This is a guest post from Mitch Joel — President, Twist Image and author of “Six Pixels of Separation.” His new book “CTRL ALT Delete” was released in May 2013. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.
If a brand is looking to do something more than traditional advertising, what would be your recommendation?
The natural answer is: create content. And, to leverage that content through digital (re: social media) channels, so that consumers will see it, share it, talk about it, etc…
Even that is not a simple and easy thing to do. We’ve seen — on a constant and consistent basis — just how hard brands struggle to get the right type of content into the right channels to see any type of movement happen. It’s still few and far between for most, as they grapple with defining what success (or ROI) looks like in comparison with their traditional advertising measurement models. With that, too many brands dismiss the myriad of other reasons why consumers like what they see. In the end, having great content or great advertising is a fraction of the work that defines success for a brand.
What else are consumers looking for in a brand?
As you know, utilitarianism marketing, is a huge part of my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete, and still remains a vastly untapped opportunity for brands. Consumers want to have a tool (or utility) that adds value to their already cluttered lives. Newsfeeds are filled with links and how-to articles. This is just more clutter for them to sort through.
It’s not just about valuable content, but how that content is cased for them to actually derive a true benefit from it. The content that goes into this case is critical, but until a brand knows how much of a utility their apps, websites, or wearable technologies are adding to their consumer’s lives, it will be hard to break through the clutter.
This can best be described as the opposite of “death by a thousand paper cuts.” Functionality is all of the small, smart, and simple ways that your marketing creates value to the consumer by removing layers of friction and adding in thousands (hundreds?) of little things that make the experience of the utility that much easier and fluid than anything else they had used previously.
Think about the “slide to unlock” functionality of smartphones versus the old days of multiple button combinations to get your device into working mode. The easier it is to navigate and use coupled with the valuable content will build more loyal consumers.
In two words: design matters. I’ve watched consumers — on countless occasions — attempt to navigate a website on a mobile device or try to work through a “mobile-friendly” version of a brand’s digital experience only to quit or calmly state, “this sucks.” Consumers don’t care about your IT roadmap or your marketing department’s apprehension to spend budget on a native mobile experience, they simply find it to be a brand weakness. Period.
This isn’t just about mobile either. So few brands spend any semblance of time designing better experiences, that we wind up having two instances occur: One, a general homogeny, where it’s hard to tell the difference between one brand from another. Two, a brand that believes design is at the core and is able to create such a chasm between themselves and their competitors. Content surrounded by poor design is poor content.
It’s a digital world. This pushes content well beyond the realm of simple text. We live in a world of text, images, audio, and video. Consumers have an expectation to have that entire experience fully-integrated. They want access to the content as apart of the experience. Push this to think about ways to build a proper integrated player or embedding the right tools, so that the consumer can best benefit from a holistic experience.
This may be contentious to some, but apps are the new reality. Consumers are looking for new and interesting things on their smartphones and tablets. There is no reason why brands should not play an important role in this space.
Sadly, most of the branded apps don’t follow the notions being put forward here and relegate themselves to narcissistic tendencies. They’re looking to pimp and shill over utility, functionality, design, and integration. Consumers love and want more apps. Apps are the new websites. Brands need to get used to this.
6. Alerts and notifications
If consumers love what you’re doing and creating, they want to know when more of that good stuff is coming. There is a balance here and subtlety that is hard to master, but the brands that consumers know, love, and trust are also the ones that they want to be most connected to.
Consumers do like alerts and notifications that are valuable. Don’t forget about that. And don’t be annoying. Remember, this is a very sensitive issue. Brands are trying to add value with alerts and notifications, not bulk up on impressions.
Arianna Huffington quite beautifully stated that “self-expression in the new entertainment.” Consumers love access. They love commenting, sharing, complaining, and more. Do you know what they love more than that? Doing it in public. People love to share and tell stories and add to those stories. Great content is no different.
In the early days of blogging, I used to say that the biggest difference between traditional media and blogging is that in the traditional world, the last period at the end of the last sentence is the end of the piece. In digital media, the last period at the end of the last sentence is where the story begins. Having great content without building in the hooks for people to have interaction, social play, and commentary renders the content neutered.
This is something that I have blogged about on countless occasions. Content without an even stronger content distribution strategy is useless. This is a hard one for brands to understand. They want to control the content on their own platforms. Great content wants to be free. Brands can help with this.
It means breaking down the walled gardens and finding new and interesting places where customers (and prospective customers) play and connect, and to get your content into those channels of distributions. Think about your industry trade publications or other, more adventurous, places for your content to live and breathe.
So, are you still just worried about the content side of things?