3 Techniques for Connecting With Consumers More Deeply

With every passing month, we’re inching closer to a cookieless future in which consumers won’t just have control over their data, they’ll have control over the relationships they form with brands.

This presents both challenges and opportunities for marketers. The biggest challenge is that they can’t rely on old-school methods of connecting with consumers. In other words, retargeting, interest-based targeting, and behavioral targeting will be increasingly less effective.

But the news isn't all bad. As we said, opportunities exist here, too. Getting rid of cookies could ultimately benefit businesses trying to engage with audiences on a more meaningful level.

Connecting With Consumers for Real

The 2020 pandemic changed consumer behavior, just like it changed much about the world. Today, people are increasingly interested in supporting brands based on brand purpose and vision, as well as how those brands' values and work align with their personal values. As such, they’re engaging with companies by using a cultural relevance litmus test.

Consider social media’s influence on buying and the widespread democratization of media in general. The rise of platforms like Instagram and TikTok has created a powerful creator culture that moves fast and holds weight with audiences. Consumers are putting trust in their favorite digital creators to help them make purchasing decisions. And those creators aren’t necessarily big properties or celebrities. More often than not, they represent “everyday people.”

Where does cultural relevance fit in for brands and marketers? For one, brand partnerships between businesses and creators are expected to be between parties with shared values. This is especially the case when it comes to tackling sensitive and politically charged subjects such as racial equality or environmental sustainability.

Of course, brands can now play the role of creator, too. Take Charmin’s Twitch extension minigame, "Deuce Destroyer." It’s a platform and destination unto itself. Still, no matter what avenues brands try, they need to keep a key mantra in mind: All innovation needs to be meaningful in order to gain traction.

A Philosophy of Designing for People

At Carat, we’ve evolved our communication planning process to include “designing for people” principles. At its heart, designing for people is about embracing the new reality to foster brand-consumer wins based on mutually beneficial experiences.

Brands that want to engage in people-first, culturally relevant strategies can start by following some key guidelines:

1. Take empathy seriously.

In today’s attention economy, it is crucial for brands to build relevance in order to incentivize authentic consumer connections. That’s why we start with people-based understanding and use empathy mapping to discover audiences’ human needs.

Leveraging deeper human understanding enables us to architect more meaningful media experiences that offer a real value exchange between our brands and their consumers.

2. Engage in feedback loops.

An important element of Designing For People is the feedback loop. This is the practice of using previous learnings to continuously make current consumer experiences more pertinent. Another way to think of this is through the lens of testing, optimizing, and re-testing.

Identifying and understanding where barriers exist along the customer journey help us plan better end-to-end experiences and mitigate any loose ends in real time. Brands need to know how to proceed (and overcome gaps) to align their brand purpose and ambitions with the consumers they’re targeting.

3. Avoid the temptation and distraction of new territories.

Some trends are hot, but does that mean they're strategic? Nonfungible tokens, for example, are in the news a lot. Should this matter to marketers? In a broad sense, yes. Yet in a narrower way, no. Brands shouldn’t get distracted by the shiny newness of what seems like an exciting, untapped territory — like the metaverse — just to jump on a trend.

Understanding your audience and how they leverage media helps brands determine whether it’s worth entering untested landscapes or whether it could just end as a boondoggle that doesn’t matter to audiences. Be intentional about pursuing new, innovative trends, and you'll set yourself up for success.

There’s so much disruption happening in the media landscape that it can be hard to keep up with all the changes. Nonetheless, brands and marketers don’t have to look at fragmentation or the loss of cookies as negatives. Instead, they can see these pivots as open doors for connecting with consumers through brand partnerships and other marketing endeavors in stronger, more genuine ways.

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