This post is by Charlie Meredith, Managing Director at Time Inc. UK Advertising.
People – I mean real people – are all too easily forgotten. Advertisers and marketers spend so much time thinking about them that they forget who they really are. People are not consumers, target audiences or data segments that can be matched to a set of behaviours, interests, some medical records and an address.
Well okay, we all are. But that's not all we are.
We are individuals, uniquely shaped by our experiences, emotions and intuitions, and more than ever before we are determined to be 'the best we can be'. Self-actualisation is right at the top of the bucket list – in fact, all we hear now are the things that make us feel as though we're trying to catch up in life.
"I want to try everything possible. I want to learn French so I can speak it fluently, take up the piano again, go on a safari, learn to swim front crawl, lose some weight. I want to try a lot of new things and do as much as I can. I want to live in the moment." Any of this sound familiar?
And what's the sense of doing all that good stuff, being the best 'You' you can be, if you don't shout about it loudly and to good effect? People are no longer just people; we are becoming powerful, personal brands, reflecting and projecting all those things we are passionate about, brought to vivid life through all our interactions, through all the stuff we create, curate and share.
Unlike some brands, 'Brand You' evolves intuitively and every second of the day, shaped by the information and experiences we absorb, and is worked on incessantly in real time, refined and fine-tuned in multiple formats across multiple channels.
As people morph into marketers, we become ever more savvy and alert to marketing ploys, ever more persuaded by real connection with other interactive brands and less by passive messaging. That's where inspiring content – whether editorial or marketing – comes into its own.
Consumer brands don't enjoy the luxury of being intuitively in touch. But media brands do.
With our brands, the approach is two-fold: to lead and to listen. We lead by setting trends; inspiring, stimulating, curating and sharing know-how. We listen and follow too, fostering the friendly warmth of familiarity and inclusion, by showing what others are doing or wearing or watching, by listening to their opinions and inviting discussion – and not least by keeping our finger on the pulse of people and culture.
To wit, some feedback from a recent questionnaire: "When it comes to a magazine – in print or online – you know the writers and editors are not just journalists. They're one of us. You feel more emotionally linked to the brand. And they talk to people who are after and want the same things as me."
We've always been good at building brands – our own and other people's – by being ''one of us''. That's never been more important than in the age of 'Brand You'.