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Does your brand need some street cred?

For the first time in human history more than 50% of people live in cities. It follows then that many new and established brands are targeting this urban market, and are doing so with a "cool" brand positioning. How does a big corporate brand reinvent its image to pique the interest of what marketing professionals are calling the "creative class"?
Even though this group may be called the "creative class" does not mean they are all artists or that they are in creative occupations, but rather signifies their diverse and individualistic lifestyles. An important aspect of their lifestyle includes participation in a variety of experiential activities. In other words, they like being active participants in the latest trends and not just spectators. In South Africa, the creative class are urban dwellers, who consider themselves citizens of the world. They are digital natives, between the ages of 18 - 45 years with at least a secondary education and fit into upper 7 - 10 LSMs.

Internationally, advertisers have realised that engaging with this highly intelligent, diverse and economically independent audience should not to be ignored. And locally, more of our clients are targeting them as well. The challenge as a creative agency is how to engage with these types of individuals in authentic, yet interesting ways, enough to have them notice - and participate - in your brand activations. Having championed several campaigns for two brands that this target market - Vespa and VO5 - here are some insights:

Be authentic
Admit to your brand weaknesses, amplify your brand strengths and do so in an open and honest manner. Consumers are smart and will sniff out the truth quickly and either ignore your campaign - or worse - tell their community about your inauthenticity.

Be ahead of trends
What's trending now is old news by the time you've noticed it, turned it into a brand campaign and launched. This means you need to work with a creative team that's not afraid to push, and importantly as a brand you need to have courage to take chances - real chances. It also means that you can't keep your brand in a "glass cabinet", in the safe confines of a brand identity, but have to be ready to evolve... fast.

Be street smart
As the creative class is living in cities, your brand has to have the same street cred they do. This means, being comfortable occupying gritty urban spaces - walls, streets, galleries, the internet, social media spaces, back street alleys, markets, parks, music venues and reclaimed spaces.

Be into cool collaborations
Who your brand hangs with is also important. The creative class is not interested in your allocated brand spokespeople and become bored with established ambassadors quickly. Get ready to look outside the box at politicians, musicians, artists, DJs, architects and performance artists. And be even more ready to move onto the next person as they become hot.

Be smarter than your target market
Today's consumers don't suffer fools, especially the creative class. They are consuming information at break-neck speed and your brand needs to be providing new and interesting content and experiences to them. Remember being smart also means being responsible. The creative class is into getting involved in social, economic and sustainable causes.

Be digital and social
The creative class spends more time online than most other activities. They are consuming their news, entertainment and a large portion of their socialising in the digital space. If your brand does not have a strong digital footprint and is not into social media, you may as well go back to keeping it in that proverbial glass case.

The creative class - a term being used a lot internationally - is catching on in South Africa. Be sure you know who they are and what they're about, as (without the research to prove it) they have strong economic power.

20 May 2013 10:33