It wasn't supposed to be this way, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handling the draft from his home, while players waited anxiously at home for a call they hoped would come -- but the draft's surprising remote format and its tremendous reception by the viewing audience provide a glimpse of how smart companies can use raw video to communicate directly with customers.
What viewers missed of the big pageantry of a Las Vegas production number, with crowds of fans and big television screens, was overshadowed by what they did see: families on worn-out couches, hopeful and stressed, with the unfiltered emotion that comes from being caught in the moment of the biggest event in these young players' lives. And it was all happening live.
Business owners are surrounded by high-production-value communication because that's what drives the cultural conversation, but the trend in consumer sentiment is unmistakable: It's shifting in favor of direct, in-the-moment communication.
So how should you rethink how you communicate with your market? Here are three important lessons.
1. Embrace imperfection and immediacy.
In late 2019, my consultancy asked 1,500 U.S. respondents over the age of 18 whether they'd prefer professionally produced videos or unscripted, raw, livestreamed communication from brands they buy. Fifty-nine percent said they prefer the faster, more immediate, slightly imperfect unscripted versions, a number that held surprisingly stable across genders and age groups.
What does this mean? The immediacy of raw communication means, by definition, that things won't get fixed in post-production. The good news? The public likes this. The public wants you to win. They don't mind the flaws -- they like the flaws. And they're rooting for you.
2. Direct communication beats the alternative.
As a culture, we've shifted toward hearing directly from newsmakers, removing the former gatekeepers and preferring the raw feed. This is particularly true when broken down by age group. In my company's survey, when respondents were asked whether they prefer brands, candidates, and leaders to speak to them directly through social media or online so they don't have to rely on intermediaries like the media, there was a fairly even split in the general public, with 36 percent preferring it versus 32 percent who didn't. But this number shifts dramatically for Millennial respondents, with 48 percent favoring direct communication versus 22 percent who do not.
The market wants to hear directly from you, in your voice, with your personality more than anything else. This doesn't mean you should fire your PR agency. But it does mean you should lead with your own presence and not rely on hoping a disinterested third-party press will make you look good.
3. Context is everything.
The new NFL draft format tapped into an even deeper sentiment trend: values alignment. It showcased each athlete's home, family, and often what could be described as their origin story. When my company's survey asked respondents whether it was important to know as much as possible about where their favorite brands' products come from -- for example, the history of the brand, where the materials are sourced, or how it was made -- 49 percent said it is, with only 18 percent saying it isn't. This sentiment was higher for younger Millennial respondents, 56 percent of whom said it is.
The market wants to understand why things are why they are. Facts alone don't tell the story. They want the day in the life, they want the backstory, and they want to see it themselves so they can make up their own minds.
It was fascinating to hear from the commissioner that the 2022 NFL draft will be awarded to Las Vegas, where it should have been this year. Given what we've learned, perhaps this at-home version is one of those things that shouldn't change after the Covid-19 era is behind us.