| August 02, 2017
If there is one thing that has changed in the last couple of decades it is our expectations of immediacy. Ever since Apple put easy access to information in our hands people have come to expect everything to be more immediate. This includes business success which is a problem when brands take time to grow strong.
To my mind, the trend to marketing in the moment is exacerbated by our expectations of immediacy. Yes, we have more data than ever before (too much). Yes, we have better algorithms (faster anyway). Yes, we can prove results (if only short-term). But really it is our expectation that marketing should drive results now that is shaping the desire to reach people immediately prior to decision-making. And that expectation is exacerbated by a few, unique brands that have rocketed to success in just a few years: think Google, Facebook, Chobani, Tesla or Airbnb.
The trouble is that these brands are not the norm, they are truly exceptional. For a start, when launched, they were so meaningfully different from the existing products in their category that they attracted huge attention, word of mouth and news coverage. Building awareness was not something they needed to worry about (although as they face more challenges they likely will). But most new brands are not this disruptive and few established brands can hope to garner the same level of free publicity.
Strong brands, particularly habitual purchases, are built through repeated positive experiences and repeated purchases. People learn to buy the brand. And that takes time. Yes, people will swap around within a packaged goods category and use different brands for different tasks but ultimately brand success rests in altering the odds of purchase in your favor and getting people to pay that little bit more for your brand than a direct competitor. If that is to happen in the moment when people make a more deliberative decision then you better offer something of compelling value or be prepared to discount more than the competition.
And what about more considered purchases, products and services that are bought more infrequently? Again, if the outcome of a purchase decision is not to rest entirely on the incentive offered then it is mission critical to predispose people to choose it, to ensure an instinctive positive reaction when the brand comes up in search or is seen in a display ad. Brands need to make it as easy as possible for people to notice them and choose them.
I am certainly not arguing that brands should stop trying to reach people in the moment of decision making. While our ability to accurately target the right age and gender is still patently flawed online or off I am sure this will improve with better data and analysis. What I am arguing is that the brands that successfully build the right impressions have an unfair advantage when it comes to activation. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts.