Where to Engage: the New Rules
2011 is about consumers getting closer to brands than ever with direct online interaction. Brands have won the war in 'fun' advertising and consumers are now actively looking to opt-in to advertising as a form of entertainment.
The expensive prime time TV ad slot no longer holds the key in distribution. There is YouTube and its opportunities in global rather than national reach, but the real shift is the trend for on-demand, which now extends to advertising.
Advertisers must let consumers choose when and how they would like to be advertised to.
With this change comes a whole new set of challenges. Ads must be high quality, innovate, engaging and accessible via a number of platforms.
Below we look at four key changes and the opportunities they present to brands:
Thanks to the recession and diminishing marketing budgets, distribution of advertising is significantly cheaper. Cost of distribution was once a major barrier to smaller brands. Now online advertising in some context is available to all marketers.
Video advertising is a particularly interesting right now, as consumers accessibility to brands has coincided with developments in home technology. Consumers’ increased bandwidth coupled with the rise of the smartphone has led to more consumers than ever are watching and engaging with online video advertising. The birth of cost-per-engagement video advertising also tells us that video is a medium in which consumers engage happily.
Ad placement was once key for advertisers and this has now been replaced by quality. With traditionally copyright heavy businesses, like major music labels, gifting content to entice consumers, we see a higher value placed on creativity than context in which the advertising is seen. Rich content industries are not the only ones who can take part in this shift. The key is entertainment value rather than monetary value. Who would have thought that aging men’s toiletries brand Old Spice could see such a resurgence from a freely distributed ad series?
If it’s good enough, people will share it.
It is no secret that more people are engaging directly with brands online than ever before, whether through customer services, recommendation or gifted content. For brands, there is more to engaging the consumer than building an ad. Online marketing is now a two-way street with the expense for brands being time rather than big budget advertising.
Consumer blogger groups and key influencers demand more responsible advertising and customer service. Frequently we see calls for brands to engage: "Is anyone from [brand X] on twitter?"
Netmums and Parentdish are now a constant feature on the Breakfast TV sofa as the voice of parents as consumers.
In return for their more direct interaction, brands build invaluable trust, reputation and endorsement far beyond that which has traditionally been bought by advertising. And this extends beyond just advertising and customer satisfaction: when a high profile chain of gyms were not transparent with their pricing structure online, consumers bypassed the brand, looking to each other via forums and Twitter to clarify their membership fees.
Bringing brands and consumers together online has also accelerated market research. Marketers can now poll the country on an issue without pounding the streets.
Two major influences have driven this: The first is data mining of social media, which highlights allegiances, interest and sentiment towards brands. The second is more accurate online reporting for advertisers, promoting comprehension in consumer habits from location to time of online browsing.
It has never been cheaper to market cross-territory nor easier to gain information and insight into foreign markets. One of the best ways to dip your toe in the water for an instant snapshot is via social media. That said, it is essential to have native language direction in cultural nuances of the particular territory you’re targeting.
A favourite example of a brand tripping over a local interpretation was the well known yoghurt brand who used the slogan "contributes to the improvement of digestive comfort" but this translated into a euphemism for crap in Spanish. The reality is that particularly when limited to 140 characters, people build their own language and abbreviation which brands must stay on top of.
Interoperability and the multi-network environment
Sharing information and technology has emerged from the recession, as an incredibly powerful way to expand your brand digitally. Not only has sharing data resulted in setting industry standards, linking brands with a similar appeal or set of values has strengthened their reach (e.g., the iPad's use of the Economist in its advertising); while linking tech platforms has created mash-ups which push the boundaries of consumer experience to new and exciting heights.
We’ve seen how Facebook apps, have opened the forum for anyone to share their application freely through Facebook’s API, accessing 500m people in one hit. With developments in smartphones and tablets, the opportunities to access consumers through enticing tech widen every day.
Replacing the cost of distribution with opportunities in engagement and interactivity across a variety of platforms, on a multi-territory level means that creatives have more time to be creative.
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