The brand and the digital conversation

12 November 2010 at 9:32 am Leave a comment

Andrew Curry writes:

I was invited to Munich earlier this week by the insurance group Allianz to talk to its Brand Council about the brand in the age of the digital conversation. The company’s just launched its ‘One’ campaign, which promotes engagement with consumers through sharing. The emphasis is on real people in authentic situations giving or sharing useful advice or a valuable experience. Digital and social media are a central part of the process.

There are two things that companies seem most concerned about when they jump into social media. The first is that they are merely opening up a new channel for criticism and complaint, and they will be overwhelmed by this. But these conversations happen online whether or not the company decided to be involved, as BP discovered, spectacularly, with the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The second concern is that consumers are interested only in price when they engage with companies online. It’s certainly true that the internet has created a whole new category of intermediaries whose only story is about discounting, and that the insurance industry (selling low involvement, abstract, commoditisable products) is particularly vulnerable to them.

But despite the recession, our Global MONITOR research shows that people are more willing to buy branded goods provided they are persuaded that they are getting value from them. And they need to be convinced of those benefits, in authentic everyday language, without being confronted by corporate-speak. Get it right, and you create a virtuous circle, as in the diagram at the top of this post. Get it wrong, and you get punished for it.

Elsewhere in the financial sector, Nat West has attempted to regain trust with its ‘Customer Charter‘, which has provoked as much scepticism as admiration. But in the digital age, markets and brands are conversations, and conversation is missing from the Nat West model. Their campaign could have run any time in the last 30 years.

In contrast, some of the early Allianz campaign executions involve their customers talking, in branch, unscripted, about what’s important to them. There are risks here, but at least it feels like a company stepping into the 21st century.

A version of this post first appeared on the blog of the advertising and marketing portal WARC, with which The  Futures Company has a strategic relationship.

Entry filed under: advertising, brands, consumers, digital, financial services. Tags: , .

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The Futures Company blog

The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.


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