Post-Truth: What the Word of the Year Means for Marketers
What a year 2016 was, politically speaking. First, the historic Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom. Then the unlike-anything-we’ve-ever-seen-before U.S. presidential election. Those two events sent the usage of the Oxford Dictionary’s international Word of the Year -- post-truth -- soaring in news articles and on social media posts, a roughly 2,000 percent increase over its usage in 2015.
This adjective is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” In this case, post doesn’t mean “after” as in post-war or post-graduate, but rather, it refers to an atmosphere in which a notion is irrelevant.
According to the Oxford University Press, its word of the year is supposed to capture the mood or ethos of the time. So what is post-truth saying about our culture today? That facts are relative and fungible, and how people feel about a particular person or subject or situation is more important than objective proofs.
And to this marketers everywhere say: “No kidding.”
The word of the year only confirms what we have always known: Like the current political sphere, our world is driven by feelings and perceptions, and these must be researched, contemplated, understood and factored into every brand’s go-to-market strategy.
All of which is not to say that truth doesn’t matter. Veracity always matters, and reflecting it in our brands is central to success. Brands not built on authenticity are easily spotted and dismissed by consumers.
But tapping into a target audience’s emotions is an essential part of branding. Forming connections with customers at a deep human level is what separates the great brands from the good. Great brands do more than offer facts about themselves. They interact with their audiences, learning what matters to them, what motivates and moves them, and how they prefer to be engaged.
Great brands contour their messaging ¾ content and delivery ¾ to meet the needs and preferences of their audiences. They tell well-conceived, genuine narratives, convincing stories, and, as a result, earn a hallowed space in the hearts and minds of their audiences.
So welcome to the era of post-truth (or what we in the industry refer to as just another day), where facts still count, but success is best achieved through an emotional appeal and a deep understanding of what matters most to your customers and prospects.