A brand’s choice of media channels is the ‘new’ positioning dimension. For brands that haven’t waken up to this new reality, it is time to quickly rise up from their slumber. As omnichannel campaigns increasingly become the norm, it is critical for brands to realise the potential of varied messaging and delivery different channels are able to offer.
Optimising delivery across channels allows (or even forces) brands to adapt their core message for maximum effectiveness. Take a few relevant examples – TV in spite of its sheer reach is a passive medium. Brands don’t have anything but hope on the outcome after an exposure to a TV ad. Will the consumer consider or buy the product advertised?
As a comparison, let’s look at the engagement options digital media channels provide – the proverbial ‘buy’ buttons instigating instant trial, the ‘call to actions’ in the form of participating in a contest, take part in a promotion, ability for social sharing, freedom to comment and engage in a conversation or even the ability to instantly visit the brand’s website for more information.
Christmas is always a high point for retailers to showcase their Christmas campaigns. In the UK we have John Lewis, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, ASDA, Lidl and Morrison battling it out. For the first time, John Lewis’ Christmas campaign has a strong TV element (usual and normal), customised Snapchat filters featuring Buster the Dog (the main ad protagonist), Twitter stickers, a toy merchandise range and animal themed children books. The extension advantages provided by other media platforms is allowing John Lewis to broaden the impact of the campaign beyond TV.
Brands need to understand the importance of ‘delivery’ as an important factor that influences communication of positioning and associated messages. Digital media channels have the ability of providing instant engagement. This could be in the form of a ‘buy’ button, ability to share / comment / like / dislike / express with Emojis etc. Ability to instantly engage enhances the ability of positioning strategies to elicit feedback and measure effectiveness quickly.
Think about online videos that go viral, tweets that get shared, content that gets amplified and images that get shared. On a related aspect, crowdsourcing for innovation is increasingly becoming important for brands to stay relevant. Media channels have a huge role to play in this growth.
Luxury and fashion brands, who previously believed only in physical interaction, have woken up to the potential of online engagement. From fashion shows that are streamed live to latest clothing lines available to buy online the moment the models hit the runway, the world of advertising has turned over its head. Below is how Nautica made its New York Fashion Week: Men collection available in its online store hours after it debuted on the runway:
Burberry was not far behind when it announced that all its designs that debut on the runway will be available to buy almost immediately after from its online stores:
The differentiating ability of media channels is not driven only by their ability to amplify the branded experience, but equally through their ability to target specific customer groups at the right moments.
The fact that media consumption has moved away from TV, it is critical for brands to be visible on platforms / devices through which consumers are engaging with content. The smartphone will eventually lose the moniker of “phone” and will get replaced by something like “smart-viewer that can also take calls”. So if the smartphone is the new device for entertainment, then brands need to be visible on media platforms that integrate with the smartphone.
The article below nicely highlights how social platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are increasingly becoming important for retailers as sales channels. But the key factor still remains the ability to cut through clutter:
According to Emarketer, mobile commerce will continue to show healthy growth rates in the United States (one of the world’s biggest consumer markets) and majority of it will be driven by smartphones:
The following charts clearly indicate the rising importance of mobile advertising (as part of the phenomenal growth of internet advertising, which has now overtaken TV):
Global media powerhouse Zenith now predicts global mobile advertising spends to overtake desktop advertising spends in 2017 (US$ 99.3 billion vs. US$ 97.4 billion).
So, the medium is not only the message anymore, it is also the focal point of strategic differentiation for brands.
The respected Mary Meeker still feels that advertisers are still not spending enough on mobile and are still tied down by legacy media thinking.
Amidst all these developments and the increasing fragmentation of media channels, how should a brand leverage media channels as strategic differentiators? There are some key principles to follow:
A channel is not a “means towards the end”: Brand owners need to vigorously shrug off the age old belief that a media channel is just a vehicle. In today’s world, a media channel is the “end”. Advertising on social platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook etc. need to adhere to the dynamics of the platform (and not the brand’s preferred style). Brands need to design mobile campaigns from a mobile experience perspective and a social media campaign from a social media engagement perspective.
