BEYOND ADVERTISING-3

This is the last part of the ” Beyond Advertising ” trilogy. The previous two can be accessed @

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business-technology-review/beyond-advertising

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business-technology-review/beyond-advertising-2

A Compelling Picture: Our Intended Audience of The Present | Future

As Alicia prepares for bed, she surveys her apartment. She is very conscious of what she buys and why. She buys things with meaning. While she sees less traditional advertising than she used to, she is more engaged with the ads she views. She can connect her purchases to strong creative content created by brands or co-created by brand fans. Though she is exposed to a lot of targeted ads, she feels she is in control of what content she sees. She accepts new brands warily and rarely with a direct entreaty from the advertiser. Instead, she relies on peers and trusted sources for her introductions. She wants brands to challenge her, understand her, inspire her through their content. She seeks stories that move her, excite her, delight her.

Given this scenario, all brands should be asking ” How can we engage Alicia and others like her today?”. When consumers have endless choices of content and screens, plus endless access to information and insights, why should they stop to listen to your message? For every technology designed to interrupt a media experience or a search for information, people will find a way to block, skip or ignore it. And if the interruption is egregious, be prepared to hear it from empowered customers.

Geography is History

I believe that great brands are ” business strategy brought to life “, and deliver a seamless experience across product and service, physical spaces and places, internal culture and communications. Brands like Apple have already set customer expectations and it doesn’t matter if you are a bank, a business consultancy, a retailer or a hotel chain, the message is simple: join up!

A continued focus on a narrow notion of what is currently within the purview of advertising and marketing will threaten the life of a brand and the organisation. Brands are expected to provide the seamless experience that people are taught to expect by each day’s new technology-enabled and insight inspired pace setters. Even the notion of ‘ omnichannel ‘, which is currently limited more to the realm of retail, will work within a larger ecosystem as retail and advertising undergo a fusion.

Divergence to Convergence

In order to reach, serve and stay connected with people in comprehensive, effective ways, advertising’s scope must go beyond its traditional reach to encompass the entire firm. The boundaries between external and internal touchpoints are blurring and will continue to do so. In a convergent world, no person or no touchpoint exists in isolation. Everything is interconnected and interdependent.

Consider the many different ways we now encounter brands on a daily basis- tv, radio, print, online searches, mobile apps, websites, billboards, DOOH ads, branded social media posts, offline and online conversations, personal interactions, web browsing, store design and displays, package design and packaging, conversations with salespeople, in-store promotions. All this is just the ‘ before purchase ‘ exposure followed by interactions with customer service, online help features, surveys, loyalty programs, etc. ‘ post purchase ‘. It is less common for people to encounter advertising head-on. Conversations have become the pathways by which people encounter advertising. 

Something to RAVE(S) about

Most people today think of advertising as an interruption, a distraction, a nuisance, a waste of time. If we could skip or ignore it all, we would. And the lack of creativity is certainly not helping. Advertising as an interruptive act should be gone. Period. As I have been advocating, ” beyond advertising ” could and should be a narrative content that is entertaining, informative, actionable, valuable, value generating and provides an exceptional experience, being a shareworthy story delivered through all touchpoints. It could and should be something to RAVE(S)about:

R: Relevant and Respectful (to Individuals and of Individuals)

A: Actionable (Intuitive & Frictionless)

V: Valuable & Value Generating (Wanted, Needed, Effective)

E: Exceptional Experience (Delight & Inspire)

S: Shareworthy Story (Authentic & Authoritative)

Knock, Knock, the Digital Door

Beyond advertising could and should be something people want and seek out because it provides value. The trouble is nobody opens their digital door to receive an ad. They will, however, invite information across their threshold, if it promises to be of value to them. In the near and not so distant future, the successful advertisers would be those who have stopped treating consumers as many targets, marks, and stats. In an online universe, populated by consumers armed with the desire, the regulatory support, and the technology to be aggressively selective in the choices they make, advertisers will be obliged to treat consumers as decision makers.

