The last time Mark Stocker of The Very Group stopped by The Creative Operations Podcast, he and host Daniel Jester talked about studio teams institutionalizing the lessons they learned during the COVID shutdown. One point that Mark and Daniel briefly touched on was the creation of relatable content, the idea of making approachability the new aspiration.
That point needed to be teased out, though, so Mark is back on the pod to talk about the post-pandemic relatability that audiences desire. "We want to inspire them to be with us as a brand," Mark says. "We want to be relatable to them, we want them to understand we know what they've gone through, and accept it."
For the entire conversation, stream this episode on our website, Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify. For a quick tease of that chat, though, read on.
Relatable Content is Comfortable
The rise of work-from-home creative content during the pandemic contributed to a move toward comfortable, not over-produced messaging. Aspirational narratives communicated in editorial and even e-commerce content for so long gave way to more everyday views of the brand and its goods. As studios continue post-pandemic, they can continue to purposely let the audience see them with less posturing.
"We capture moments now," Mark says. "We've gone away from staged, visually merchandised shots with the perfect lighting, the perfect product, the perfect models. Where we've got to is relatable content that resonates with the customer."
But it should be underscored that it's about studio teams relinquishing some control, in terms of the extent of production, not just creating highly curated content that mimics the approach. In other words, it's not about getting all done up and saying you woke up like this.
"Customers are not soft," Mark says. "They'll see right through anything that's false. It's got to be authentic as well."
Video Continues to Prove Relatable
Even before the pandemic, there was a drastic rise in video e-commerce content. If video production dissipated at all during the shutdown, it has transitioned back, as Mark sees brands requesting video more than ever.
"We're getting back to the point now like it was for a few years pre-pandemic, where there's a handful of retailers out there shooting video for every product and posting it on every page," Daniel says. "I've been shopping for tennis shoes and comparing four or five different brands. Everybody had a product video. Everybody has a homepage, a landing page for each model of shoe, that's video-heavy. It's just that, I guess, video is the relatable content."
Mark, however, has some skepticism.
"I think there's a couple of sides to it though if I'm honest,” Mark says. “We've been there before, we've come away from it, and we're heading back to it."
Even if video involves every bit as much attention to detail as a still shoot, it fits with the relatability emphasis, in Mark's mind. "It's more real, it's less staged," he says. "You haven't got teams of stylists moving garments by the millimeter, steaming things—there are imperfections. And I think the imperfections are what make it a little bit more real, a little bit more relatable. Even color, we talked earlier about color."
Relatable Content Serves an Improved Buyer Journey
Relatability isn't about merely portraying an achievable lifestyle or producing content in styles more akin to the audience's self-shot media. It's about meeting the audience with that message in the moments when they need it, Mark explains.
"We've got to get two things right: relatable, inspirational content to drive them onto the site, and then a really clear, simple customer journey to keep them there, so they can find and buy what they want," Mark says.
Conscientious Consumers Relate to Sustainable Content
Taking it further, relatability isn't limited to what content you display and when. It's about how you create your content and the ways in which your process affects your brand's environmental impact. "We're talking a lot about social responsibility, sustainability, the environment," Mark says.
With the industry's recent—and necessary—push toward more inclusivity, e-commerce studios are shooting more products in more sizes and for a wider array of genders. This applauded ramp-up in production has an unintended side effect of more dead stock at the retail level. It's important that, if a brand is working responsibly to limit waste, that's a relatable value to the audience and can be worth sharing.
"Let's be honest, all retailers are clearing stock, week in, week out," Mark says. "We're trying to do our best with the dead stock. And it's because we have to give wider assortments, the wider scale of sizes."
Want the whole discussion, from word problems to dystopian films to data used for measuring the effectiveness of seemingly relatable content? Get the full episode of The Creative Operations Podcast on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our site.