A client told me recently that because the brand has hit tough times, they’re “going back to basics,” which is code for spending a greater portion of a diminishing budget on traditional advertising. As if to say that "Being Grassroots" is a luxury for when times are good, but when times are tough, we retreat to what we know, even if what we know isn’t working. This is utter nonsense. You might as well have a sweepstakes in which your customers guess how far you can bury your head in the sand.
The answer, as I’m sure you know, is to become more grassroots. By this I mean to constantly hone your ability to put yourself in consumers’ shoes. The 4-Cs of Being Grassroots:
Customer. First, get to know everything about your customers. If you immediately think age and ethnicity, you’ve got a long way to go. Really find out who they are and what makes them tick. Then, look at your brand from the their perspective. It doesn’t really matter how great you think your product is or what you think the benefits are, it only matters what they think. This is old news but one of the oft-missed fundamentals. The next three leverage this perspective in ways that carry all the power.
Community. It’s not enough to understand consumers as individuals. We’re social beings, so you need to learn the patterns of influence that exist within a community. Who influences your customer, who does your customer influence, and who influences the influencers? If you don’t know this, you don’t know how to make your brand relevant.
Content. Let's be clear: most people don't care about your advertising. They don't care about your brand promise or your unique selling proposition. They've got their own lives to worry about. You need to find out about their lifestyle interests, and create engaging content that speaks to those interests. This is not about sneaking in product placement, it's about investing in culture, and it pays significant dividends.
Contribution. This is the one with all the power. Approach consumers like you want to give them something, not like you want to sell them something. Contribute to their culture, their communities. That’s how you earn their attention — the right to market to them. Invest, invest, invest, and then shall ye reap.