Open the Vent: To Relevant

Forrester Research has termed the next few years as ” The Great Race for Relevancy “. New social data with clearer content marking will be interrogated with powerful new algorithms. The movement is from link-based to answers that are algorithmically based, where search engines are computing the right answer. We are already at a point where Google can give direct and accurate answers to questions like: What time is Guess Guess Guess on? Who plays in goal for Manchester City? Who is the favorite to win the next US Presidential election?  What black suits are on sale at Zara?…

Google’s algorithm has improved to the point where it can answer questions that are nuanced, and geo- and time-based. Is the stimulus package working for the economy? Which is Arijit Singh’s best song now? When should I leave to reach Ritz Carlton DIFC by 8 pm?

And very soon, the internet will become an intelligence that will make its current guise seem incredibly dumb and disorganised. We don’t know how we lived without it.

The goal of relevance is to reach specific individuals. General demographics and television time slots no longer cut it when trying to communicate with people who juggle multiple screens and identities (family, work, social roles). Advertisers must get to the basics: Who are you? What are you doing? Where are you? What time is it? Why are you doing it? And how?

Messages relevant to time, location and preferences can be very effective, but they are not sufficient for optimal effectiveness: mood and state of mind must also be taken into consideration, just like the human interaction ” Is this a good time to talk to you about…?”.

Digital media drove a shift in marketers’ budget to ‘ always-on ‘, such as search, display and social. The marketing on-demand world of now and the near future has evolved to be ‘ always relevant ‘. For brands and their agencies, that will require a much more sophisticated and targeted approach to address the ubiquity of touch points so that they can be there at a consumer’s point of need-no matter where or when it is. Massive analytical capabilities invested will help support a brand’s stewardship of their customers information. In short, ads need to answer questions, any time, all the time. 

Don’t find Customers for your Products; Find Products for your Customers

The only asset that gets built online is permission. Permission to talk to people who want to be talked to, delivering, and anticipating personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them and connecting them to one another. That’s all we can build and what we should measure. Not how many people thumbed up some video we made, but instead how many people want to hear from us.

Brands that want to thrive in this space must earn their welcome through the continually refreshed offer of social currency: ideas that people want to share with others.

Next STEPPS

Wharton Professor Jonah Berger in his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, suggests six principles for developing contagious or shareable, ideas based on his research findings using the acronym STEPPS:

S: Social Currency (make it cool to talk about)

T: Triggers (make it top of mind)

E: Emotion (make them feel something)

P: Public (make it visible)

P: Practical Value (make it useful)

S: Stories (make it tell-able)

The worlds of logic and emotions must be married with all the senses and the muses from music to scents, visuals to touch, virtual to reality. Monetary value motivates consumers to purchase, but it won’t necessarily be enough to motivate them to repeat that purchase, or to recommend an object or service to peers.

Questions

What would happen if authentic and creative stories opened channels of communication with people?

How would people feel about brands and advertising?

What financial and social benefits would be afforded employees and shareholders?

How could advertising be ‘ re-defined ‘?

What if advertisers were named POY (Person of the Year) by TIME Magazine for these transformations?

What if we question the intentionality of our choices, the depth of our kindness and our very belonging as a species on this planet?

Creating RAVES advertising through every touchpoint has the potential for achieving this transformation.

Most positively, we are headed inexorably towards a new era of truth. Truth in what products do, truth in how and by who they are made, truth in the opportunity cost of their manufacturer, truth in performance and yes, truth in advertising.

ENDS

Suresh Dinakaran is the Chief Storyteller at branding agency ISD Global, Managing Editor of BrandKnew and Founder, Weeklileaks. Feedback welcome at suresh@groupisd.com

ADVerbatim: Some micro and macro outlooks

The caption of this article is a bit of soft pedaling. I am quite uncomfortable with the word ‘ trends ‘ because it is in more ways than one camouflaging what is called ‘ herd mentality ‘ which leads to the inevitable SOS(Sea of Sameness). And in an increasingly commoditized world, you may be birds of the same feather, but..flocking together ??
Amidst the tempest of pandemic driven uncertainty and disorientation, here’s a crystal ball gaze at some obvious and not so obvious landscapes that the advertising industry could be witness to in the coming months.
– The biggest boycott in history to continue- I am referring to ad blocking– with over 600 million devices in its universe and growing, the wake up alarm has long been sounded for brands, agencies and advertisers. According to Hootsuite, the UAE has close to 40% of ad blocking( countries like Indonesia, India are at over 50%). Research states that one of the primary reasons for ad blocking is too many ads that are irrelevant, annoying and have nothing to do with creativity. Creativity is future proof and the sooner brand guardians get re-sensitized to that, in a pull and engage scenario(as against the widely practiced push and control), the better.
– Unless something dramatic happens, online programmatic advertising is writing its own obituary. Advertisers are being abused blind by adtech ferrets. Research from Media Post concludes that out of the US$200 billion global spend, 70% of advertising dollars spent on online programmatic advertising never touch a human being. In effect, $140 billion disappears in “ad fees, fraud, non-viewable impressions, non-brand-safe placements, and unknown allocations” (by “unknown allocations” you can read “shit that no one can figure out”).
 
