Brand responses during COVID-19 has highlighted echo chambers in Australia, the sameness in advertising and messaging.
A study by the human and cultural strategy team of FiftyFive5 and Nine’s marketing solutions division, Powered, looked at the rise of echo chambers with a nationwide survey of more than 750 Australians consumers and marketers, complemented by four conflict focus groups.
“For marketers, the sea of sameness is becoming all consuming,” says Toby Boon, Nine’s director of strategy, insights and effectiveness.
“This was highlighted in many brands’ COVID-19 responses which saw a plethora of ‘we’re here for you’ messaging, yet consumers had little understanding of what exactly that meant in reality.
“Brands need to understand the echo chamber they operate within and how to break out of it to better engage with Australians.”
According to the research, 63% of marketers identify as functioning in an echo chamber, versus 44% within the general population, while 69% of marketers identify with feeling validated when surrounded by like-minded people, versus 55% of the general population.
This highlights the opportunity for brands and the need to invite different, alternative voices into marketing conversations.
Hannah Krijnen, FiftyFive5 director, says brands must be careful how they articulate their point of view in the world.
“People do want to hear from them but only if there is a shared interest, not a shared interest campaign that is moonlighting as a profit driver,” says Krijnen.
“If a brand is to have a point of view on topics of cultural significance, it must be nuanced and educated and not fall into the binary tropes of a cultural debate or conversation.
“Brands need to prove that the work has been done, that they are coming from an informed place, and the point of view is part of their world. Brands need to ensure they know where they exist in culture and where they don’t.”
Nine’s Boon says brands shouldn’t jump into a topic because they feel they have to – that creates an echo chamber in itself.
“Brands can talk to their consumers on topics relevant and important to them, but consumers are ready to call out an empty platitude,” Boon says.
“Brands need to be ready to back up their communications with clear action. The days of applying a filter over a logo in solidarity are over.
“However, brands can choose to remain focused on producing and selling their product. Having a point of view doesn’t work for every brand, and it’s equally important to know what works for your brand and what its mission is.”
The research covered both Australia’s devastating bushfire season and the beginning of Australia’s COVID-19 pandemic but was completed by the time the Black Lives Matter protests started.
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