How to Make Consumers Believers

Just Add Earned with a Capital E

written by: Stephanie Friess, SVP of PR

Like me, you may work in the exciting world of marketing. Each day, we think through how we can connect our brand with audiences to drive sales and reputation. But for a minute, let’s take our marketing hats off and just be well, consumers. 

The scene: You are at home after a long day at work and go to for a little down time. You see your favorite NFL player talking about how he keeps his dandruff at bay during the NFL season. You immediately think, wonder how much he got paid for that. You move to the next article and don’t think about the brand again. All this happened in mere seconds, and yet this is the type of common behavior that fuels consumer cynicism.

Cynicism in marketing is at an all time high. Two-thirds of consumers report they distrust advertising and nearly half of consumers distrust brands. And we get why:

  • Consumers know influencers are getting paid.
  • Consumers can spot a celebrity endorsement deal from miles away.
  • Consumers know what an integration on a TV talk show looks like.
  • They’ve been flooded with pop-up after pop-up in every major city in the world.

But cynicism doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Leveraging the power of consumer cynicism can actually open a gateway for brands to unlock consumer believers, moving consumers beyond transactions to evangelism.

In my new role as SVP of PR at imre, we understand the value of authentic earned marketing.  And how the right PR pros working alongside talented creatives, strategists, activation experts in social and digital can create ideas the media, and most importantly consumers, not only want to talk about but BELIEVE in. We call our model CONFLUENCE — the marriage of cultural conversation with the authentic power of brand voice that unlocks brand IMPACT vs impressions.

How does
Confluence work?

Let’s use an analogy to demonstrate the method. Imagine you are at a restaurant. The table you sit at is filled with members of your community. The people at your table is your Tribe —  people you share common passions, views, etc. As you are sitting together enjoying your dinner, you may talk about different things you care about, such as politics or the new Joker film. Those discussions are the cultural conversation your Tribe cares about.

Now what would happen halfway through dinner if the owner of the restaurant stood up and began speaking (loudly) to all the tables about how much he loves his restaurant and there are no other restaurants that can compete with him. I’m sure more than a few folks would be shocked or annoyed. That’s because the restaurant owner was talking about himself and not what each Tribe was discussing. He interrupted their conversations with a marketing speech. Now the tables are asking for their checks and not coming back anytime soon.

Like the restaurant owner, brands can’t just begin speaking to anyone and everyone around them. You need to identify each Tribe’s passions, values or motivations and apply your brand voice to them in a way that is impactful and meaningful. You need to speak their language and provide them solutions that matter to them (not you).

Now imagine if the restaurant owner just went to one table. He learned they were celebrating an anniversary and has decided to share he has a special dessert he thinks would be perfect to make the celebration special. It’s much more likely the table would be receptive to speaking with the owner and may even leave a positive review for the restaurant online.

Similarly to the restaurant, Confluence leverages the power of Tribes, subgroups that are connected through values, passions, and conversations, not demographics. By targeting these groups we can understand the cultural context that matters to them and what motivates them to share, care and activate. We can then apply the brand’s voice in the most impactful, authentic way leading to making consumers into evangelists.

The power of an earned-led model like Confluence is getting a seat at the strategic marketing table more and more. In a world of cynics, brands needs to evolve to this type of earned-led approach or be deemed not relevant. No longer can brand’s just talk about themselves. They must put their consumers first, identify how each Tribe is important to them and create brandscapes that add value to the consumer. When this is done authentically, the reward for the brand is much higher than it would have been using  traditional marketing.

Personally, as a PR practitioner for the last two decades, I think it’s thrilling to see PR having its moment. This earned revolution shows no sign of slowing down and I can’t wait to see how consumers continue to shape the way brands market themselves.


How to Make Consumers Believers in a Cynical World