08 Mar 2017
Brands that are winning do this

The Brands That Are Winning Understand These Things

Marketing hasn’t changed. Potentially it never will, and if you believe Mark Ritson, it doesn’t need to. However, many marketing tactics are no longer as effective, which is why we need to pay attention.

I spend a lot of time thinking about change, building and testing ideas, and generally trying to understand how and why people do the things they do. I do this not just because it’s fascinating but because the clients who work with my brilliant team at Spectrum expect us to reach and influence people on their behalf here and around the world. Here’s some stuff that stands out as we try to make things work in 2017.

Discovery Drives Your Audience Into Their Niches.

Around 30 per cent of the planet regularly uses social media. That might seem low if you’re a thirty-something Sydneysider friends with everyone you’ve met on facey. But a quarter of the world can’t sign up without violating the ToS because they’re  under thirteen. Another 43 per cent doesn’t have internet access. This means almost everyone who wants to sign up has. And they’ve been great at pressuring others to jump on board so they can prove their life isn’t boring.

Why does this matter? Every time you like, comment and share stuff you like, it helps the algorithms behind the page serve you more stuff you like. When the people who make up your audience spend their days discovering new and shiny things, it means your audience is no longer sitting on bench seats staring lovingly in a single direction at a large screen. Audiences gets more fragmented, more in love with their own opinions and beliefs. Sometimes they gets more narrow-minded as well.

This calls into question one of the big bits of thinking – the single-minded message. Once, we worried that different messages would confuse people and when everyone looked in the same direction, that made sense. Now, it’s the brand brave enough to meaningfully stretch itself across hundreds of niches that triumphs. Think of it as the audience-centric argument for brand, a route to having one-to-one relevance, not inspiring aspirational adoration.

Some of your audience might find two different messages. In the past, we would have fretted about this diffusion.  Now, you’re relevant in two aspects, interests or place in an audience member’s life. While Nike still stands behind “Just Do It”, it’s willing to talk to the snowboarding and twin-tip kids with messages like “Ride Pipe” and “Get High.”

Your Audience is Surrounded By Choice.

As our Malcolm is so fond of saying, “what a time to be alive.”

Gum comes in 447 flavours. Vegemite can be purchased pre-loaded with cheese. Ferrari will hand finish a Pinfararina body and interior on a Fiat 500. News is available from any perspective you like, from the loony left to the conspiracy-fueled alt right. Choice surrounds the audiences you want to reach.

Most businesses think they can narrow down these choices for their audience by focusing on competing for attention in their category, or at least those with similar goods. This might be reasonable when a person is considering a purchase. But at the point of awareness, they are not even looking in the right direction. Your competition is everything on Facebook, a call from a loved one or the latest social game that everyone’s talking about. In short, you are up against things that are meaningful, liked and possibly even loved by the person you’re trying to connect with.

Too many brands step into this crowded environment and say “look at me! I’m big and fantastic!” They are surprised and flummoxed when the audience shrugs and turns back to what it was doing. The fact is, folks don’t roll out of bed in the morning thinking “I really need product X from Danish company Y to make me complete.”

Brands need to offer more relevant facets to the audience. Speak and communicate on the terms they’re searching for. While you might disagree with the politics and ethics, this is a lesson that Breitbart has learned and executed well.

You No Longer Have A Monopoly On Knowledge.

There was a time when brands were powerful and the audience was grateful. That time is not now. Anything you want to try and teach me, I can search and build a diverse opinion of in moments.

Once companies thought their experience and insights could be kept inside the walls of the organisation, a reward for customers who make the commitment to purchase. Smart brands put these stories outside of their businesses, where it gives the audience more chances to connect and creating content that travels the ‘net(s).

 The Good News: Attention Still Coalesces Around Ideas

Worriers point to these trends and propose that marketing is doomed. The media ecosystem is too fragmented, too complex and too fast, they say.

But while the environment is changing and everyone is a media outlet with the chance to be heard, the patterns of attention are the same.  New and interesting thoughts still get shared. Beautiful design still inspires. Humour still lifts the corners of mouths.

Marketing has always been a bridge between brands and audiences that drive their success. It is possible now to go further across that bridge than ever before. Brands that build relevance and connections around the things the audiences already looks for and engages, can lead them subtly towards the point of sale

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