Mikkel Bach-Andersen, Partner
In recent years, agencies, consultants and other self-proclaimed experts have been advising companies to be “always-on”, i.e. maintain a constant pressure of communication towards potential buyers. A few campaign bursts throughout the year could no longer stand alone to meet the need of the modern consumer. In response, companies and brands sought to continuously stay top-of-mind by investing tremendous resources in producing a constant flood of banner ads, e-mail promotions and posts on various social media, making the brand sound like a skipping record. Consequently, strong brand stories became and continue to become diluted and even worse; audiences are now irritated or immune at best. We are reliving the era of the annoying telemarketer – but in a digital world.
For example, tapping into current events and industry fads is increasingly mistaken for relevant and timely communication. A disturbing phenomenon causing companies to change direction constantly – but agility must never become boneless. Without a defined framework and governance, it becomes a slippery slope with no regard for customer needs, ultimately compromising the brand.
In a world where there’s a fine line between failure and success, no team is better than its weakest spot. Similarly, companies are only as good as their weakest communication, and the always-on credo seems to have led companies down a wrong road, where brand, vision and strategic direction has been sacrificed on the altar of frequency and topicality.
Revitalising old virtues in a digital era
Keeping one’s head above water in a world flooded with communication calls for an increasing presence in the market, and companies should continue to speak up whenever they have something at heart to position themselves. Thus, branding should remain a top priority, but companies should be equally dedicated to the subsequent communication efforts further down the sales funnel. Fail to do so and you will miss the opportunity of converting brand preference into sales, and accordingly profiting from your spending and stimuli.
Back in the days, advertising’s primary purpose was to build enough brand preference to lead customers to your store instead of the one next door. When buying a suit, your local tailor would welcome you like a perfect gentleman, take your measurements, listen to your needs and offer his help. What’s more, he would remember your name, measurements, recent purchase and what you talked about in order to provide you with an even better and customised service when you came back.
Nowadays, when the modern consumer goes browsing and researching online, she is still receptive to the charms of someone willing to listen and cater to her needs. Meanwhile, many companies push an abundance of generic content into the market, rather than targeting individual needs, thus missing decisive opportunities to offer real value to their customers.
New technology has enabled companies to harvest tremendous data describing consumer behaviour and mind-set. From search behaviour, cookies, clicks and consumed content, companies are able to monitor every step of the consumer journey and properly prepare. Modern technology could help companies take customised sales and service offerings to the next level – however, much potential has yet to be unleashed. Companies should be better at embracing the new possibilities and revitalise old virtues in the digital era, paying attention to customer needs and applying tailored charm to lead them from doorstep to cash register.
Always be on point
The quality of content should increasingly be defined by its ability to meet specific needs with perfect timing during the consumer journey. Rather than opportunistic and short-lived communication, companies should seek to adopt a “on point” approach that is only activated when relevant for both the brand and the consumer.
Turning content quantity production down a notch and no longer rushing to cover current events, companies should instead re-direct their resources to produce less content, but of much higher, brand-blazing quality with a clear purpose and longer lifespan.
In addition, companies must bridge the gap between their digital channels for more intelligent content distribution. In larger companies, the website is driven globally. E-mail is often managed locally. And social media is treated as a digital playground by gimmick-driven and single-minded agencies. All these activities include different people with different metrics, and content is created disparately by whoever picks up the stick. Again; a costly affair with no real winners. Instead of fragmented, opportunistic content born for specific channels, companies must reboot and focus on fewer cross-channel initiatives and KPIs that are connected to the customer journey, rather than the channel.
The playground-like approach to digital and social media is over, and being always-on should no longer be an ambition in itself. If companies and brands do not treat digital and social media with more analytical and strategic rigor, they could see diminishing returns and the potential of severe brand setbacks.
Going forward, traditional branding remains crucial for customer acquisition and for consumers to even consider a brand. However, companies should better utilise new technology to combine branding and campaigning with complementary strategic content, adding value to their consumers throughout the entire consumer journey – and thus always be on point.