To connect with consumers, be prepared to do more with less

To connect with consumers, be prepared to do more with less
By Becca Brown
Apr 4, 2023
We’ve been saying this for some time now: consumers crave authenticity and connection with brands. So why do we still feel the need to say it? Because many brands still struggle to get it right.

Brands think that authenticity and consumer connection require trying harder to be more in your face about their great work—spending more, showing up in more places, and being flashy and loud about their authenticity. In fact, the opposite seems to be true.

No matter the content, trying too hard will actually come across as inauthentic and desperate and will overwhelm your audience. Consumers need a break. They need room to breathe and don’t want to feel bombarded.

Keep design clean and simple

Between the ever-increasing pace of the news cycle and continued political turbulence, the last few years have been chaotic and emotionally draining. And as life gets back to somewhat normal post-pandemic, consumers have a greater appreciation for slowing down. As a result, they’re more selective with their time.

Coming out of the past few years, we all have new priorities—and brands must respect that and find the balance to succeed. So, what does this mean?

It means being smarter, more intentional, and more strategic with how you show up through design and visual storytelling. Brands need to figure out how to gain attention-grabbing, click-bait-type awareness and interactions with authentic, simple design and communication. Be raw. Pare down the design if the content allows for it instead of throwing everything out there to see what sticks.

In a sea of loud, busy, and overly produced designs, it is the simple, clean, and raw work that could be just what your brand needs to be noticed.

Connect with consumers’ shared values

Just as being flashy and loud doesn’t necessarily equate to consumer connection, the same is true for where you show up. Showing up in more places doesn’t guarantee you’re connecting with the consumers who could be your biggest brand fans. With their newfound appreciation for slowing down, consumers want to know that engaging with your brand is worth their time and energy. They need to know that your actions have a positive impact on things they care about to feel that true connection and reward you with their attention.

Your consumers need to know and feel that connection through shared values. Showing up just to be seen doesn’t cut it anymore—and showing up everywhere may actually hurt your brand. If you associate with people, products, services, or cultural moments that don’t hold true to your brand, consumers will see right through it, and they won’t trust what you stand for. Being selective and organic with influencers, brands, partnerships, and engagements is key—even if it means doing less.

Remember the Kendall Jenner and Pepsi fiasco in 2017? Sure, Pepsi had good intentions, but a flashy commercial with a popular celebrity just wasn’t right for the moment and rubbed consumers the wrong way. Brands that fall victim to this approach can end up turning consumers away instead of drawing them in.

Make each connection point meaningful

Selective association with brands is like choosing friends. Who do I want to be seen with? Who do I want to give my precious time to? Brands need to think of themselves as people. What’s your personality like? Do we have anything in common? Will consumers want to hang out with you?

Having shared values with consumers and sharing culturally relevant moments in real, authentic ways will solidify your relationship with them and keep them coming back. Deeper, more meaningful connections—with brands operating more intentionally with who they are and how they show up—lead to Participation.

Don’t try too hard or be too flashy. Don’t overwhelm consumers. This all screams, “We don’t know who we are, so we’re trying everything!” It’s an instant red flag of inauthenticity.

Instead, be the friend. Show up in thoughtful, authentic ways. Know who you are, what you stand for, and how you’ll show up. Make each moment, each design, and each connection point more thoughtful and meaningful. Like many of us have done since the pandemic, learn to slow down.

Do more with less.

ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
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Meet the author
  1. Becca Brown, Associate Director, Creative

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