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Online media can be a real paradox—an environment that represents such a wealth of creative opportunity, yet has for so long been a slave to the banner ad. Buttons, leaderboards, skyscrapers—the challenge to advertisers has been to cram as much creativity as they can into awkward shapes and sizes. Online ads have been more about geometry than creativity.
With the Internet’s ability to empower individuals, social media platforms have become powerful forces for change and community action. Social media interconnects millions of people at any given point providing everyone with a megaphone that can be heard far and fast.
There’s no such thing as a captive audience. Gone are the days of neat and discrete moments in time where advertisers talked to target audiences. Today’s is a culture in constant motion. And the dizzying array of platforms, constant connectivity and ever-increasing speed of information has left the ad industry out of sync with its audience. People don’t live in quarterly campaigns, nor do they distinguish communication channels. They expect faster and constant communication with their brands across more media platforms and conversations. Every month, week, day, on the hour. It’s now about how fast brands can move, how relevant they can be and what they can offer in the here and now. There is a always need for “slow” and carefully crafted brand strategies and stories. But, with culture in constant motion there is also a need for marketers to be quick and nimble, so they can find opportunities where their brands can tap into cultural conversations that are part of people’s lives.
“Information wants to be free.” It’s the unofficial motto of the free-content movement and the populist opinion of a society that lives through and makes a living out of the free information that’s a mouse click away. We’re all used to traveling quite a distance on the information highway without any tollbooths. So for marketers today (especially in an economic downturn where every expenditure is scrutinized), expensive subscriptions to trade pubs have become easy targets for the company chopping block.
Everything is information and information is everything. It’s the mantra of marketing in an age where people are constantly creating collectible data—all the things we do, say, use, buy, click and share are data points in the graphs of our lives. But in an increasingly visual society, pie charts and bar charts can’t begin to do justice to this wealth of information there is to digest now. Data visualization tools are helping to change the ways we look at information and audiences. While a lot of these are just plain fun to look at, there is far more potential than just painting a prettier picture. Good data visualization communicates information clearly and effectively, where form and functionality work together to tell sophisticated stories, uncover relationships and patterns, and reveal insights that might otherwise go unseen. While many of these tools are, at this stage, more about experimentation than expertise, they are indicators of the near future where we can make much smarter strategic decisions just by finding some cooler ways to crunch the numbers.
People expect companies to do more than just sell stuff. They want to know what you stand for, what choices you make as a result and what difference that could make in the world. So when it comes to people making their brand choices, Cause Marketing can be a tiebreaker. Almost 80% of Americans are more likely to switch to the brand supporting a good cause over a competitor with the same price and quality. But Cause Marketing is not just about photo opportunities, oversized checks and warm fuzzies. It can be an opportunity to turn commercial interest into real change. Cause Marketing usually means supporting social or environmental efforts, but to today’s cynical audiences, just choosing some cause to “believe in” doesn’t do much good if your audience doesn’t believe you. Don’t just search for a cause, be the cause you’re brand is already about. Who says that doing good can’t mean doing well?
Reduce, reuse, recycle — we’ve all heard it a million times. It was the simple mantra that marked the mainstream arrival of the environmental movement. But from this clever catchphrase has grown such a cacophony of “green noise” and green-washed marketing that people have gotten overwhelmed by the right things to do. However, since 83% of people say they would change their consumption habits to make tomorrow’s world a better place, brands still have an incredible influence on environmental change. Maybe a return of the three Rs is just the point of reference people need to get some new perspective on making change simpler. Many of us have already made “recycling” part of our daily lives (although over 75% of what we buy is still trash in six months), and “reducing” and “reusing” is something we’re doing a lot more of in this economy anyway. So it’s a good time to make them all habits worth keeping.
For most of us, sports touch our lives on a daily basis. We play sports, watch sports on TV, read about sports in the newspapers, talk to friends about them, buy merchandise and attend sporting events. Sports take us away from our daily routines and entertain us. But while people realize that sports need sponsors (in fact, 74% actually think sponsorship is good), their corporatization can move them away from their fans. With ticket prices sky-rocketing, hospitality areas taking up all the good seats and every square inch of the arena emblazoned with logos, sponsorships are making sports less about the games and more about the names. Sponsoring can be a powerful passion-based marketing tool, and the financial support for those sponsored will always be needed, but marketers need to consider the brand-to-fan connection. Simply putting more logos in more places to get the most out of the investment is not going to get you any fans.
Art has always been a source of inspiration for the ad industry and continues to lead to new avenues for brand expression. If art imitates life, ads imitate art for good reason. Our talent is still about storytelling and words are still some of our most important tools, but technology continues to provide new canvases for bringing brand messages to life.
Advertising, for the most part, works by appealing to people’s eyes and ears — 80% of all brand communication is audio or visual. And while mainstream ad media will probably always exist in people’s lives as mostly sight and sound, the way audiences make sense of their world is obviously a more holistic sensory experience. Taste is an important part of how people develop, well, their individual tastes and palates. Touch is how people connect with and attach to the physical world and affects people’s perceptions of value. And smell is an incredibly important part of memory and feelings, affecting people emotionally 75% more than any other sense. Admittedly, multisensory media can sound a bit Orwellian, and bad advertising is still bad advertising whether you’re seeing it or smelling it, but maybe in an increasingly audio/visual world, the ways brands let people touch, taste and smell will become even more meaningful.
Audiences don’t live above or below-the-line, and it has taken our industry too long to truly embrace a through-the-line approach. But with the explosive growth of the Internet and the need for a specialized craft, we were quick to draw another line to differentiate on- and off-line advertising. But today’s audiences don’t live in an on- or off-line world either – they live in a “nonline” world. The more people and technology advance, the less separated these two places become in our daily lives. People can hardly tell the difference anymore between when they are “on” and when they are “off”; when they’re connected and when they’re not. People now lead seamless lives existing somewhere between the digital and the physical world with an endless number of connections linking them together.