Is “local” the fashionable new mainstay for brands?
At the start of this global COVID-19 pandemic, all levels of government rallied to ask Canadian citizens to turn to buying local. The survival of Quebec businesses was at stake, they had to be given a hand by loosening the purse strings. To ride the wave and attract aware consumers, several brands showed their colors. In just a few months, the “Québec company” label has multiplied on packaging, in advertisements and even in brand messages.
Brands are often criticized for being too smooth, for promoting universes that are unrealistic or simply for being disconnected from reality. It is obviously essential to follow the spirit of the times and show consumers that we do not live in a bubble far from their priorities and their objectives. However, it is in crafting in-context communications that brands often make a big mistake. Many managers mistakenly believe that their brand is the center of the universe, when the reality is quite different for consumers.
Consumers don't always think about how a brand could help them when a change appears in their life; they are simply looking for a solution. Trademarks are one of the many tools a consumer can use to solve their problem or achieve their goal. No, the end of a long confinement is not a good opportunity to “treat yourself and buy a new television”. No, congratulating Quebecers for their solidarity and “offering advantageous terms on the purchase of an SUV” in the same breath is neither coherent nor relevant.
Let's get this straight: opportunism is not a strategy . The obsession of brands to want to invite themselves into every conversation is frankly boring and contributes to consumer cynicism.
While buying local has become the flavor of the month for marketers and, overnight, a large number of companies are proudly displaying themselves as "local" or from Quebec, this popular label is becoming almost commonplace and it is much more difficult to stand out.
The self-proclaimed status of brands inevitably arouses mistrust on the part of consumers. If a brand suddenly begins to focus its communications on its status as a Quebec company or on its selection of local products, there will inevitably be consumers who will ask questions and demand proof. Nothing surprising here: each message should be accompanied by supporting points to provide depth and relevance. When someone comes knocking on your door to learn more about the local character of your company (its identity, its values, its practices), will you be able to respond adequately to the most skeptical consumers? Le Panier Bleu was caught in a controversy over the presence of Chinese products sold on its platform… by Quebec companies!
The first question to ask is simple: does the attribute we want to highlight really have value in the eyes of consumers in the category we represent? If there is little perceived value to the local attribute, the communication risks generating only noise.
Above all, you must not lose sight of your competitive advantage: this is the reason why consumers decide to opt for your brand rather than another. He must be the king of your communications; the local aspect (or any other trend of the moment) should not supplant it. You're not the only ones riding a trend and you simply won't be able to differentiate yourself if all your eggs are placed in one basket.
Each brand has its own superpower, that little thing that makes it unique. When a trend shows up, just think about it by asking yourself the following question: what is unique to our brand that could be relevant and bring value to consumers? The answers are easy to find when you ask yourself the right questions to start in the right direction.