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Attuning your marketing to your audience – tone, privacy and the rise of audio post pandemic

This outtake is from an hour of discussion recorded exclusively for our Pivotal Marketer Community on Facebook (where the full recording is available) sees Mike Berry, marketing trainer and consultant and MMC’s Rene Power discussing how to get the tone right in post pandemic marketing..

It’s the fifth and final in a series of serialisations on marketing strategy, be sure to check all new posts as they publish (or see the recommended reading below).


Just before we start to wrap up, we did promise to talk about a few things that we thought marketers should probably be focusing on in 2021.

We’ve probably covered quite a few of those already from a strategic top-down. So trying to engage sales peers and working upwards into management and things like that. Using the right models, doing the right analysis, but particularly five things that we thought would be things that would have much more of a positive impact on your customers, your audience, and also your business as well.

Importance of tone

And for me, one of the big ones we’ve just touched on there is the idea of tone and positioning. And as you identified Mike, in the Super Bowl ads and a lot of the stuff we’ve seen in the UK I know like Lloyds and Halifax and people have been running these ads about “we’re here for you, the doors are open” and M&S are doing safe space type campaigns and all this sort of thing.

It’s really getting that positioning, right where yes, you’ve got a role and a requirement to be front of mind, which is as marketers that’s what we should be doing, but we’ve got to be sensitive to the fact that people might not be in a position they want to spend any money at the minute.

So we’ve got to do it very sensitively, mindful of where our audiences are. So focusing on those customer needs and not just what we’ve got for that.

For me something like Donald Miller’s Building a Story Brand is one of the great books of the last few years that really helps you architect, how to position your business products brands in a way that really taps into a customer’s need for change, improvement, transformation, whatever it is.

So I think one of the big things is about looking objectively at our tone and positioning. Would you agree with that?

Mike Berry:

Definitely. And it’s so important to be in tune with the customer just as I was saying (post 4), it hasn’t been a year for big triumphant show off TV advertising. Rather use the power of TV to enter the customer’s living room and say, “Look, you’re having a tough time. We’re all having a tough time, but we do understand, we’re here for you and we’re going to be here for you when things get better.”

So that sort of message. And of course things will get better and therefore it’s going to be necessary to adjust, dare I say even pivot to a more positive message and the good brands are agile like that.

How can you do this? How can you maintain this personalization with customers? It does come back to data, doesn’t it? It means understanding them not as 10,000, but maybe as 10 personas each representing a 1,000 people.

So segmentation, targeting the good old techniques that marketers have always had, will be even more important than ever. So the whole personalization piece was already important in 2019, if anything more so in 2021 too.

Data and privacy

And the cousin of that is of course concerns about privacy. So I’m given all these companies, Google, Facebook, Amazon, all this data about me. I feel I have no choice because otherwise I can’t live, no one will deliver to me. So they need this data, so I’m trapped. I don’t even know how much they’ve got, I don’t even want to think about it. And every day on the news I hear that someone’s been hacked.

So are we all doomed? And that’s an extreme view, but I think a lot of customers have concern. So the good companies will really invest in IT security and cybersecurity, and then make a point of telling their customers they’ve done that and also make sure they are not hacked.


That’s a really, really good point. And also linked with that idea of streamlining those experiences. We all have a finite amount of time, and I think marketers are probably the worst – If a site’s not working I’m somewhere else, if the checkout process isn’t working, if I can’t easily find what I want to get to, I’m probably more likely to go and look at something else quicker.

So websites, mobile, social, whatever it is, it needs to be quick and painless. We need to get people to where they want to get to, and ideally where we want to get them to. And hopefully they’re the same thing by really investing in user and customer experience journeys and making sure that everything we do is clean and clear. Think it’s really important.

Mike Berry:

And it’s really tough. Isn’t it? Let’s not underestimate this challenge. For a small brand for instance, no one is thinking well, they haven’t got much money, so they can’t afford very good developers and maybe their website isn’t state of the art because they’re only small, give them a break. No one’s thinking that. They’re just thinking this is a bit slow.

I’m sure Amazon is a bit faster. The BBC website seems to work a lot better than this. seems to work better than this bed and breakfast in South End and people aren’t fair. It’s just like the bar has been raised and people are unreasonable. Unfortunately, they are also our customers. So it’s up to them to be unreasonable. They can’t be wrong, can they?


It’s a challenge for a small business to provide that Amazon experience.

