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02 FEBRUARY 2019
Businesses face big moral and socioeconomic issues

by Jeremy Maggs: A writer and broadcaster who has covered the ad and marketing industry for over 20 years. Editor in Chief of The Red Zone.

Embracing truth, trust, loyalty and morality in the advertising industry will be the game-changer in influencing consumers in 2019.

Last year brought an onslaught of news, some reliable and some fake, resulting in consumer confusion and a lack of faith among consumers in the news they encounter.

Nicola Nel, founder and CEO of PR agency Atmosphere, believes that a changing landscape from the time of SA’s elections in May will feature shared media space with British Prime Minister Theresa May and Brexit as well as US President Donald Trump.

As the world becomes more complicated and we enter the reality of self-driving vehicles and passenger drones, an increased emphasis on safe space, inclusivity and individualism will be needed.

A term borrowed from Flux Trends founder and forecaster Dion Chang, #MoralityMarketing, is crucial, says Nel. "There is a growing movement of capitalism with a conscience. There is a belief that business should be a force for good. Conscientious consumers want brands and corporates to be scrupulously ethical and champions for causes they care about.

"Businesses simply have to engage with big moral and socioeconomic issues. But this must be done meaningfully, as the public can spot superficiality a mile away."

A recent example is the Woolworths faux pas with its copycat Ubuntu Baba baby carrier. This, Nel says, proved that the social media world is an unforgiving place when its citizens perceive an injustice.

"As 2018 taught us, reputations can quickly fall if radical transparency, ethics and fairness aren’t front and centre. Nothing goes unseen," she says.

In Nel’s opinion, fake news and scepticism will be a globally shared stance in 2019, putting a "serious dampener on consumers’ trust" in just about everything, from traditional media to social media — including mistrust in influencers, all too often perceived as "inauthentic product pushers".

The data dilemma and related individual privacy is a very real issue and one that will dominate this year.

"Facebook’s disastrous Cambridge Analytica saga ramped up privacy concerns, fuelling a global debate," she says.

"We have reached a checkmate of sorts: we’re tired of signing away our data for access to apps, social media and services, but we’re also hesitant to give these up."

Be open with your clients

The lesson for brands? Be 100% open with your clients about why and how you harvest their data and the measures you’ve put in place to protect it.

Nel says micro-audiences really do matter. It is a feature that has been growing over the past few years.

"Consumers are favouring brands that provide immersive, personalised experiences — virtual and physical — across all touch points. As always, it’s about telling a compelling and imaginative story," Nel says.

Print journalism is also facing a crossroads in 2019.

Those in the industry know that magazines are bleeding. Many of them are hanging onto their very existence, while others, like women’s magazine Glamour SA, had to end their print editions.

The MarkLives media website found that total magazine circulation declined by 3.9% from April to June 2018 compared with the previous quarter, and by 15.1% from the prior year. This means brands will need to explore different mediums for storytelling, such as WhatsApp, says Nel.

The bottom line is that opportunities still abound for the PR and communication world — but #MoralityMarketing and "trust-bust" are keys to unlocking this potential.

"It’s all about experiences," says Nel, warning that consumer scepticism and consumption fatigue mean that brands need to work very hard to gain loyalty.
Useful resources:

The Red Zone
The Red Zone is a marketing and media website featuring breaking news from the industry as well as insightful opinion pieces and up to the minute event coverage. Visit our InfoCentre or website.

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