3:42PM February 24 2015
It’s an election year, which means for at least two months we’re going to be bombarded with carefully-crafted, focus-group-polished messages that are supposed to persuade us to go out and vote. Whether you’re a member of a “hard working family” or the “squeezed middle” – or maybe even a “skiver or a striver” – you’re going to be hit with everything they’ve got.
But if the political parties are trying so hard to get us to care, why do their efforts have the opposite effect? Since 1945, turnout for UK general elections has fallen from a high of 83.9% in 1950 to a low of 59.4% in 2001. Turnout for the 2010 general election was 65.1% – higher than the previous two elections, but still the third lowest since the introduction of universal suffrage. People simply don’t like or trust politicians and that’s down to that most elusive of qualities: authenticity.
The funny thing is that authenticity is as simple as being confident enough to be yourself. Sounds easy, right?
So what stops politicians from being themselves? Fear. What if they don’t like me? What if this or that happens? When you’re fearful, you lack confidence. When you lack confidence, you’re more concerned about offending than inspiring. You find yourself making decisions based on the best worst-case scenario. You end up communicating in vaguely positive soundbites that won’t rock anyone’s world but won’t offend anyone either.
It’s the same for brands. Everybody’s looking for something real and authentic these days. We’ll seek it out and pay extra for it. It’s no coincidence that most confident brands have a strong founder at their heart (Virgin and Apple, for example). People who strike out on their own have uncommon levels of confidence. They are the embodiment of the brand and its values. This makes it easy for people to understand and engage with the brand. People get people – getting brands is trickier. Not every brand can have a figurehead either.
But confidence is still the key. “We want to appear confident, but not arrogant,” is something I often read in client briefs. Understandable; who wants to appear arrogant? But confident people and brands don’t agonise over whether they appear arrogant or not, because they’re confident they’re not arrogant. They are themselves. Some people love them, some people don’t, which is okay. But having an authentic brand that people can believe in starts with liking and being proud of it.
Letting go of fear and not marketing to the lowest common denominator is the start – and yes, it takes courage, trust and confidence in your brand.
The answer has always been easy. Doing it is the tough bit.
The Guardian have also been sharing Martin’s thoughts