A few weeks ago I wrote an article on the disruption we face in today’s marketing landscape. The proliferation of new channels, consumption platforms, and content creators has redefined many industry rules.

A consumer’s world has been redefined in terms of what they consume and how they consume it. This also means our world as marketers has been flipped on its head. The customer is in control of the conversation. We must truly understand them before we can add value to their lives.

However, we have landed in a much smarter, more informed, and efficient world. A place where we can harness data and technology simultaneously, to understand consumers with granular detail and connect with individuals in real time.  This technological change in the industry has led to great efficiencies in buying, improved visibility over performance, transparency of audience identification and automation which enables personalisation.

Although it has also brought with it new challenges, opinions and metrics of success.

One of the interesting developments is the new breed of marketing and media professional, bought up in a world of data analytics rather than brand development. A thought-provoking article from TechCrunch explores this in detail here.

This is an interesting dynamic, half of the industry is focused on data analytics and prediction models to understand consumer behaviour through numbers and algorithms. While the other half are creatively inspired discovering new ways to connect brands with consumers, building equity through inspiration and emotion.

There is no right or wrong in this space. We can all learn from each other, and this is the key – how can we all work together to build a smarter industry as a whole?

Understanding consumer interaction with communications in real-time is paramount to know what works and enable efficient optimisation and personalisation of messaging. Although we can at times be too clever for our own good in this space, optimising ourselves out of the market – especially in a small market like NZ.

Creative and innovation are the keys to success.

What data and technology doesn’t do is replace the need to create great ideas that are true to the brand and resonate with consumers. The art of communications and storytelling is still at the core of what we do. We just now know which are the stories that resonate and drive action. We cannot always look to consumers for answers when they look to us for inspiration.

There is a sweet spot – where the world of creative and data collides.

The challenge in today’s world is that there are unlimited ways to achieve a business result.

This choice can actually suppress action and execution as there is never agreement on how to proceed. When we only had TV and Newspapers it was pretty clear what we were going to do.

To guide thinking and action we must understand what the core business objective is.

Which can range from immediate conversion, through to long term brand equity – both of which are vital for business health but in many cases are very different in terms of desired consumer action.

We need structure to align our collective thinking.

Having a structure enables us to focus and build truly integrated communications strategies around an aligned vision. This means we have clear roles and responsibilities across disciplines – media, creative, brand, product.

I believe there are four broad capacities we can activate within today’s landscape to connect with consumers to shift units or build equity.

1. Traditional advertising
2. Personalisation and performance
3. Connect with audiences through empathy
4. Engage through innovation

Media plays a central role in each different approach. Distribution of message is always key – saying something great which no one hears is worthless. But the channel in many instances is more than simply connecting with an audience, it can be the source of the message.

Traditional advertising

‘Ads’ which harness the power of audiences at scale. With a comms insight an idea is developed into a creative execution which builds the brand story.

Media strategy has two core roles. Firstly, develop the insights which inform creative and messaging. Secondly to create a channel architecture to ensure the right people are exposed to the creative at the right time, in the right channel, the optimal number of times.

The objective is to connect the right product and message, with the right consumer at scale. Media and creative must work simultaneously together. Consumer insights should inform the first touch messaging with consumers, but then consumer interaction will inform the next message. The correct tracking architecture across all touch points is paramount to fuel this model.

Connect with audiences through empathy

Aligning a brand purpose with a social cause, or cultural truth, to build connections with audiences can elevate the conversation above a transaction. The actions of the brand can earn it a place in the consumer’s heart or mind through an alignment with their own values.

Consumer insights from data is core to understand how a brand can become part of the conversion. Channel selection is also imperative to enable conversion and to build reach, while ensuring the integrity of idea is still intact.

The challenge with executions of this nature is how we harness the equity in the idea to deliver brand engagement – the fine line is leveraging the conversation and converting this into brand engagement through thought leadership.

Engage through innovation

Leveraging technology and product design to deliver brand engagement. Communications should be a demonstration of the product or brand positioning. Driving consumer intrigue and interaction.

Media technologies should be the driving force behind these ideas. Channel selection must enable the execution, while also reaching a critical mass of the market to ensure volume objectives can be achieved to drive sales or move brand metrics.

The consistent layer across all approaches is the need for clear KPIs and measures of success. A smart tracking architecture is required to give a holistic view of the communications ecosystem and the wider interactions customers are having with products and brands.

In conclusion we must truly understand what motivates consumers, the media they consume and how they respond to our communications. Of equal importance we cannot let this cloud creative ways to offer innovative solutions to consumers.

By understanding the true consumer need, we can deliver a guiding insight. This insight should fuel creativity to develop communications solutions which deliver tangible business results across both sales and brand equity metrics.

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