Atop our perch on the 20th floor of a skyscraper in the middle of London's financial district, Trinity Mirror are busy putting into place our ambition of being the experts in advertising to the mass market – oh the irony.
Despite our impressive home base, it's our network of over 2000 journalists in newsrooms the length and breadth of the country which gives us a unique insight into how the people of Britain think, feel and live today. It's this culture that inspires us to question the London-tinted view of how advertising works in the UK.
Together with Ipsos Connect we've just released an eye-opening piece of research that looks at the diminishing levels of trust and relevance British consumers feel for brands. And one of the key reasons behind this change is that whilst brands are increasingly associated with the 'establishment' and being too London-focused, your average British shopper is increasingly becoming disassociated with what they see as a self-serving centre of national gravity.
This tallies with qualitative research we ran with Crowd DNA last year. Brexit and the political turmoil to follow were not just pointing to a whole swathe of people reacting against globalisation, but also having a renewed interest and energy in their local rather than national issues. “What are you politicians/brands/people in the establishment doing for me here, where I live?”
Because in 2017 nothing means more to mass market Britain's identity than where they live.
People want demonstrable evidence of what brands are doing for them at a local level– not some noisy ad campaign that just talks about how their brand is driven by a purpose every other brand also claims to be driven by.
The worrying trend in ad land is to think that some level of localised personalisation is the cure for the trust and relevancy ills.
We respectfully disagree.
Personalised emails from your local store manager or product ads tailored just for you (that seem to follow you all over the net)may well bring a little incremental spend from those consumers who are already engaged with your brand, but it's unlikely they're going to bring in vast amounts of new customers. You're preaching to the converted.
And let's be honest how many good personalised emails do you actually get?
Our research shows that us Brits are more likely to greet such emails with a massive dose of cynicism. Another daily email from brand X...It's likely it takes you less than a second to hit that delete button. Makes you proud to be British. And some brands of course don't help themselves:
But whilst personalisation may not be the catch-all answer it’s sometimes made out to be, the fall in levels of brand trust and relevance means it's fairly obvious that it's a brand's mass marketing efforts and their failure to stay relevant as the status quo shifted that has led to their current predicament.
It's mass marketing that sets the brand image and which creates the strongest and most powerful top-of-mind associations with that brand.
We need to harness the power of mass communication mediums to create a group consensus –a sense of the herd believing a brand is for them, to create a shared sense of relevance. As Julian Saunders writes in the recent Market Leader, "The demise of mass communication has been much predicted for its wastefulness, but it will remain powerful because it is also a form of public affirmation that a brand is popular and widely used – and that will remain highly persuasive."
Whilst there are undoubtedly brilliant planners and creatives working extremely hard to create a human connection between their brand and the consumer at this mass market level, we're obviously still missing a trick when the research shows that relevance and trust are taking a dive. It doesn't matter if I get a personalised ad from brand X if their ATL campaign has already shown me they don't understand people like me.
We argue local media is key here.
Well of course it's mass marketing, so benefits from public affirmation. ITV through its regionalised networks reaches 68% of the population each week; Trinity Mirror through our regional digital and print portfolio reaches 32 million people a month.
By regionalising that mass market brand message, local media can deliver that all important relevance – particularly the 'understanding people like me' relevance which is so key in building a trusted relationship between brand and consumer.
Local media can drive an empathetic connection between a brand and a whole locality because when it's made by the people of a region for the people of that region, partner brands are able to demonstrate that they know what it's like to live a life in that place.
People want brands that show they understand them.
Automated personalisation may not be the answer...surprisingly the un-sexy world of local media might just be the response to the challenges we face.
Dean Matthewson, Head of Planning, Invention, Trinity Mirror Solutions