A channel is a strategic differentiating opportunity, but excellent delivery ensures effectively leveraging the opportunity: Screens are proliferating but they are definitely smaller than a TV. Delivering a superlative experience on a channel requires a deep understanding of the channel’s abilities and limitations. When brands take the leap into multi-channel campaigns, it is critical to design the campaign from a holistic perspective to ensure success (that can be amplified). If its an image driven campaign, then it needs to have clutter-cutting ability among the millions of Instagram images, Snapchat snaps, Pinterest Pins and Tumblr blogs. If it is a video-driven campaign, then visual and audio excellence need to transcend each and every screen size.
A channel serves to target, but brands should not overcomplicate targeting: Each and every media channel (legacy or emerging) effectively reaches specific consumer target groups. In many instances there is lot of overlap between groups multiple channels can target, but there are instances when a channel is only effective for micro-targeting (majority of Snapchat’s user base is in the age bracket of 18-24 years). While selecting channels, brands need to take a critical decision – micro-target or amplification? Micro-targeting is fine if you are a niche brand with a very narrow appeal. The strategic advantage of multichannel campaigns is the ability to amplify – whether it is the message or positioning or any form of “call to action”.
Impact is important but memorability is key: The classic advertising research metric of memorability is still an important factor. Consider an example that is not about brands but accurately reflects human behaviour in today’s age: You come across an excellent article or update in your LinkedIn feed. You want to read it but get distracted by something else and press the ‘Updates’ tab. The feed refreshes and that excellent article / update disappears. You try but frustratingly cannot find it (LinkedIn is well on the way to provide a solution to this frustration). We still identify things that move and engage us but we are too distracted to appreciate them fully. Consider the following statistics:
- Instagram users share 95 million photos and videos daily (Source: Instagram)
- At any given time, there are more than 50 billion Pins on 1 billion Boards on Pinterest (Source: Quora)
- Users send 400 million snaps per day on Snapchat, out of which 10 million snaps use lenses (Source: Hootsuite)
- Average number of daily posts on Tumblr is 40.2 million (Source: Tumblr)
- 510 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated, and 136,000 photos are uploaded every 60 seconds on Facebook (Source: The Social Skinny)
The above numbers illustrate a staggering level of clutter brands have to cut-through on online platforms. Without having the need to quote or justify via any research, it is true that memorability of advertising broadcasted on TV continues to be much higher than memorability of advertising on online channels. Probably you will remember full-page double inserts in your weekend lifestyle magazine, but you will struggle to remember advertising that you saw during all your time spent online today.
A channel is about having a “call to action” but brands need to differentiate between promotions and brand building: Online media channels promise instant and higher levels of engagement. Brands need to carefully evaluate how they want to shape these engagement options. A ‘brand building’ call to action should steer clear from direct sales messages (i.e. no promotions, no ‘buy now’s, no ‘avail discount’ etc.) but should be about a branded experience, a virtual tour, outlining of a social or community cause, showcasing a new positioning, a new identity or even a new packaging. Promotional call to actions include ‘Buy Now’ buttons, free merchandise, discounts, coupons etc. Brands need to first decide the objective of the campaign and then select the channels (it cannot be the other way around) – you shouldn’t be adamant on using Instagram when you don’t have a campaign that includes strong visual elements; you shouldn’t use Facebook unless you are looking at building a sense of community around your brand. These are important choices to make.
Every channel is an opportunity for a brand to further expand the visibility and impact of its campaign. But a ‘differentiator’ only remains a ‘differentiator’, when it is designed, implemented, reinforced and maintained in a ‘differentiated’ way. No one is looking for run of the mill stuff, and in the world of 95 million daily uploads of videos and photos, definitely not.