I’m cooking up a theory. It’s not fully formed, but I’ll put it out there and see how it evolves.
It goes like this: A long, long time ago, people lived in small, mostly agricultural towns. They spent their lives there. They knew everyone and everyone knew everything about each other. Family honor and personal reputations were all anyone really needed to know when it came to news they could use.
Over time, things changed, but communication was still slow. Marketing was primarily pushed through TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, etc.
Then, right about the time I got out of college, Al Gore invented the internet and things began to change. Quickly. Suddenly, it was all so fast and easy. Marketing people got giddy. We had all these new channels available to us. Email! Banner ads! Pay-per-click! QR codes! Short ad spots in front of YouTube videos! So many options, and oh-so-trackable!
Then, social media came along and we started in on that too. (And here’s where my theory picks up again…) People (especially young people) developed a savvy, cynical eye toward all of this communicatin'. They just assume most of the messaging is “spun.” So while they have access to all of the information they want; they trust very little of it. They regularly tell me that when they’re looking for information that matters, they “don’t trust” anything that comes from official channels unless it’s just the facts.
For example, prospective college students tell me they trust a college to accurately present the statistics about acceptance rates and average test scores, but they do not trust the college to accurately present information about diversity, or the student life experience, or the level of academic challenge. Those kids used to tell me they looked to social media for the real scoop; it was more relational, less formal, and seemingly authentic. Now, they tell me, they don’t even trust the college’s social media because they assume that too is a closely managed channel (and they’re usually right). Now, to get the real scoop, they say they look at the social media feeds from kids who graduated from their own high school and attend the college in question.
So my theory is that over the years, the experience of trust in messaging expanded suddenly and is in the process of contracting again. Our global society is still super global, but our locus of trustworthy sources might be shrinking back down to the village we know.
The question to us marketers will become how to cultivate the village?
Kyndra Wilson, KW Brand Translation
P.S. Since this was posted, Ad Age published this article about the Hilton Brand trying to address the rising interest in community and authenticity. Check it out here: http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/hilton-introduces-hotel-brand-millennial-mindset/302310/