What is Construal Level Theory?
Construal level theory is a multi-faceted term. In short it describes how the distance between ourselves and an object dictates our relationship to that object. For example the closer we get to a sign in the distance the easier we can read and understand what that sign says.
Construal level theory is mostly used in reference to social or psychological distance. For example, we put celebrities on a high horse because we have never met them before. But if we were to meet them, we may realise that they are not as different to you and I as we initially think.
How do you use it?
In marketing, construal level theory (CLT) has long been used to dictate how often a brand should and shouldn’t reveal the inner workings of their brand. Whether or not they engage with their audience and what platforms they choose to be present on at all.
This is so the perception we have of them is maintained. We have such a high perception of brands such as Moschino and Chanel because we know little about the day to day of what they do.
Should you use it?
However, with the rise of platforms such as TikTok, this concept is fading away. With influencers and TikTok creators being those who dictate culture – especially for younger audiences, higher value brands are starting to drop the barrier between them and us. Why? Don’t believe us – Here are a few examples of TikTok stars being invited to shows during various fashion weeks around the world. There are endless examples. Prada invited Charlie D’Amelio, Emma Chamberlain’s long time ambassadorship landed her on the front row at Louis Vuitton, Noah Beck saw Moschino and Thom Browne, alongside Lil Huddy… the list goes on. Other brands that invited TikTok stars were Coach, Peter Do, Proenza Schouler, and Staud.
Brands that make the biggest impact on TikTok are those who choose to engage with the platform and embrace its trends. Some may even go to somewhere like Enforce Social to get a little extra help when it comes to getting followers who, hopefully, with engage with their content and share it around so that it reaches as many people as possible. Some brands, of course, are already global giants in their industries, so won’t need to do this. For example, Gucci paved the way when it comes to engagement with its response and reposting of content from the #GucciModelChallenge. This contest has racked up more than 269 million views. Through interesting and quirky videos, they are also interacting with their fans in two-way conversation.
Another great example of this is Elon Musk. With the way Musk frequently interacts with audiences on Twitter and his clear knowledge of meme culture, you wouldn’t peg him to be the most valuable man on the planet but, here we are and there he is – Some would even argue that it is partially because of this that Musk has become as valuable as he has.
But why bother?
Why Should brands actively engage with their audience if their brand image is established already? Surely they don’t have a myriad of avid Gen-Z TikTok users as their buyer base. Well, the answer is likely twofold. Platforms like Snapchat and TikTok offer brands platforms to operate creatively, while staying authentic and true to their established brand image. Also the new generation of buyers value authenticity over anything else. Gen-Z buyers have grown up with most things in their lives being very overproduced and so they favour things being more authentic.
Should you drop the idea of Construal Level Theory for your brand?
To some extent – yes! Obviously you aren’t about to share important legal documents with your following but, as a marketing tool, engaging with your audience more isn’t likely to destroy their perception of your brand’s value.
Here are a few ideas how you can engage on a more personal level with your audience.
- Behind the scenes – Giving your audience a peak behind the inner workings of your brand is entertaining if nothing else. It also allows the audience to relate to the employees a bit more as that is much easier than relating to a faceless logo or name.
- Share user content – show that you actually care about your consumers by showcasing content they have made that features your service or product.
- Engage in trends – Maybe a particular TikTok trend has popped up or something in the larger pop culture world is happening that you find entertaining yourself. Offer your own spin on it and allow others to engage (it also lets you latch on to larger trends and bring more exposure to your brand as a bonus.)