They say we live in the age of transparency. Thought leaders and industry pundits tell us that thanks to ratings, reviews and ubiquitous connectivity, consumers can see completely through brands. I’ve been part of this movement, screaming from the proverbial hilltops with articles, speeches and a documentary. But it’s complete hyperbole.
Brands are not transparent. They are translucent. While we can’t rely upon obfuscation and duplicity to cover up bad behavior, consumers still see brands through a lens.
In fact, they want to see brands through a lens. Nobody is harkening back to the days of the pre-Gorbachev Soviet Union, where products didn’t even have branded packaging. Consumers don’t simply want products. They want experiences.
That’s what makes this generation so exciting for forward-thinking marketers. The experience economy expands the creative canvas to blend product development, brand marketing and experiential marketing.
Consumers want brands to create a translucent lens as long as it adds value, not friction, to their lives. That’s what makes modern marketing so exciting for those who are ready to embrace the revolution.
Modern Marketing Is Simply A Data Exchange
Brands need to stop thinking about ad campaigns, websites and social media as separate experiences. This siloed thinking creates a fragmented consumer experience. Brands must shift the mindset to think of modern marketing as a data exchange.
In studies we conduct for our clients, we typically find over 40 different points of inflection where consumers make decisions and access information from brands.
Sometimes the information they’re looking for is as simple as a user-generated photo, and sometimes they spend hours interacting with immersive content. Now, let’s pause for a moment to think about what information really is. Information is data. Consumers covet the same thing as brands. They want comprehensive, integrated, dynamic data. Data that provides the critical inputs for deciding how to invest their time, money and energy. Just like brands.
This is why the industry needs to move away from a campaign model and move towards a data-exchange model. Consumers don’t want the same piece of data repeated over and over across multiple channels. They want information that is personalized based on their contextual needs and behavioral history.
Thinking about marketing as a data exchange shifts brands away from lazily extending traditional campaigns online. It shifts them away from the social media memes that strive for irrelevant engagement metrics. It shifts them away from videos desperately seeking to go viral. It shifts them away from websites that treat every customer the same exact way. Instead, it enables the brand story to grow on a one-to-one basis as consumers immerse themselves in research for products and take a journey down the sales funnel.
On the brand side of this equation, every time we provide data to the audience, we receive data in return, the most basic of which is demographic data. More interestingly, it’s psychographic data. Most importantly, it’s behavioral data. Every time she clicks, she tells us something about herself.
Looking at the travel category as an example we can all relate to, those clicks let us know about her family structure, budget, location, travel preferences, motivations and purchase barriers. We know where she wants to stay, when she wants to stay, why she wants to stay, what she wants to do, how much she wants to spend, who she wants to travel with, what barriers stand in her way and what motivators can get her over the final purchase hurdle.
That level of personalized data is revolutionary in nature but not difficult to gather. What’s critical is that brands’ overarching mindset and internal structures change to capitalize on the opportunity. It’s not complicated, but corporate structures are slow to change. That’s one of the key reasons so many of the most successful brands are relatively young. They’re not hamstrung by legacy organizational models.
When you think of marketing as a data exchange, you move beyond the concept of owned, earned and paid media. You realize that it’s all just one thing: millions of consumers connected to brands by data. This shift in mindset helps brands make strategic decisions for optimizing budgets, selecting key performance indicators, aligning technologies for personalization and optimizing vendor performance.
It might not be the sexiest aspect of marketing, but it is one of the most important.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Jeff Rosenblum and Jordan Berg, excerpted from their book Friction: Passion Brands in the Age of Disruption, published by powerHouse Books
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