This article is part of CMO.com’s October series about creativity and design-led thinking. Click here for more.
There are now so many platforms, channels, and formats for marketers to play with—endless opportunities for brands to connect with people. Today’s challenge is not in defining where a brand could connect with people, but where it should.
This is not a simple task. Diversification brings with it complexity.
This challenge is compounded by brands publishing more content than ever before in what can often feel like an arms race to “outcontent” each other. But this approach has its pitfalls, especially if, as media agency Havas claims, “some 60% of the content created by the world’s leading 1,500 brands is ‘just clutter’ that has little impact on consumers’ lives or business results.”
It’s easy for brands to get drawn into this herd behaviour, especially when a case study appears every day from a business that owes its success to an always-on content strategy. The temptation is to jump into a plan that caters for all the things that a brand could do, rather than focus on what the brand should do. And, hidden behind every success story, there are plenty of brands merely contributing to a wasteland of bots and rarely seen content.
In this digital world, there is no one-size-fits-all communications planning approach. Forget searching for a guidebook—the only solution is to be flexible, with four key principles ensuring that you stay on the right path.
1. Create Touch Points In Their Lives, Rather Than Just Shouting
Brands need to live and breathe alongside the lives of their consumers. Marketers need to take a consumer mindset and consider the touch points that already exist in the lives of the people that the brand needs to connect with, and then how the idea can be flexed to resonate within each of these. Consistency in the messaging is key, but it will be all the more powerful when it’s contextually relevant—different instruments in an orchestra all play from the same master score, but each takes on its own role.
2. The Consumer Journey Is Messy—Embrace It
Identifying touch points in their lives starts with mapping your consumer’s journey. This may seem straightforward, but digital has fundamentally changed the game from the linear process of “awareness, consideration, preference, purchase, and advocacy” to something that is, frankly, a lot messier. An endless sea of inspiration and information has become available for consumers to swim in, accessible from the palm of their hand. Indeed, 82% of smartphone users say they consult their phone even for purchases they’re about to make in a store.
Google defines these hundreds of decision-influencing moments along the consumer journey as “micro-moments.” These are the times when people turn to the external world and their devices to answer an immediate need: I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-buy, and I-want-to-do moments. Think about how you made a decision to buy your last holiday—how many questions you asked along the way about where to go, what the hotel is like, how far it is from the airport, and if there is a taxi to get you there, and at what cost.
Focus on the micro-moments that are likely to occur in their consumers’ journeys and how their brand can be there to cater for those moments.
3. Proper Experience Planning Unlocks Creative Opportunities
Identifying existing consumer journeys not only helps an idea resonate more, but also opens up new opportunities and a clearer sense of direction. Robust experience planning—using a full toolkit from primary research to creatively minded analytics—often uncovers the areas of the consumer journey that competitors have ignored.
During the European Football Championship, bookmaker BetVictor identified that all their competitors were bidding on the same paid-search terms for pre-game bets. The Google AdWords auction price was huge. So rather than just compete in an ever-increasing spend battle for the same terms, it spotted clear air in the search for goals, especially as and when they were scored. This is what consumers were more interested in.
This insight led to BetVictor’s Million Pound Goal promotion, a huge competition that ran from the FA Cup Final to the Euro’s Final. For the whole tournament, BetVictor was able to “own goals”—responding in real time with content, search copy, print ads, radio, and film. Not only did it provide a cut-through message, it also provided a social behaviour that was used throughout the tournament, allowing the brand to celebrate alongside its audience with every goal score.
4. Create An Ecosystem To Enable Flexible Customer Journeys
Think again about booking that holiday and the many scenarios you balanced. Navigating this complex dynamic of price, time, destination, and accommodation meant that you swung backwards and forwards through awareness, consideration, and preference. Your consumer journey was far from linear.
Rather than hoping that your consumers will follow a rigid path through your communications, you need to create an ecosystem of touch points that can be fluid. The key to this is making sure they’re connected.
For premium homeware brand Miele, its strategy has been to tap into the search for kitchen inspiration, rather than just the search for appliances. The brand has created content with influential chefs that is distributed on the platforms where people are searching for inspiration, then aggregated on a culinary and design hub. The subject matter brings to life interests and triggers that work for their audience, while every touch point has a journey in mind—all leading towards trial and sales opportunities.
Connecting On A Meaningful Level
Cutting through the content arms race isn’t about doing more, but, rather, it’s about getting smarter and figuring out where and how a consistent idea should come to life. An ecosystem of touch points that all sing from the same song sheet will do far more for your brand than an ever-growing collection of channel plans.