A mistake I see many ad-product companies make is they try to teach advertisers a new language instead of "speaking their language." What do I mean? Brands know the goals they are trying to achieve, and every advertising product should show how it fits within the brand's goals. Instead, what I oftentimes see is an advertising product effectively saying "I'm cool and sexy. Use me." Left out is why a brand should care and how the ad product achieves the brand's goals.
The same analogy applies to consumers. We can't expect consumers to adopt every new way of 'participating' and 'engaging.' Rather, we have to accept what people like to do in their everyday lives. And nothing is more human than communicating, talking and telling stories to each other by way of discussion.
In discussion, people collaborate. They share different points of view. They advocate their positions. They occasionally argue. But an honest exchange of ideas ultimately leads people to new or different actions and opinions. Discussions are the most common means of persuasion.
You could argue that brands do the same thing with advertising. Or at least the good ones do. They don't force feed their message. That doesn't work. They communicate their point of view. The best advertising starts a bigger conversation that the brand begins. "Owning the conversation" should be an oxymoron, but still too many brands today make this mistake. Any good conversation naturally lets new people participate. And by doing so, the core brand ideas spread.
Most importantly, this approach is exactly what consumers are hungry for. Edelman's 2013 Brandshare Study revealed 4 in 10 respondents want brands to listen and respond more carefully, double the number who said they wanted more content from brands. The same study revealed that dialogue is the most requested form of sharing that consumers want from brands. Yet, only 10% of consumers said they feel any brand shares well.
If brands speak authentically with valuable information and earnest conversation, consumers remember that and reward the brand with a purchase, loyalty or advocacy. Think of Coke and happiness. IBM and the notion of a smarter planet. Dove and real beauty. P&G and my everyday needs.
While content marketing is the term often used to describe campaigns like these, it's more accurately described as discussion marketing. Content is simply the start. Content that ignores the need of the audience to participate is simply marketing material repackaging. Content worth talking about must be the goal.
Now I don't want you to think that discussion marketing is easy. It's not. But it is well worth the effort. Why? Consumers react very favorably to genuine conversations with brands. And for brands, the strength of signal when a consumer discusses is the strongest signal online. Stronger than even search. Why? Because consumer conversations are a "film" that occurs over that consumer's life, not a snapshot "picture" of one moment in time.
How does a brand get started? Well most brands already have people devoted to discussing things: community managers. From what I can tell, community managers need to be unshackled to do more than just optimizing "likes" and getting "retweets." They need to start having genuine conversations with consumers. The brands that I've seen do this have seen it pay off in spades. How else? Start empowering brand loyalists – REAL people, REAL consumers – to speak on behalf of the brand.
I know that sounds scary to some people. But, if in the real world, the holy grail is 'word of mouth marketing', why can't that happen online too? It does…and it's uniquely powerful when it happens. Every brand can achieve this holy grail. You just have to have the guts to try.
About the Sponsor
David Fleck is GM of Advertising at Disqus, the web's most popular discussion system. He works with leading brands and agencies to develop strategic partnerships and new advertising products that help marketers tap into the world of discussions on Disqus. Prior to Disqus, David held leadership positions at content and technology companies including Federated Media, BitTorrent and Google. He has worked on behalf of leading global brands like American Express, Intel, P&G and Coca-Cola.
Disqus is a free service that enables great online communities. As the web's most popular discussion system, Disqus is used by nearly 3 million websites that cover pretty much any topic imaginable. Available in over 40 languages, millions of people around the world use Disqus everyday to be part of the discussions that matter most to them. Our business is integrated advertising that lets businesses be part of these discussions that they can't find anywhere else.