Point of View
Today, it’s difficult to imagine a world without information and entertainment at our fingertips. And for people who have grown up with smartphones the expectation of immediacy is even stronger. However, some things haven’t changed. No matter their age, people still seek out things that are meaningful to them, and will only pay more for a brand they believe is different in some way. Among these age old motivations that guide digital behavior is the need to connect with others. It’s a powerful force which has always offered an opportunity for brand building but one which is destined to become even more important in future.
In today’s digital world everyone suffers from attention overload, particularly when it comes to digital advertising. The average digital display ad is glanced at for just over 2 seconds, and the average online video is viewed for 12 seconds. And we cannot assume that digital marketing will have a positive effect on the brand. Millward Brown’s Brand Lift Insight studies find that the best digital campaigns have a measurable and significant positive effect on brand equity but equally many have the opposite effect, undermining brand equity not building it. Poorly executed content, excess frequency, stalker-like retargeting and poor placement all threaten online effectiveness.
Digital came to us ready fragmented and it continues to splinter. Brands have responded by using ad networks, addressability and retargeting to pursue their consumer across the web. Content owners chasing revenue growth have added more ad space and offered more intrusive ad formats. As a result, people are increasingly turning to ad blockers to clean up their digital experience. The ability to reach people with a pre-determined message is being undermined.
The ubiquity of data on consumer’s digital behavior makes it very easy to focus too closely on specific metrics to the exclusion of what really matters. Never mind that automated targeting systems make huge assumptions about people’s potential interest in a brand or category and optimize content delivery based on fractional click through rates. Instead, let’s consider the fact that marketers are still fixated on Facebook and Twitter when most social conversations happen through dark social platforms like WhatsApp, Messenger, Snapchat and good old fashioned text.
The world of social sharing is far bigger than that considered in most digital media plans, a world that could help offset digital overload, and a world that could amplify a marketer’s content to a much wider audience. However, breaking through the digital clutter and leveraging dark social means that brands have to be more remarkable, more emotional and more useful than ever before – otherwise people will pass them by and share the latest post from Grumpy Cat.
Increasingly, brands are seeking to leverage the power of social media platforms using a new school media model. Unlike the traditional digital model that buys impressions the new media model creates content – a cause, event or happening – that is so noteworthy people want to talk about it. Once social coverage starts to trend, traditional news media, addicted to Twitter, jump on the bandwagon and amplify the campaign. Even so it is unlikely that a socially led campaign will achieve its full effect without paid media. Brands will still need to invest in above-the-line media spend to ensure reach but can do so knowing that the campaign idea resonates. Moreover, consumer-generated content can help fuel the broadcast advertising. In the UK, mobile provider, Three used customer’s selfies entered into a competition to provide the content for an effective TV campaign titled, “Stop Holiday Spam.”
However, the bar for social success is set very high. A brand must create something truly remarkable, emotional or useful in order to be able to break through the clutter and make an impression. Brands like Volvo Trucks with their Epic Stunts series, and Always with #LikeaGirl have been very successful in creating content that people want to talk about and share. One is a remarkable demonstration of Volvo’s confidence in its product; the other is an emotional call to empower young women. Other brands have chosen to create events to spark consumer engagement. Carling Black Label in South Africa chose to let fans “Be the Coach” in support of its positioning as a champion beer for champion men. Walker’s crisps in the UK chose to make the sleepy town of Sandwich more exciting with surprise celebrity events to demonstrate how their crisps make any sandwich better. Other brands like Australian optician OPSM chose to be useful; – they developed a book and an app to test kids’ eyes as they read with their parents.
Big ideas are no longer the domain of just TV campaigns. In fact, when it comes to socially-led campaigns big ideas are more important than ever. But big ideas are by nature creative and risky. We hear about the campaigns that succeeded not the ones that crashed and burned at launch.
All big ideas rely on some transformative insight that will allow a brand to unlock new value from customers and consumers. This is where good consumer research can really make a difference, helping to ensure that marketers see the world through their consumers’ eyes and ensuring that the big idea fits with the brand and resonates with the target audience. Good research helps at every stage of the creative development and media planning process but its biggest contribution might be unlocking the true power of creativity with a great insight that makes more people want to buy a brand, and be more willing to pay the price asked.