– The pandemic brought first-time advertisers to many platforms, especially OOH and DOOH, 2022 will be no different. New categories like Fintech, NFTs, Crypto (with their supporting companies), and Online/E SportsWellbeing,EdTech, FoodTech categories will continue to flourish. After the dash for Expo 2020 attention, big opportunities will come to the fore for advertisers courtesy the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
– Advertisers and marketers will need to be as nimble as consumers. The pandemic not only accelerated omnichannel retail but also created hybrid behaviours beyond how we shop. From a mix of virtual and in-person fitness to IRL experiences with digital extensions, how we work, play and live is fluid and consumers expect brands to keep up with the rapid pace. For marketers, that means mapping every consumer touchpoint and applying a collection of insights – location, identity, cross-device, in-person, in-stream, etc. – to creative concepts that earn consumers’ attention while respecting privacyThe agility of marketers to behave as nimbly as consumers will translate into brand loyalty in a rapidly growing hybrid world.
– A largely ignored, under served imperative will come to the fore for marketers and advertisers- Building company culture: The industry never had attrition rates as high as it had in 2021, and we’ve never had as many remote employees either. The Great Resignation continues unabated. Last year, the better organisations focused on retention and put a hyper-focus on recognition. Without in-person interactivity, you have to be so deliberate about your culture, especially during remote work. In the coming times, brands and businesses will put a lot of focus on how they create a culture of retention, diversity and recognition. Creativity will have to make a serious comeback.
 
– For better or for(commerce)verse- Last year we saw a continued acceleration of social with e commerce and sowing of the seeds of ‘ community commerce ‘ glued together by community, creators, shopping and entertainment like never before. In 2022, we’ll see social commerce give way to the “commerceverse” as people begin to move from entertainment to purchase. And as consumers look to build out their environment with virtual goods and experiences, brands will have the opportunity to connect with consumers in a surround-sound way.
 
– Agency In-Housing: The in-housing trend at brands will not go away, but it is in reverse — to a point. Turns out, it’s too expensive, too complicated and too political for many brands to do at any real scale. Especially when so many businesses are trying to wrangle costs, not inflate them, during a global economic downturn. The pandemic’s knock on the economy forced many marketers to live hand-to-mouth and the flexibility offered by agencies proved to be critical to survival.
– Artificial Intelligence will find a greater say in services like copywriting and content generation– especially with tools like GPT 3(Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3) -an autoregressive language model that uses deep learning to produce human-like text. It helps instantly generate high quality copy for Email, Ads, Websites, Listings, Blogs & More. Save Time And Money Writing Clever, Original Content And End Writer’s Block Forever is the pitch.
 
– One should have heeded this as a premonition- sometime back the Meaningful Brands study conducted by Havas told us that most people would not care if 74% of all brands disappeared for goodHow can brands bridge the gap between apathy and action, particularly with that all-important millennial audience – the biggest generation and the leaders of tomorrow as we collectively take responsibility for getting closer to the UN SDG(Sustainable Development Goals).If we want to change the world, we all have to be involved. All people, of all ages, every brand, no exceptions. Bridging that gap means recognising that brands can be citizens too, with a responsibility to promote, share, create exposure and help to make change. Most importantly, brands can help people to connect to a political process that will make an impact on the world they live in – and that their children will inherit – to act as citizens themselves and not simply as consumers. That is a brand’s role as a citizen – to help consumers be citizens too.
 
To quote Woody Allen, ” 80% of success is just showing up “. There is no better time to create a bright future.
 
