Businesses are getting honest and playing to their weaknesses, Claire Dunn reports.
Brands are being encouraged to flaunt rather than hide their faults - to be "flawsome" - in a bid to appeal to consumer desire for authenticity and transparency.
According to global firm TrendWatching, "flawsome" strategies walk hand-in-hand with "maturalism", both responses to the cynicism and disbelief traditional "flawless" marketing often elicits. Consumers now want honest conversations about products and appreciate brands that show maturity, humility and humour.
Think Marmite's "Love it or Hate it" campaign, Moro's "the fourth best chocolate bar in New Zealand" or Pot Noodle's "Slag of All Snacks". The Samoa Air "A kilo is a kilo is a kilo" campaign draws attention to the fact that passenger ticket prices are calculated on the total weight they wish to transport.
It's an approach supported by a market study published in early 2012 that found 68 per cent of consumers trust a review showing good and bad points of the product.
Kironmoy Datta, senior brand manager for Novartis Consumer Health, which makes Buckley's mouthwashes, says they have been successful not despite their bad flavour, but because of it, using the long-serving campaigns of "It tastes awful. And it works," and "Open wide and say '@#$%&*!'."
"One of our principles is to be honest and straightforward," Datta said. "The brand has no qualms about stating it the way it is. Buckley's isn't for everyone. Large portions of the population will never try it if they can have a sweet-tasting product instead.
"We've made a conscious choice to not be everything to everyone. We believe consumers respect our honest approach."
Australian company iiNet also decided to "get real", launching its "No. 2" campaign in 2011 in recognition of the company's position as the second-largest DSL broadband provider in Australia.
An iiNet blog primed the campaign, quizzing readers what the company had in common with Shannon Noll, Buzz Aldrin and Dannii Minogue. The answer was revealed by company icon "Finn" holding up two fingers in a peace sign, which became one of the key campaign images. iiNet marketing manager Adam Levin said the No. 2 campaign reflected the appetites and expectations of the contemporary consumer.
"The phrase we use is authentic engagement, as opposed to a fake interruption. Some of the ways that comes out in advertising might be an aside, a little quip, a look to the camera, or self-deprecating humour like in the No. 2 campaign. We don't try to hide the fact it's an advert. It's self-referential and takes you into a relationship with the consumer.
"Consumers are mature and knowledgeable and we want to acknowledge that. Generations of people now have grown up surrounded by marketing and are very adept at decoding it, very sensitive to anything that isn't honest. Social media has made the world a very transparent place. iiNet benefits from that because we've always maintained a very open and transparent approach to marketing and communication in general."
Flawsome marketing is one way Sunrise Junction brand and business consultant Vicki Stirling believes brands can stand out from the crowd. "The Amazon days really changed the face of consumer relationships with brands. They were suddenly able to provide feedback and responses to products. Smart brands started saying, 'Well, rather than spending lots of money on marketing campaigns, let's talk about things that aren't successful."'
Stirling has been particularly inspired by outdoor clothing company Patagonia's "Don't Buy This Jacket" campaign and similar initiatives by Nike that deliberately disclose the eco-footprint of their products, as a way of highlighting their commitment to environmental considerations.
"Patagonia told consumers that the making of their polo shirts generates seven times [the shirt's] weight in waste. As a result, their perceived environmental credentials skyrocketed. It actually got consumers to become advocates for their brand . . . it was also very clever. I'm involved with some amazing sustainable businesses who are trying to do it all. I always tell them that it's OK not to be perfect. As long as you are honest about your brand, customers will respect the open and transparent dialogue. This strategy is really about building trust with consumers."