Reaching your audience in the post-truth era of alternative facts

One of my favorite marketing soothsayers is Rohit Barghava, a former Ogilvy exec-turned-bestselling-author, whose annual books on the latest marketing trends are consumed by more than a million readers. Each year, Rohit compiles a list of trends that he curates over the course of the year, based on a number of factors related to our society, political climate, culture, and demographics. In the 2018 edition of Non-Obvious: How To Predict Trends And Win The Future, one of the trends that struck a chord with me was what he named, “Truthing.”

It’s no surprise that finding the truth is at the crux of this trend. After all, a few years ago, phrases like, “fake news,” and “mainstream media” weren’t part of the average person’s everyday language. Now, skeptical users are wary of sensational headlines that have a ring of dishonesty, or brands that make far-fetched claims. Sure, you’ll always have that Facebook friend who posts every conspiracy theory ever memed, but overall, media consumers are becoming (or trying to become) more savvy in their analysis of what’s true, and what’s not.


The Truth About Truthing


If it walks like a duck…
While having consumers that are more alert and aware may sound like a good thing, Truthing comes with a major downside. Users, buyers, and consumers might want the truth, but the truth they want is likely to jive with their beliefs and environment. So, the “truth” becomes subjective, based on who’s telling – and who’s believing – it.


A kinder, gentler approach…
Pompous, loud news anchors are going the way of the dinosaurs. In their place, media curators that compile news tidbits and present them in a friendly, easily-consumable way are taking over (think theSkimm). Simultaneously, brands that appeal to emotions and shared experiences may resonate more with consumers. This supports yet another one of Barghava’s Trends for 2018 appropriately named “Brand Stand” – a principled view of the world that an organization/leader truly believes in and supports with actions. (More on this in a future post.) In the search for truth, it seems tone and presentation matter almost as much as the facts.


The truth according to everyone…
A few years ago, User-Generated Content (UGC) was the big buzzword in advertising. Now, Barghava says User-Generated Truth (UGT) is in a position to become the way many Americans consume news. Thanks to easily accessible technology and the rise of live streaming platforms, social users now have unprecedented access to the world around them, whether it’s seeing first-hand the journey of a Syrian refugee, or watching a video of a confrontation or protest as it’s happening.


How will Truthing impact the way you do business?

If you interact with the public, you’ve likely already seen how Truthing is influencing consumer habits. There are a few key takeaways to keep in mind if you want to use the Truthing trend to your advantage.


Nostalgia = comfort
“Old-school” products are becoming consumer darlings once again, with demand rising for analog products like cameras that use film, LPs, and record players, and even mobile phones that (gasp!) don’t include internet access. The reason why? In our quest for the truth, we also want to find comfort. And since the truth is often distinctly uncomfortable, we look to the things that take us back to a happier, simpler, more naive time. Even if you aren’t selling a product, there are ways to incorporate nostalgia into your messaging, whether it’s the look, the language, or the music you use.


Transparency is everything
If I’m a coffee lover (I am, though it’s decaf these days), and also passionate about ecology and sustainability, I might give my business to a company that offers me a live-feed of the work happening at their fair-trade, responsibly cultivated farm. I might buy clothing from a manufacturer that can prove it pays employees a living wage. Or I might seek health care from a provider that leverages the testimonials of actual patients. In every case, the key is transparency. A truth-seeking consumer isn’t distracted by flash and sizzle; he/she wants to be a valued and integral part of their own buying journey.


Truth in branding
Being authentic, as you can probably guess at this point, is more important than ever. And it’s even more important for your brand to be authentic. At Willow, we take a lot of pride in the brand we’ve built over more than a quarter of a century. But the truth at the heart of our brand isn’t just what we think of it – it’s influenced by the perceptions, interactions, and reactions of every customer with whom we do business. The same is true for each of our clients. As we guide them through the branding process, we don’t just base our choices on their perceptions. Instead, we look for the gaps between their truths and the truths of the people they serve. That’s where the “brand truth” lies. Around here, we often say, “You can’t read the label if you’re inside the jar.” If you’re only looking at your business from the inside, you’re probably missing quite a bit. That’s why we help clients look outside the jar. A combination of qualitative and quantitative research can help us to better understand how others perceive what’s on the label.


Get ready to hear more about Truthing, and how it can affect your brand, as we get further into 2018. We may be in a “post-truth era,” but that only means that the facts – and how they’re delivered – are more important than ever.


Give me a shout if you want to talk about how we can help your business use the Truthing trend to your advantage. And if you want to read more about other marketing trends of 2018, you can learn more about Rohit Barghava and Non-Obvious here.

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Written by Brad Gillum

"We’re business consultants who happen to specialize in marketing. We help people and have fun doing it."