Forget everything you know. I often feel like that is the new imperative for marketers in the modern world. It also feels on occasion like we in this profession are being collectively schooled in a new way to communicate and be relevant to our audience. And so be it. Smart communicators operate in today’s complex marketplace under an entirely new set of assumptions about messaging, audience and media channels. Learning the new rules of engagement is paramount in order to successfully, meaningfully and profitably connect with our current, former and future customers.
And as seems requisite in these articles to shape the content into bite sized bits of information for consumption and sharing, I will of course comply by discussing what I like to call the Five C’s of Modern Marketing.
But first, a premise to consider. I am old enough to remember well the days when marketers had all (or most) of the control. Brand managers decided what the message would be, how it would be creatively communicated, the medium, the timing, who it would reach and how often. More or less. But the tables have certainly turned. In 2015, we as marketers assemble a patchwork of interrelated strategies and tactics designed to reach our audience, but they wield the big stick now. They decide, for the most part, what they see or hear, when they see or hear it, how it is presented and if it is presented at all. They can save it for later, share it, customize it, or frankly just ignore it.
Under this new paradigm, today’s marketers must be more strategic than ever before to find, attract, engage and convert.
Concept. Powerful brands tell a story. And yes, I know you have heard that before. Good branding is effective storytelling. The challenge is crafting a brand story that can be communicated in a wide range of formats, from broadcast and print to skyscraper banners and landing pages. And that takes practice. The better you know your story, the more flexible you can be in telling it well through a dizzying range of media delivery formats. But suffice it to say, it all starts with the brand story concept. Every brand has a story. Either you can create it, or your customers will do it for you. And you may not like what they come up with.
Content. The most compelling stories are true stories. And so every solid brand story must have some underlying truth to be effective. That’s where consumer research and scientific validation plus R&D come into play. Or whatever form of support you have generated to substantiate your story and give it legs in the marketplace. Fabricating an interesting storyline is the easy part. Building a portfolio of supporting facts and data behind it is much more difficult.
Connection. When you think about all of the imagery and sound thrown at the average person on an average day, surprisingly little of it seems to “stick”. Why is that? My personal belief is that marketers tend to forget that there are two parts to every sale: the rational sale, and the emotional sale. Features and benefits are fine and good, and a solid value proposition should incorporate the most unique points of difference for your brand. But if there is no emotional connection created between your brand and your customer, precious little interaction or engagement is likely to occur. Particularly when it comes to the coveted Millennial generation, the ability to engage with a brand is a prerequisite to purchase. Savvy marketers encourage that type of emotional connection at every point of contact.
Community. With the advent of social media, the dynamics of personal connection and engagement with customers have evolved exponentially. The challenge these days is determining how to connect, with whom, in what ways, using what vehicles? One thing for certain is that key to online engagement is User Generated Content. Prospects and customers want to hear what their peers think of your brand. Not what you think of it. The more you can facilitate sharing and exchange on your Website, blog, or social outposts, the more brand ambassadors you can create and empower. One more thought regarding social media strategy; focus on generating an objectives-driven plan, not just a hodgepodge assembly of tactics.
Continuity. In a few short words, always seek to speak with one voice. The more diverse and segmented the consumer and media landscape become, the easier it is to silo content to the point where the key brand messages are lost. Always return home to the brand story to make certain that your key selling proposition is not getting lost in the shuffle. Message continuity and frequency are all important. And when I say message, I am referring to both words and graphic elements.
You’re not alone. We are all navigating this new media landscape together. Looking for better ideas and approaches. So when you find something that works, please share it. As they say, a rising tide floats all boats.
Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications
Written by Jeff Hilton, Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer, BrandHive
Edited by Gary Gonzalez, Medill IMC Class of 2015