– Playing it by earWhile our eyes may be ‘maxxed’ after more than a year of relentless screen time, our ears have bandwidth. Our ears are more reliable curators, opting for human connection and unscripted conversations that podcasts and radio provide. A recent WARC Lion’s Intelligence study showed consumers now spend a third of their media time with audio, but most brands spend less than 10% of their media budget with audio. There is no question brands need to right-size their audio investment. But, getting beyond the spreadsheet and learning how to create a real human conversation with the consumer is the secret to winning with audio. Here’s to more conversations about how brands can get heard and get growth with audio in 2022.
 
– This is how the cookie crumbles:The impending demise of third-party cookies has drastically altered the digital advertising world while simultaneously highlighting how vital first-party data is and will be into the future. For now, first-party and third-party data will continue to exist, and advertisers can maximise this opportunity to run various experiments to ensure they are ready for when third-party cookies are no longer a source of targeting data. Brands that embrace first-party data, contextual advertising, and other third-party data alternatives today will be the industry leaders tomorrow.
– RIP to RFP? : The RFP(Request for Proposal) bandwagon indulged in by enterprises from agencies to extract the cheapest possible price for their services. This comes with scant regard to competence, expertise, empirical evidence and worse who contributes the original idea which is now happily being sacrificed at the ‘ cheapest pricing altar ‘. And we are all aware that ‘ insider trading ‘ is not just restricted to the stock market. Time to cremate this archaic, merit agnostic practice.
 
– Measurement will be back as the next frontier in 2022 — fueled by the unprecedented rise of CTV, the uncertain future of cookies and identity transactions in digital, and the disruption of Nielsen ratings. As we build for an ever-interconnected digital future, the ‘measurement reset’ is an opportunity to build the relationships between consumers, content creators, publishers and their advertising partners.
 
– Meta will emerge as part of brand experience and communication conversations and NFTs(Non Fungible Tokens) will begin to come into the brand ecosphere but we are still some time away from these becoming right, front and centre.
 
I remain conscious of brevity and hence would come to a halt here though there are quite a few more that I would have liked to list as we telescope into the emerging future of the advertising and marketing industry. Maybe in a separate piece.
 
ENDS
Suresh Dinakaran – Chief Storyteller at ISD ISD Global, a Dubai based branding and ideas hotshop and the Managing Editor of BrandKnew, a multifaceted media asset, published across print, digital and web versions.

The future of advertising: a sneak peek!

The Future of Advertising: A Sneak Peek!

What could/should “advertising” look like in 2020 and beyond? What should we do now for that future?

Some questions that crowd our every day artery. Restless consumers and fast changing technology are creating unheralded disruption. Advertising has always been a combination of art and science. Technology is now becoming a third variable. Advertisers “have to get all three of these things right”. They have to be three good.

There are Un Ignorable Forces of Change. Throwing Unabated Challenges to the status quo. But having said that, once recognised, respected and responded right, they offer Unprecedented Upside Potential for the Future. Lets examine them below:-

Exponential Advances in Science & Tech: With IOT, AI, Machine Learning etc, we now have a deeper real time understanding of things, people, situations. Bringing along with it an outsized and unprecedented responsibility for what we do with that knowledge.

Empowered & Skeptical “Consumers” : Wanting Customerization & Personalization (make it mine), seeking Choice(Give me tools to make better decisions), expecting Competitive Value (Give me more for my money), searching for Communities( Let me be a part of it), across multiple Channels (I want to call, click and visit). Individuals with lives, aspirations, challenges, family, communities. They want to be worthy of respect and you need to earn their trust.

Media Disruption & Redefinition : One way has become Two Way, Static is now Dynamic, Stationary is now Mobile, Passive is now Sensing, One-Dimension is now Immersive, Visual has turned Multi sensory. There exists Unprecedented Platform Design Capabilities for delivering Exceptional Contextualised Experiences.

Culture, Society & Our World : Straddling many a Divide across Health, Income, Digital, Education, Equality & Tolerance, Climate & Sustainability.

Inspiring, Measurable Business Models: A heady mix of The customer driven/ holistic model , The co creation model,  The open innovation model , Network orchestration model , The Competitive Value Model, Transformation to full service provider model, The emerging market innovation engine model, The shift to digital and network business models

So what are the takeaways that we can extract from the above listed landscape?

