Brands Must Find Meaningful Entry Points to Engage Consumers

Brad Carraway
Brad Carraway

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fingertipsJust how can your marketing strategy keep up with today’s digitally fragmented world of 2.4 billion Internet users and an estimated 8.7 billion connected devices? This proliferation of platforms, technologies and media channels has given rise to a hyper-connected consumer — empowered as never before. Digitally fluent consumers are now fully in control of their personalized world. They decide not only how they consume media, but where, when and how they’ll engage with a brand throughout their decision journey. Not surprisingly, savvy brands are taking a zero-based look at how their marketing strategies and budgets are being deployed.

Because of this, marketers need transformative consumer insight research to both home in on the core target’s path-to-purchase influencers and to understand the key inflection points where consumers allow brands to connect with their lives.

Applying a traditional linear marketing approach into this consumer dynamic usually results in “piling on” ­— just adding the latest media tactics to existing program elements, hoping to expand the brand’s reach across the top part of the marketing funnel. The result is a scattershot approach that, at best, dilutes the brand’s core message and, at worst, breaks down into a mishmash of competing messages. Instead of building a more meaningful brand relationship among consumers, this type of strategy results in consumer disengagement that undermines the brand’s credibility and underdelivers on the brand’s goals and objectives.

Today’s digital technologies enable consumers to engage with brands in more unique ways than ever before. But consumers are skeptical; they discount and dismiss programs that are not relevant to them as individuals. What’s needed is a more responsive approach — one focused around brand engagement points the consumer truly values.

This consumer-centric approach enables marketers to shift their energy and budget away from chasing consumers down a linear path to purchase and instead allows marketers to align efforts around the key inflection points that measurably influence both purchase behavior and brand advocacy. Analogous to this is today’s “responsive digital design” — a design methodology that provides a seamless digital experience across any medium (desktop, tablet and mobile). Regardless of the platform, the brand’s digital experience is in perfect alignment. Likewise, taking a responsive approach to marketing strategy creates an enveloping brand experience customized around a consumer’s lifestyle dynamics, channel relationships and the brand story.

We’ve seen Arizona Iced Tea respond to what its consumers value by tapping into the creative and promotional capabilities of its loyal brand followers. Through a digital and social media crowdsourcing campaign, thousands of consumers submitted name concepts and label designs for Arizona’s 20th Anniversary flavor, reinforcing its brand loyalty while amplifying the brand conversation to millions of potential new consumers. New Belgium’s Fat Tire beer also connects consumers to the brand’s eccentric personality with its wildly successful “Tour de Fat” — an annual bicycle carnival that travels around the country winning over the hearts and minds of craft beer enthusiasts. Both examples illustrate how brands are taking a responsive approach to understanding key consumer touchpoints and creating a more personalized brand experience both online and off.

Our agency recently utilized a responsive approach for a leading nutritional products client. Consumer insight research showed that health conscious women were more apt to buy a new product based on personal experience and word-of-mouth recommendations than from any other source. Therefore, making a one-to-one connection through trial and sampling and sparking brand interest through on and offline peer-to-peer networks would be essential to enabling this new brand to quickly breakthrough with its target audience. We reallocated a significant portion of our media spend away from broader awareness drivers and created an experiential sampling and social influencer outreach program to create a more meaningful brand experience. Taking this approach also enabled us to create a rallying point around the brand across digital and traditional media, bringing the brand to life through a testimonial-inspired messaging campaign. By utilizing this strategy, product sales increased by more than 20 percent, positive brand sentiment eclipsed 85 percent and an increase in social conversations drove a 40 percent growth in the brand’s social media community.

Consumers don’t think in terms of marketing funnels, channels or disciplines. They think about how to learn about new products, make better purchasing decisions and connect in deeper ways with brands that “get” them. By taking a responsive approach, we’re able to align marketing strategies around where customers are actually deriving value — creating more meaningful points of brand engagement and driving real marketing ROI.

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