Awareness vs. Engagement

by Doug Fouts
Xapsis

In the age of customizable content, businesses must embrace the shift to modern integrated marketing.

Most people, at one time or another, have heard or seen George Carlin’s classic routine, “The Advertising Lullaby.” Certainly anyone in the marketing field should have it engrained in his or her brain at this point. The comedian spouts off a nonstop stream of clichéd words and phrases that have been overused, overhyped and are now generally ignored by the consumer: “Quality, value, style, service, selection, convenience, economy, savings, performance, experience, hospitality, low rates, friendly service, name brands, easy terms, affordable prices, money-back guarantee…

On and on it goes, and the point is clear. Advertising has seized on certain ideas that over the years went from tried-and-true, sustainable competitive advantages to rote, meaningless filler copy for spec scripts, billboards and websites. Things change, and business must adapt to survive; that includes marketing concepts and strategies.

Experience Over Perception
Take the phrase “brand awareness.” Odds are that if you’re a business owner, you are familiar with this concept. It’s frequently paired with the phrase “top of mind”—the idea that if people are to use your company for goods or services, they first have to know you exist, and secondly, you must come to mind when they are ready to buy. This is an old concept that still rings true today. But as marketing strategies have changed in this brave new world, the concept has morphed into something far beyond the idea of “awareness.” Businesses that are going to thrive in the future must move past “brand awareness” into the realm of “brand engagement.” This added dimension means that marketers and advertising professionals can’t do what they have traditionally done and expect the same results.

I’ll paraphrase an article I recently read that reinforces my point. Clients know that effective marketing is increasingly about the experience people have with their brand, but too many agencies are still focused on only the perception of their brand.

So what does this mean to business owners, large and small alike? It means that to effectively market your business, you must stop thinking only about what the message says, but also concentrate on how, when and where your target market will encounter that message. Now more than ever, people are receiving information in customized and personalized ways, right down to how and where they consume advertising messages. The format might be online video, through social media, over the airwaves on radio, or across mobile platforms in streaming content; the list grows larger and larger every day. With that being said, the powerful brand you have worked so hard to cultivate has to become a more customizable experience through these new channels, integrating and supporting that experience across multiple platforms.

Think about it like this. Most businesses have a visual logo and a tagline or slogan of some kind. That tagline should, in a nutshell, offer a reason to do business with the company that speaks to the buying drivers of its target market segment. The tagline needs to be spoken on the radio, but it also needs to be illustrated interactively on the company website to grab the attention of people who, on average, give a homepage about seven seconds to make an impact and encourage them to drive deeper into the site.

The same message needs to be brought to life and given a face on a company YouTube channel, and it needs to be presented in a way that invites open-ended discussion and feedback on Facebook. There may be a host of FAQs by people looking for the company’s type of services, so a corporate blog should be built that offers technical support and drives SEO with dynamic, topical content, funneling people back to the website.

Potential clients reside on any number of platforms, and while the core of a business’ message may not change, the way it conveys that idea and the degree to which it allows the client to interact and offer feedback can vary widely. This is why marketing strategies just got a whole lot more complicated.

Reinforcing Channels
Look at the current “Live for Now” campaign being run by Pepsi. Take a bit of time and watch its television commercials, log onto its website (pepsi.com), check out its Facebook page, and look at its Pinterest boards. Every single platform reinforces the “Live for Now” campaign, but the experience with that message varies between channels.

That’s why the name of the game for companies today is integrated marketing strategy. Every business needs a marketing plan that takes into account how all the touchpoints and experience platforms integrate and work together—and how to fashion the message for maximum effectiveness within the strengths of each medium. The role of the advertising account executive is being replaced, out of necessity, by the integrated marketing specialist, who can identify which marketing tools and channels are right for each client’s business and how to make them all support and amplify each other for maximum message velocity and penetration.

It’s certainly a process, not an event, and it takes time, knowledge and effort. However, it is vital for businesses to start analyzing these concepts, whether internally or with professional firms, because the alternative could mean a slow fade into obscurity. No one wants their central message to become as outdated as Carlin’s “Advertising Lullaby”: “So come on in for a free demonstration and a free consultation with our friendly, professional staff. Our experienced and knowledgeable sales representatives will help you make a selection that's just right for you and just right for your budget…iBi

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