– Traditional mindsets, including those about advertising and marketing, must be challenged and potentially changed. I am referring to the Mental Models: The Primary Impediment to Transformation- For eg: “It has always worked this way.” “We tried it and it didn’t work.” “We’re profitable; why change?..and so forth! 

Before Roger Bannister broke the 4 Minute Mile on May 6, 1954, nobody thought that such a record could be set. We need to ask ‘ What is your 4 minute mile ‘ ?

Its the time to challenge our Mental Models of Advertising and Move from Marketers and Agencies, through Media, at Target Demographics toward being Cross-Silo Collaborators, from Ads toward Orchestrated Value-Creation Touch points, from Frequency toward When Needed, Wanted, Appreciated, from Reach toward Where Needed, Wanted, Appreciated, from Push and Persuade For Sales toward Multi Win Outcomes,pull & engage, from Ad Campaigns toward Initiatives in Holistic, Dynamic Ecosystem.

There is also a great upside in starting to use a new Vocabulary:

From Campaign To Initiative, From Content To Substance, From Persuading To Inspiring and Enabling, From Selling To Serving, From Seeking Loyalty To Earning Trust, From Disruption To Better/Alternate Solutions, From Features and Benefits to Brand Roles in People’s Lives, From Brand Differentiation To Brand Distinctiveness, From Employees To Brand Ambassadors, From Talent To Brand Stewards, From Consumers(myopic) To People with Lives, From Advertising Campaigns To Value Creation Initiatives, From Direct Response To Actionable Communications, From Big Data To Actionable Insights, From Success/Failure To Learning.

The time has come to challenge everything. Leave no sacred cows. Even challenge the objective of the firm from maximising long term shareholder value to aligning the objectives of the brand, the people (consumers…) and society.

– A strong call out to shift your focus from media mix to portfolios of all touchpoint orchestration. Go beyond the 4 Ps- bring in CeX, CSR, Packaging, Web & App etc all. The path to purchase is not linear any more. Operating in a sliver is not serving the purpose.

– Leverage the power of content( make RAVES– Relevant, Actionable, Valuable, Exceptional & Shareworthy) and the power of context( MADE: Multi Sensory, Audience driven, Delivery across platforms, Environment & location sensitive) that helps deliver your compelling brand purpose.

– Be always in beta– in adaptive experimentation mode to foster innovation, to learn faster & better, to attract and retain better talent, to hoodwink competition.

There’s no shortage of screens and there’s no shortage of impressions. But there’s a shortage of high value connection points between brands and consumers, which is the whole point of advertising. You have to create effective engagement with the consumer that gets them to buy.

Latin is very much Greek to me but as I come towards the end of this piece some Latin to keep an eye on. We have passed those days of ‘ Caveat Emptor ‘( meaning Buyer Beware). The new skid on the block these days is ‘ Caveat Venditor ‘ ( meaning Seller Beware ). 

As the brilliant Bob Hoffman puts it ” If you want to die an imbecile in advertising, don’t pay attention to art, literature, history, science, anthropology or nature. Pay attention to the Kardashians “.

Going back to Latin mode- friends- Semper Vigilans (meaning stay vigilant)!

ENDS

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Is brand Apple no longer the apple of everyone’s I ?

‘I’ don’t know-hence I have some some questions about the most valuable brand in the world..

a) Is the Apple era over? Have they moved on from ‘ ground breaking and game changing ‘ to ‘ incremental fixes ‘ ? Sounds audacious but it does beg the question.

b) Have they missed the bus virtually in the Smart Speaker space in reference to Amazon & Google? With their Alexa and Assistant respectively. Though they were the true blue innovator with Siri ages ago and had a great shot at dominating the ‘ living room & kitchens ‘, they seem to be caught in no man’s land as of now. Should they have considered this space more Siriously? (Pardon the pun). As one of the most valuable brands in the world, don’t they want their ‘ share of voice ‘?

c) Should they be getting into Content Creation? They have the cash to do it but do they have the culture and the will still? Should they look at acquiring someone like an HBO or other smart acquisitions to hit the ground running? Where does Apple TV fit into all of this?

d) Have they moved on from a culture of Innovation and R&D being their biggest asset a decade ago to a huge pile of cash being their biggest asset today?

In a world of FAANG, is it still A for Apple? A for Answer is what I am looking for! What will the Doctor order to not keep the Apple away?

Ends

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