Brand marketers need a new perspective on digital marketing
Marketers must shape their digital activity to reach the millions of consumers who aren’t clicking, not just active engagers.
In my job, I get to take part in a large number of brand marketing workshops and hear all sorts of creative approaches to tackling business challenges. A big challenge and opportunity facing the media industry is mastering how we plan and deliver unique reach and frequency across varying platforms, such as outdoor, TV, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, with different audiences.
Increasingly, I see these sessions focus specifically on the user journey and on how to build a connected marketing system through which consumers can easily flow from initial awareness, through interaction onto eventual purchase. It tends to almost inevitably lead to the creation of websites or microsites (which act as holdalls for the content you are creating), from which a consumer can fully explore and experience marketing activations.
It makes perfect sense on the face of it. Why wouldn’t we want people to easily find their way through our campaigns? The challenge is that we’re actually optimising for the wrong people and we’re also assuming that they are far more interested in our advertising than we ultimately know they are.
There is of course a degree to which consumers will indeed navigate their way through these ecosystems: they see an advert on TV; they tweet the hashtag related to it; they choose to click and see what else is being said; they find a brand tweet and follow it to a website; and finally they discover some engaging content they want to share with their friends. The challenge for brand marketers is that they typically need to reach and communicate with a much broader audience than just those that happen to click – not least because digital engagement across any platform tends to hover in the low single digit percentages.
Brand marketers need a new perspective on digital marketing. They need to understand that ultimately the key decider of their campaign’s success is what it looks like to the 99% of people who won’t click on it. Many seemingly well planned marketing activations can fall at this hurdle. Are your best pieces of content (and biggest investments) several clicks away from a consumer’s newsfeed? Does all your messaging spend more time begging people to come and do something, rather than actually communicating about your product? Does it end up making your brand look big and successful, or actually a little bit needy? Photo competitions and interactive 3D websites can sound fantastic on paper, but if your largely passive consumer isn’t ever going to them, it’s a wasted effort.
One mantra I hear a lot, though not always acted upon, is to focus on providing value to consumers and ask very little of them. Expecting someone to tweet about your ad, search for the hashtag, click through to your website and then share some content from there is asking a lot from a consumer, it’s also unnecessary.
You can target consumers who’ve tweeted your hashtag with that same content right in their newsfeed, or better yet you can sync up with your TV schedule and target people who you know have seen your original ad but haven’t actively tweet about it. It’s a rich territory where you can take consumers individually through fantastic sequential stories, without relying on them putting the effort in to get there themselves. Over the coming years, we’ll see increasingly programmatic media buying unlock this creative opportunity.
Of course it does still make sense to optimise your ecosystems so that consumers can navigate through them easily, and there are often reasons for engaging a core audience in an activation if you can then shout about it to a wider audience.
The key thing for brand marketers is that they need to spend their money proportionally and invest primarily behind the parts that millions will see, not just the active engagers. If we fail to do this, digital marketing will never truly impact past the core 1% and will be an increasing sink hole for marketers as they try to increase budgets in this area.
Next time you’re working through a rich digital ecosystem take a step back and get a new perspective – what will this actually look like to the millions of consumers who aren’t clicking? After all aren’t those consumers truly your marketing objective? If you can build a campaign that will truly resonate individually with each of them then you’re onto something good and you’re driving personalised marketing at scale.
This article was first published in The Guardian, July 7th 2015