A view from Sue Unerman

Friendly is the new cool

The journalist Jess Cartner-Morley on fashion: "Smiling is the new pouting, friendly the new cool and softly softly the new sell."

She calls Instagram the new heart of fashion, replacing the catwalks of London, Milan and New York. And that, to shine on Instagram, a fashion brand needs to be friendly, approachable and, above all, authentic.

This is not just true of fashion brands. In fact, if it is true on the catwalk, just think how much more it applies to all kinds of brands in the supermarket, on Amazon and on the high street. If you’re not Westwood or McQueen, you have an even greater need to express authenticity and approachability. Not just through brand essence and tone of voice, not just in advertising, but in media strategy.

Aloof and cool were extremely desirable once. Now friendly and approachable have replaced these criteria. How can you warm up your media?

It might mean a role for micro-local communications. One voice may not work in the brand’s best interest. Consider regional voices for radio ads, local employees in regional newspapers or referencing specific statistics, streets and boroughs in outdoor executions (as MediaCom did for the Metropolitan Police’s highly effective confidence campaign).

How’s your approachability? While it is still true that there are far more people watching brand/consumer interaction than joining in, it is an important signal of how friendly and agile your brand is.

How’s your tone of voice? There’s a finished perfection to most brand communications that does not necessarily enhance approachability. It isn’t the number of Tweets/posts that count, it is the tone of voice and shareability. A catalogue of product suggestions is still a catalogue, whether you door-drop a print version or cut and paste the information into a series of Tweets and posts.

I’ve just scanned one food-related brand’s last dozen posts. Ten are recipes; two are offers. Consistency is a fine thing but, come on, Brand X – mix it up a bit. I’d never get out of the kitchen if I listened to you. A spot of funny wouldn’t go amiss either.

How much can your brand support potential customers? Is the brand purely out to show glamour by using only models or could it encourage the potential in all of us? Have an element of the campaign that specifically flatters the buyer as opposed to just amplifying a celebrity’s endorsement. Any sport brand can buy top-level athletes’ endorsements if it has deep pockets. The brilliance of Nike is that it also speaks to the athlete in you and me, inviting us all to run.

To be friendly, you must act as a friend would, not just hide behind the idea of friendliness – that really isn’t cool any more. Welcome to the age of friendly.

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom