Claudia Ferguson
Claudia Ferguson

Authentic consistency is better than once-off relevancy

by Claudia Ferguson. Unless you have something authentic and important to say, don’t say it.

by Claudia Ferguson. Delivering impactful creative messages has always been a critical component for marketing and the growth of mobile and social media has only elevated the number of platforms consumers are exposed to on a daily basis. This has of course provided more platforms and outlets and opportunities for brands to become more creative in how they advertise and market. However, it has also exacerbated marketing clutter, especially if we consider that there are approximately 500 million tweets per day; there are more than 7 million active advertisers on Facebook; and 97% of B2B marketers utilise LinkedIn for their content marketing efforts. As such, breaking through the clutter is harder than ever before.

What’s more, as consumption patterns are shifting, preferences are changing, and consumers are becoming more conscious. So, it’s no longer just about breaking through the clutter, it’s about being relevant. And of course, everyone wants to be relevant. As a result, not only are we seeing brands trying to play in a space they are uncomfortable in, but as a consulting agency, we always get the question – how do we get involved? Our answer is always simple: unless you have something authentic and important to say, don’t say it. As a brand you cannot dip in and out of conversations and social causes because you think it will make you more ‘relevant’. What makes you relevant is understanding your brand essence, the core of what you stand for and authentically standing by that across all your marketing, social media and advertising – consistently.

And let’s be honest, some brands just get it right – the storytelling, tapping into the right conversations at the right time. Sure, it’s great marketing, but its more than that – they understand their brand essence and intrinsically know who they are, who they want to be, what they stand for and are unapologetically authentic about it. And that makes them relevant. On the converse, there are brands that have tried and have failed, and the backlash hasn’t been pretty. Why? Because consumers can see right through the façade. So how do you get involved in important conversations as a brand, after all you have to start somewhere?  For me, it comes down to a few things.

  • Firstly, define those core characteristics which define your brand. Those that separate you from your competitors and the emotion you want your brand to evoke. And while some things may shift and change as your business grows and changes to align to market requirements, stay true to that essence.
  • Secondly, be an active listener. Listening is an important element to any conversation. In order to truly be engaged as a brand, you need to understand what your customers are saying; what is important them and how you can add value, or if you even should ‘add value’. Part of this means to have an always-on approach to marketing so that you are in constant communication with customers and can be responsive to issues or need states as they arise.
  • This translates to the third aspect. People value useful information. They genuinely relate to brands that are able to provide this, so know how you are adding value, how you are inspiring and how you are developing mutually beneficial relationships. Make your brand an agent of impact.
  • Lastly, get out of your head. Find and define your own voice. Don’t focus on what other brands are doing – sure, it’s important to know what the competition is up to but stay true to yourself and your essence. Don’t try to emulate what you are not. If it’s not part of your brand DNA or aligns with your deepest values, don’t do it. Don’t be swayed by clicks.

At the end of the day, just like you have to understand your customers and the demographics of your audience, to have a relevant voice in the market, you have to figure out who you are and what you stand for. Once you have that and the authenticity that comes with it, you will know exactly which conversations and social issues are relevant and which you want to, or should, be a part of. How you then break through the clutter – well that’s up to your creative marketing and PR teams.


Claudia Ferguson is Business Director at Orange Ink. She has an impressive consulting career and her fair share of industry stories to tell. And she does exactly that – tell brand stories, backed by strategy and high-level consulting – all focused on impact. She believes in the power of the African continent, the value of insight and experience and the importance of relationships on the continent and beyond its borders. Her responsibilities include strategic business development for the agency and its client portfolio.

– Receive the Retailing Africa newsletter every Monday and Thursday • Subscribe here

– Take advantage of Retailing Africa’s ‘Pay-what-you-can’ business support package • Read more