Mike Berry:

Yeah. That’s right. And you have to try and compensate by personal service. And some people will be naturally attracted to a smaller organisation, but there is definitely a minimum acceptable user experience, particularly online that people absolutely require. Otherwise, they’re just going to vote with their mouse, aren’t they?


We’ve got a question about, privacy and data security asking if there is an independent source that we might be able to drop in the chart or a website or somebody that kind of is a real expert or an authority on that. That’s something we can maybe think about.

Mike Berry:

Yeah I think we’d like to take that offline Rene and make a recommendation. Also something I always say to my clients is you can comply with the law because there are plenty of marketing lawyers that will explain the intricacies of GDPR and actually say, “No, don’t do that.” Or “Yeah, you can do that if you do this.”
But most organisations would wish to go beyond the law. So we get into conversations about ethics and what sort of company are we and “doing the thing” whatever that means. So then you’ve got your privacy policy, you’ve got your compliance with all necessary codes.

And if you’re in pharmaceuticals or gaming or gambling or alcoholic drinks or selling to kids, you’ve got your own codes to worry about, which go further than what everyone else has to worry about, financial services being another. But then beyond that, maybe the board are going to say, “Well, actually we could share that data. We could use that current account data to sell mortgages, but we’re not going to do it without an extra opt-in. So we are choosing to go further than the law, even to our own disadvantage, because if they don’t opt in, then we won’t do it. So we’re missing an opportunity there, but we think it’s worth it to be seen, to be squeaky clean.”

So I would just urge everyone, of course to keep to the law of every country you operate in but also to consider, are you just going to obey the letter of the law. And I’m not going to mention any companies, but there are one or two who really push it to the absolute limit. And that can even be a policy. “We make it a bit of a slap risk for this, but let’s just see, shall we? We’ll do it. And if necessary, we’ll pull the work if we have to”.

Whereas are others say, “Oh, no. Imagine if someone complained, we are squeaky clean, we are the good guys. We’re not going to do that.” So you have to work out what sort of company you are, where you sit on that spectrum. And then always I say to students, particularly on the courses that I teach, you’re not a lawyer, neither am I.

Sometimes we say, “Thank goodness. We wouldn’t want to be that.” But we have to know when to call one in and I’m afraid it does sometimes cost you to get a good one, but they save you money as well. So marketers have to understand when it gets to a point “Okay, we need some advice on this” because you have to read the GDPR in detail and understand recent case law and then make an informed decision. That’s a judgement , isn’t it? So yes be very careful, that’s my advice.


That’s an interesting point and you see an advertising as well. And I just wonder sometimes some of these brands that get pulled before the ASA and have ad support and they have their knuckles wrapped if they didn’t know beforehand. “Yeah, we knew that was going to happen, but we plastered it all over the underground and the press we’ve got from being banned by the ASA is actually more press than we could have hoped for”.

And I think there are some particularly I think about in the health food supplement space, there were some very prominent billboards and things that kind of upset quite a lot of people. And I think that you probably went into that knowing that was going to happen. And I think there are a number of brands that as you say, push it as far as they can with the marketing messages.

Mike Berry:

And of course they take them down but very, very slowly.

Rise of audio


A couple of other things, things for me just to kind of wrap this up. So I think we’re all seeing organic reach declining across a lot of the social media platforms. Social media is massive for lots of organisations but we’re seeing organic declining. So the rise of paid content becoming more and more important.

And particularly audio I would say as a tactic but also as a strategy embracing audio, because we’ve seen how podcasts and podcasting can kind of transform branding and putting your experts and your company opinion leaders out there in front of customers talking about the fantastic stuff that they do. And talking about problems and challenges in your audience and how things are overcome and sharing case studies can be a really powerful part of the marketing mix.

But when we’ve seen things like Clubhouse come along and have the kind of exceptional meteoric rise that it’s had. I think this week I’ve already read that Facebook are planning their own audio rooms. So that’ll be the perfect one to go after the Clubhouse share if you like.

But that ability to be able to essentially run pop-up webinars and seminars and interactive podcasts, whatever you call that, there is something very, very exciting. And after a year of us all being on camera and having to be camera ready on Zoom and all the rest of it, the audio dimension we’re going for walks, we’re walking dogs, we’re doing the school run. We’ve got something in our ears that’s engaging us. It’s a tremendous opportunity.

And I think with Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter, looking at how they can take what is essentially a function, Clubhouse is a function, it wouldn’t surprise me if somebody just bought it, actually and rolled it in like they did with Instagram. There’s every possibility that somebody would do that as a way of reaching audiences and building those relationships, I think that’s going to be one of the really powerful things to work into your strategies this year.