneer new business value models and ways to engage, inform and inspire an action. Now is the time to review the new landscape and be proactive. It is time to devise the right plan — and pull out the stops.
About the Author: Dwayne Flinchum is the President of ScientificBrands™. With 30+ years of experience, he has worked in the strategic planning and development of brand identity, media, marketing and communications initiatives, leading image-defining engagements for global companies and nonprofit organizations. Flinchum founded IridiumGroup and led the firm to success as a brand consultancy for global clients by managing strategic and creative consulting for preeminent private foundations, professional associations, and national cause-based member organizations. For 18 years, he played a significant role in differentiating and building the Accenture brand worldwide. In 2016, Flinchum became a member of the Leadership Team and the Director of Marketing and Communications at the Child Mind Institute and in just three years, achieved accelerated growth of 300-400% across KPIs to dramatically grow audience, build brand awareness, and extend the reach of the public education program and its online resources.