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IN THE BATTLE FOR BRAND RELEVANCE, TALKABILITY TRUMPS TRUTH: FRED COOK


GolinOpinion, the PR division of PointNineLintas, recently released its first marketing product, Relevance India. The research, conducted in 13 markets, including India, and covering over 13,000 respondents, is part of the Relevance framework which is being rolled out globally. The first round of data from the study indicates that in the battle for relevance, truth is having a moment of truth.  Golin’s global research focused on three categories that touch billions of lives every day: social media, personal banking and automotive.

GolinOpinion has taken the research framework and customised it to a dashboard for brands to monitor their health on the 15 parameters of Relevance. Conducting a brand audit or an ongoing consumer track is a tedious and expensive way for brand managers to find out the health of their brand, making it a luxury only the bigger brands can indulge in. Relevance is fast, robust and yet, easy to use.

Developmental work is being done in Chicago and Mumbai, to further improve functionalities of the tool including real-time data integration.

Fred Cook, Global Chairman, Golin, who was in India to unveil the Relevance framework, reveals more about how brands and marketers can leverage the study’s findings, the brand measurement tool and the importance of Relevance in engaging and retaining consumers. Excerpts:

Under the domain of Brand Measurement, how far do you think ‘Relevance Fingerprint’ will be an appropriate quantitative tool to gauge responses from the Indian audiences?

The research was conducted in 13 markets, including India, covering over 13,000 respondents. The first round of data from the study indicates that in the battle for relevance, truth is having a moment of truth. Golin’s global research focused on three categories that touch billions of lives every day: social media, personal banking and automotive.

The one dimension that is currently driving relevance across all categories is popularity: being talked about and recommended by others showing that talkability trumps truth.

Relevance is what attracts and keeps people paying attention to what brands have to say and moves them to act. This is something that we, as marketers and communicators, can directly impact. We’ve been studying, and perfecting the art of analysing relevance for years because we understand that it is the most important measurement of a brand. Our research indicates that despite people being continually let down by the perceived trustworthiness and truthfulness of brands, they continue to buy their products and services.

Relevance Fingerprint is a niche methodology to understand the audiences’ understanding of brands and their will to interact with the same. How do the responses look like at global level in terms of sufficing the purpose of the study?

We want brands to be relevant and at the same time, we want them to lead. So, there is an opportunity now for brands to improve the conversation that is being had globally. There is a lot of divisiveness between cultures, religions, communities, countries. Brands can play a broader role where governments may not have succeeded and brought people together.

What are the parameters that you think can be used in the Indian scenario to identify the relevance for valued client partners in giving the brands an “undeniable edge”?

In India, brands are at a different phase of evolution than they are in the West. In the West, there is more skepticism and the feeling of being disappointed by some brands over time.

In India, people have a great respect for major brands and in order to maintain that relevance and respect, their behaviour is very important. We see brands say one thing, and do another thing – that’s what makes them lose their relevance. I would say that make sure your actions are as powerful as your words. Also, having the willingness to change, adapt and innovate is important.

According to you, how successful has the methodology proved in finding the relevant information from the targeted publics across the 13 countries you have covered within this ambit?

The one dimension that is currently driving relevance across all categories is popularity: being talked about and recommended by others showing that talkability trumps truth.

The research was conducted for three years in partnership with the USC Annenberg School for Journalism and Communications. Golin’s study of 13,000 people in 13 markets on four continents, including India, uncovered what drives relevance for categories and brands across the globe. The survey population encompassed millennials (18-34), Gen-x (35-54) and boomers (55+)

There are different components of a brand that lead to being relevant. We have identified 15 attributes of relevance. Some of these attributes are: popular, authentic, innovative, and welcoming, among others. We found that these components differ from category to category. It is a very dynamic process that changes from market to market. For example, in China we found that Prestige is a very important attribute that’s necessary to build relevance, while in other markets it was not as important.

The India data, which covered three categories, threw up some interesting aspects:

People around the world believe that their ideal brand would deliver on being trustworthy (ethical, moral, honest and truthful), however according to the research, study the reality tells a different story. Of the most relevant brands studied, 0% met the ideal when it came to being trustworthy; while people are seeking it, leading brands aren’t seen as relevant. 91% of the most relevant brands studied exceed the expectation when it comes to being popular. This is a part of a major shift.

Having lost faith in brands and institutions, people are looking to each other, to their trusted tribes – friends, family, advocates and influencers – for validation in the choices they are making. Popularity isn’t a frivolous, fleeting dimension. Talkability means putting a premium on the people who will vouch for and recommend your brand.

Within the three categories studied, it was found that social media category research found that people don’t need truth; they want to be entertained. People prefer local banking over global – and since all banks are under-delivering on the ideal, unique relevance drivers in this category have emerged. An ideal banking brand in India is Trustworthy, Effective and Transparent. And as with other categories, exceeds expectations on Essential and Popular.

The automotive category struggles to have a breakout relevance brand leader. In India, an “ideal” automotive brand is Trustworthy, Effective, Authentic and Innovative. However, there is little difference in how consumers score each brand.

Social media is a highly-relevant category overall in India, with Facebook and YouTube ranking at the top in relevance. Local channel Hike is less relevant than global channels.

In a rapidly changing socio-economic paradigm at global level, do you think that certain brands have been losing their trust factor in their respective markets? What could have led to this loss of trust?

The human mind is selective when bombarded with brand information. This may not be the best news for advertisers, but consumers’ constant hunt for trustworthy products counts as good news. While many buy a particular product or service, the trustworthiness of brand makes them worried.

As far as Indian consumers are concerned, they are extremely optimistic and respectful about brands.