While the benefits, strategies and complexities of social media advertising have long been discussed, the new wave of including social media questions and endorsements in many television and other traditional adverts seems to have been widely ignored. Does this approach add value to adverts and instill consumer trust, or does it just frustrate audiences and make brands feel untrustworthy?
Some brands have chosen to take this strategy to the full, basing their entire campaigns around it. Lidl is the most prominent brand example of this with their #LidlSurprises campaign (which has now evolved into the anti-advocates campaign) the first to hit the spotlight. This was initially formulated in 2014 to combat the doubters and those who believed the brand to have poor quality produce. The inspiration came from the team viewing negative tweets, at which point they decided it was important to listen to their communities and answer some of the big questions. This campaign and its iterations have proved very successful for Lidl as the retailer has seen great sales growth over the last few years and now controls 5.3% of the market. Not too bad for a budget retailer with a once questionable reputation.
While Lidl has made a success of using its social media feedback, not all brands implement it so effectively. The posts selected by advertisers are often very carefully vetted for fear of stepping too far out of the box and therefore they don’t represent the tone of voice of the masses. The language is always fairly formal or passive and the comments never all that negative, and there’s the crux for many consumers: the comments aren’t authentic enough to make them convincing. As a result, the adverts seem less believable, their messages become clouded in doubt and the sales pitches seem ever more obvious.
Advertising does still have an important part to play in the marketing mix but it is one of the least trusted forms of promotion. Having strong brand values, ethical practices, high-quality products and real, honest interactions with customers over social media and in-store are vital to instilling brand loyalty and respect. Word of mouth and genuine endorsements are also invaluable to a brand’s reputation and consumer perceptions.
This is why PR has such a key role in building not only brand awareness but trust. It helps brands communicate their values, gain credibility and generate consumer interest. Social media endorsements can also help brands get ahead, but when choosing which ones to promote they need to remember to think like a human, not be afraid to use humourous reviews, pick the worst of a bad bunch to respond to and above all ensure that they stay true to their audience.