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Four of my favourite take outs from Mumbrella CommsCon 2021

By Account Director Sandra Brkic

This year’s Mumbrella CommsCon Conference was different – but good different.

Unlike previous years where the conference focused on large-scale creative campaigns, this year the stories told by industry, agency and in-house leaders alike focused on building brand resilience through strategic communications. The pandemic has forced communicators to think creatively in a different light, driving innovation through use of new channels, content and industry partnerships.

Here’s four of my favourite take outs from the 2021 conference:

1. Content is getting longer, and audiences are loving it.

You’d think with the scrolling generation we’d be making our content shorter, right? Wrong. Research highlighted at CommsCon revealed that content is in fact getting longer, and audiences are loving each and every minute of it. Between 2014 and 2019, the average word count of a blog went up by nearly double — 500 words. But not only are audiences loving the longer content, the data also shows that they’re more likely to share it on social channels.

Media publications are already jumping on the long form trend — a great example provided at the conference is the growing popularity of BBC Stories. The rise of long form content presents a unique opportunity for brands too, with an opportunity to jump on the trend and publish in-depth brand relevant content tailored to attract highly-engaged niche audiences.

2. Build your communications campaigns on values, not emotions.

We know that when we have audience attention we can secure their engagement with long form content. However, capturing their attention in the first place is a war many of us wager on the daily. Magnum & Co founders presented a talk on why the drugs don’t work on audiences anymore, and by drugs they mean the trend of click-bait and growth-hacking. Audiences want more; they want a true brand connection.

But what sparks connection? Culture. Culture represents shared behaviours, values and attitudes of a group of people — with the values acting as a true driver of behaviour. Brands need to take culture more seriously and invest in cultural innovation, not advertising innovation. Tapping into culture to create campaigns will deliver an ever-lasting impact and separate brands from the pack.

3. Combatting a mis-informational vacuum requires a cross-industry alliance.

The story of Quaden Bayles demonstrated how quickly the truth can be taken out of context by trolls on social media. Quaden, a young boy suffering with dwarfism, became the centre of controversy after his mother posted a heart-wrenching video of him crying, due to being bullied at school. The video aimed to raise awareness of the day-to-day struggles of living with dwarfism and tackle bulling within schools, but unfortunately it unleashed a fountain of hate targeted at young Quaden — with trolls claiming the 10 year old was a scammer, among many other heartbreaking attacks.

Quaden’s campaign for the truth needed a strategy — one that spanned across channels and industries. Lawyers, tech platforms and PR leaders came together to create a cross-industry alliance to support Quaden’s campaign for justice against trolls. Lawyers worked with public policy representatives at social media companies including Facebook, Twitter and Youtube to remove the content placed by trolls; while the PR team worked on building a strong ‘tell-all’ story of Quaden’s life.

Removing and minimising the negative commentary allowed the cross-industry alliance to secure the cut-through required to tell Quaden’s story without being clouded by misinformation. The success of this campaign acts as a reminder that to change perceptions a brand requires a collaborative effort across industries, with communications at the epicentre, to deliver a true impact.

4. Brands need to be out there often and early to remain relevant.

Dan Monheit, Co-Founder of Hardhat, reminded us that the common marketing saying — repetition is key — still remains valid. In his presentation on behavioural change Dan discussed the impact of the mere exposure effect, and how brands can leverage human psychology in order to encourage a shift in audience thinking.

Demonstrated through Zajonc’s experimental paradigm of social psychology — social facilitation — we were shown various examples of how brands are ‘being there often’ and reaping the benefits. Paired with ‘being there early’, brands can truly carve out a connection with audiences through repetition, building a sense of safety through perceptual fluency.

The perception of safety was ever so important for brands over the last 12 months. We’re seeing perceptual fluency used more and more through contextual advertising and targeting in our newsfeeds. So, for brands wanting to build a true connection with audiences, there’s a need for ongoing communications using touch points that are brand relevant.

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