LONDON: Brands need to spend more time talking to consumers and "keep the quality of those conversations strong" if they are to enjoy the maximum benefits from using social media, says Simon Pestridge, global brand director, sportswear at Nike.

An increasing number of advertisers are attempting to utilise social media to connect with consumers, but the rapid growth of the medium has meant that a best practice approach has been slow to emerge.

Speaking at the recent Revolution Forum in London, Pestridge argued that in difficult economic conditions, brands need to "peel back the layers and focus on what you are great at."

More specifically, he said consumers "want authenticity and will look to brands they trust. So if you get this right, the media you choose to use becomes a secondary consideration."

The sportswear company is aiming to "carry on a legacy of innovative thinking" through "developing products that help athletes of every ability to reach their potential" and pursuing "opportunities that set Nike apart from the competition."

With regard to producing innovative marketing, the main challenge is to "push the boundaries of what's possible whilst not going off too far into left field."

In order to do justice to Nike's products, the company must also "ensure we engage the consumer in an equally innovative way that cuts through the clutter that surrounds them," Pestridge said.

Successfully achieving this goal, he added, depends on "the quality of the work" produced, which is of enduring appeal despite the fact consumer behaviour is changing in the downturn.

This is especially true of social media, where, "perhaps more so than in other forms of media, people are influenced by what they like and what they are hearing and seeing."

Indeed, Pestridge argued, while "ten years ago media spend would significantly outweigh production in an above-the-line campaign", this has now changed.

If a brand puts "more into the production of a campaign and keep that quality high, social media and online can work for you," he concluded.

Data sourced from Revolution; additional content by WARC staff