How truth and authenticity became our words of 2019

Katie Ashford - General Manager, Group Marketing & Communications, Ovato

This is the second blog of the 2020 Visions series from Ovato.

How often have you gotten to December and reflected on the last 12 months and wondered where they went, and what happened in them? At the end of the year, we need to look back at the year that was and remember the highs and lows and conducting a retrospective analysis or a debrief of what has occurred can give you valuable information that might not have been noticed at the time.

With that in mind, let’s look at three key things we saw happen in 2019, and why we think they’re important moving into 2020.

User Generated Content makes a splash

User Generated Content (UGC) isn’t a new concept, but it came to the forefront in 2019.

An effective way for brands to build and strengthen their online communities, it’s gone gangbusters on Instagram this year. With 86 percent of consumers saying authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and 57 percent thinking that less than half of brands create “authentic” content, now’s the time to be taking advantage of UGC.

This is significant as trust in digital and traditional media continues to fall in Australia. According to this Ipsos article, trust in newspapers and magazines has had a net decline of 14%, TV and radio a net decline in trust of 13%, and online news sites and platforms a decline in trust of 9%.

As consumers become more wary of what they see on social media year on year – almost half of all Australians distrust it - producing brand content that is considered by your customers to be real or trustworthy is no small feat. Best of all? They’re helping you to produce it.

The rise of the micro influencer

Even though social media suffers from trust issues, it’s still extremely popular. There are 18 million active social media users in Australia, and they spend an average of an hour and half using social media per day. Clearly social media and everything that it involves are here to stay - that’s where influencers come in.

Influencers don’t always have the best reputation, more likely to be in the news for demanding free drinks or hotel stays than for the work they do in promoting brands or themselves. But it’s undeniable that overall, influencers can be a valuable, if sometime expensive, addition to many marketing campaigns. Enter the micro-influencer.

Micro-influencers usually have between 1,000 and 50,000 followers and are experts in their fields/niche topics. They’re highly engaged with their smaller audiences, come across as believable and authentic and boast impressive engagement rates compared to influencers with more followers.

In other words, they’re able to do the things that many big-time influencers can’t do, they’re more relatable, more believable, more authentic. And as more brands turn to them, you should remember that they’re also way more affordable.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are bigger than ever

Influencer activity was in full swing in the lead up to Black Friday, the traditional big sales day in the US that takes place after the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s turned into a gargantuan sales events that spans the world.

For folks who hate Halloween – which is here to stay judging by the $159 million spent in Australia on chocolate in the leadup - the idea of importing an American sales event might turn the stomach. But with Woolworths and Coles getting in on the action and traditional retailers such as MyerHarvey Norman, JB HiFi joining annual entrants such as Amazon and eBay in offering massive savings, retailers are clearly finding huge value in jumping on the bandwagon.

Then there’s Cyber Monday, which saw nearly $8bn USD spent last year. In Australia last year, spending over the US Thanksgiving period was 30 per cent higher than in 2017 and it actually eclipsed the weeks before and after Christmas for spending.

With that kind of bank being made by online and bricks and mortar retailers, it’s indisputable that Black Friday sales are here to stay, and brands are pinning big sales weeks on the backs of their integrated marketing output to carry them across the line.

Come back around

So, what’s the takeaway from all this?

It’s that authenticity and trustfulness became a huge deal in 2019. With so many people so suspicious of so much that they see online and in print, a brand or person needs to present themselves with honesty and integrity.

UGC is seen as exactly that and brands are sitting up and taking notice. They are also starting to use micro-influencers in greater numbers. They don’t come with the same baggage as big-time influencers who can suffer from the negative press and other misconceptions. They’re relatable, believable and seen as the real deal. It all comes together with record setting sales weeks spread across traditional retail and online.

This year we learned that being truthful and appearing as authentic to your customers is a prime driver in many people’s interactions with brands. When we act with honesty, integrity and openness, great things happen.

Find out more about the retail and marketing trends you need to watch out for to stay competitive.