The Future Of Consumer Connection: Can Smaller Brands Outshine Giants?

When it comes to brand connection for the future, we wonder: could giant brands find themselves coming head-to-head with smaller, more agile brands that connect deeply with their audience?

It’s a topic we’ll be covering a lot on The Forward Podcast as we hear more and more about the crumbling of the status quo across multiple industries and sectors. The reality is, consumers are more informed than ever before, bringing a microscope to those who can be trusted not just for convenience, but for their values and practices.

As we move forward, all signs show that brands will simply need to do more to continue to maintain loyalty. Indicators suggest that the future could belong to smaller, more agile brands that connect deeply with their audiences in a more natural way, with less jargon, assumptions, and BS. Social media has become savvy to those who practice what they preach, playing a huge role by allowing consumers to interact directly with brands and each other, making it easier to spot and share any discrepancies between a brand’s message and its actions.

Research is trending towards authenticity being a key differentiator. Brands that are seen as genuine and trustworthy can stand out from the competition. A study by Label Insight revealed that 94% of consumers are likely to stay loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency. Additionally, 86% of shoppers prefer brands that are honest and authentic on social media. So, what does this mean for the big players? Maybe it’s time to rethink their strategies.

Those who have spotted this have shifted their outward image like GQ opting for messier advertising that portrays real life rather than traditional, highly produced billboards, TV spots and more. So, what is it about those brands that you just click with and go back to time and time again? How are entrepreneurs finding their way to connect?

In our latest podcast episode of The Forward Podcast, we had some real talk with Natalie Dau, the much-loved media creator, athlete, and author of ‘Run Like A Woman’.

In this episode, Natalie shares her story of 25 years as a global consultant across sectors like technology, travel, sports, and wellness. She discusses her journey to creating her own media brand and the preconceived and outdated ideas that surround audience connection.

Aziza: That is going to be the guiding piece of advice from now on. I want to talk about—your community, and quickly. There are so many businesses out there who spend millions trying to build the community that you have, trying to engage with a community and hit that connection point where people will actively go towards them. I know you probably have seen this in your past life, working with brands. There’s a lot around what we presume people want versus what people do want and genuinely do connect with. That is where authenticity comes through in your content. Can you talk about some of the core factors that have helped you build the successful content community that you have now?

Natalie: Number one is consistency. It’s showing up for yourself and showing up for your audience every single day. As you said, it’s being authentic and keeping it real. Anyone that sees my content knows that a lot of my photos are taken by my 15-year-old. They’re not openly staged; they are real. Sometimes I’m putting together some content or writing something, thinking, “Is this really what people want to read?” But maybe if it’s what I want to read, what I believe, then I’m putting it out there. I’m a true believer that you can’t force an audience. If someone wants to follow me or engage with me, fantastic, but I can’t force them to do so. It comes back to even collaborating and sharing content. When people are too scared to share an audience or too scared to promote someone else, it’s like people will find these people anyway. It’s all for the greater good. I think it’s just being open, honest, and real, day after day after day.

Aziza: Thank you for that. When you talk about your life as an athlete, and this goes back to what you spoke about in the beginning, in terms of you can’t plan for anything. I’ve seen you speak about that—that the real truth in life is you cannot plan for anything. There are always going to be unexpected challenges that life can throw at you, and you speak about that from a sporting perspective. But then I also saw you come together with HSBC. You spoke about that sporting spirit in business, and there’s a really nice link between those because, where we are now in this world, there is a lot of ambiguity. There is a lot of hoping you can plan for the best, but you never know what’s around the corner. Can you talk to us a little bit about those links between that sporting spirit and the business world?

Natalie: Yeah, sure. So a big thing for me is controlling the controllables and letting everything else go. It’s no use trying to force anything if it’s beyond control. You have to let it go, let your ego go, and just control what you can. In our house, we have a strict policy around sport. It’s to play one individual sport and one team sport because I believe they teach us lessons for life, and that translates into business as well. You have to be an individual contributor, but you also have to learn to be a team player. I think sport translates so well into business and life.

Aziza: That is something that has come up a lot this season—being able to work alone but knowing you’re not an island. To face complex challenges, it’s essential to mix well with diverse groups, and different ways of thinking, and let your ego go, as you said, to hear other perspectives.

Natalie: Exactly, and learn to win and learn to lose. I think that’s a huge lesson. The younger we learn that the better we are set up for life.

Aziza: And even learning from those losses. There’s always a lesson when you fail or lose at something.

Natalie: Absolutely. Someone in the world is always better than you at something, and that’s okay. Learn from them and look up to them.