6 A.M.

Edelman, Earned Brand, Innovation

The Power of the Earned Brand



The life of the consumer is transformed daily by a rush of innovations.

Want to change the temperature of your home remotely? No problem, use Nest. Need a great dress for the weekend party? Easy, use Rent the Runway. Don’t want to be hanging around? Order a car from Uber. Want to maximize your workouts and monitor sleep patterns? Wear the Fitbit. Do you have a brilliant entrepreneurial idea that needs funding? Apply to Kickstarter.

It is the entrepreneur’s moment. Consider Jeff Bezos of Amazon who said, “New inventions and things that consumers like usually are good for society.” People love innovation and what it can bring to their lives. They connect with innovation in terms of the human spirit.

This should be a bonanza for marketing professionals, who are charged with selling these innovations.

Our business has a surfeit of new tools at our disposal, from personalized advertising to targeted direct marketing and dynamic content creation. And yet, we are in danger of losing our consumer.

Here are some warning signs for the marketer from our research:

  • By a two-to-one margin, people feel that the pace of change is too quick.
  • Two out of three consumers believe that the motive for innovation is greed and corporate profit.
  • Two of three are nervous about privacy and security.
  • Three of five are anxious about the environment and over consumption.
  • Half are concerned about having to “be on” all of the time.
  • Most worrying, 87 percent of consumers said they will stop buying innovative products and services unless companies address these concerns.

We have to act on a simple truth: acceptance of innovation cannot be bought; it must be earned. As marketers, we are failing.

Three out of five consumers told us that brands are not on the right track when it comes to listening and communicating with them. And by two-to-one, consumers said they want to be reassured rather than be inspired.

We have forgotten that reassurance is required at a time of rapid change. To achieve that “arms around” status demands a different playbook.

This churn of innovation means more than ever that my evidence is your experience. Said another way, it is the experience that peers have with an innovative product and their emotional shared reactions that are the necessary evidence for purchase. Seventy-five percent say they turn to peers to push them toward or away from a purchase.

Instead of brands using the opportunities that social channels provide to convey their messages, marketers must also use the same social channels to enable peer-to-peer conversation to tap into the power of the peers if they are to convert the purchase. Sixty-seven percent say they trust a brand more if they facilitate peer reviews. And consumers take seriously the opportunity to connect with brands via a “human face at the company.”

Today’s inspiration comes from aspiration. Sixty-nine percent of people believe that the role of innovation for brands should be to constantly improve society and 63 percent to push our thinking. People around the world want to understand the purpose and mission of the brand, how the new product will improve their friends’ lives. And when they are inspired about the mission, the consumers become missionaries.

Disruptive innovation is a fact of the modern economy. As marketers, we need to evolve our playbook if we want to succeed. We have to address consumers’ fears before we have the permission to sell. And we are most credibly represented by those with personal experience of a brand, speaking openly and spontaneously. Once the foundation of trust is established, then marketing can play its role of inspiring purchase.

Today, I am sharing the stage in Cannes at the Lions Festival of Creativity with Jamie Oliver, whose personal campaign for better quality and more nutritious food under the banner, Food Revolution, has changed diets around the world. He understands intuitively that there are four characteristics of successful innovative brands. He informs his publics about the facts on diet, from health consequences to quality of life. He provides a greater purpose, how his initiative will improve the community. He is a character with personal experience leading a campaign that you want to join and advocate. And he is doing something different that is worthy of your association and advocacy. He earns the right to innovate. This is the new model of marketing in action.

Richard Edelman is president and CEO.

  • Ann Flannigan

    Outstanding post. Working at a company that is beginning to pivot from a very solid “Caregiver” archetype to more of a “Creator”, your words are a great reminder that consumers absolutely need caregiving in addition to problem solving and cool stuff.

Contact us

Contact us

Edelman is interested in hearing from you. Please select your primary interest.