Advertising was born to impel would-be customers to act. But as infinite campaigns have proven, truly informing and inspiring consumer behavior requires a deep understanding of people's lifestyles, needs and intentions. Good product and good messaging only go so far these days—consumers now act with a weapon of insight at their sides, constantly pinging their peers and the Internet universe to assess what's right for them.
While an offline communication may spark initial interest, it is online querying and sharing that informs the bulk of consumer actions today. From vacation destinations and haircare options to enterprise software and commercial shipping, buyers just like you and me are doing the best they can to make the most informed choices every day.
This behavior gets really interesting when you realize it is simply an evolution of the classic customer journey, now just extrapolated into a series of smaller and smaller moments. Whether the buyer has a timely need or is in the midst of a long purchase cycle, each query, no matter how micro, adds to the buyer's decision-making. We have all been in both situations: We are confronted by a need and turn to our Internet-enabled glowing rectangles to solve our issue, or we're contemplating an important purchase and do our quick Internet digs to gather perspective on our ultimate choice. Either of these cases—and all situations in between—are just a series of micromoments that add up to inform our intentions and actions.
Today's brands must engage consumers before, during and after this journey commences. Through timely and relevant participation in this user flow of micromoments, brands almost ingratiate themselves to the consumer along the way—so much so that macro moments of mass market advertising are now supplemental to the primary content morsels consumed by mobile-powered minds today. Short bursts of consumption across screens now define what's adored and what's ignored around the globe, cross-channel. With 48% of our time now spent on our computers and phones, and 37% (and dropping) in front of a TV, it's staggering to see ad spend not reflect this change of habit.
This content consumption behavior isn't a millennial phenomenon, either. CNN's primary talking-head shows now obstruct 30% of their precious screen real estate with endlessly scrolling bands of mini news nuggets to grab viewers on the go. They do this because they know their prized boomer audiences are on the move, mobile in one hand and grandchild in the other, assessing options and looking for answers in micro form.
Engagement at this level obviously feels more granular than the sit-down-shut-up epic scale TV ads of yesteryear. Internet citizens are clamoring for how-to videos and buyers-like-me stories at astounding rates, up 70% year over year, with no sign of waning. This new level of consumer empowerment won't easily be relinquished, either, which is why brands today must reshuffle their media plan to consider the content spaces in between their traditional ad buys. To exemplify this shift, consumer-savvy mass market retailers such as Target are publicly claiming mobile engagement as their highest strategic priority organizationwide, according to the Harvard Business Review.
This is because the spaces in between binge-watching and game playing are where the stickiest eyeballs are. Scouring the Web feels like the ultimate free pass to information, and we humans wander it enthusiastically, perpetually. This behavior matters to advertisers of all shapes and sizes because this is where the consumer is maximumly engaged—they are guiding their own digging, not passively consuming in a hands-off trance.
Showing up and participating amid this Internet journey, queued up and ready to add value, is now requisite in the digital age. If that means carefully curated how-to videos or a website built for mobile, each compounding action ensures brand presence at the moments that most inform human behavior today.
About the Author
Sasha Strauss speaks from two decades of experience in brand development, building brands for corporations, philanthropies and universities while working for the top advertising, PR, marketing and branding firms worldwide. His unique and proven perspective on how brands should be built and communicated is the foundation for his strategic brand management agency, Innovation Protocol.
In the midst of full-time international work, Mr. Strauss teaches graduate brand strategy and marketing courses at USC and UCLA. His ability to inculcate brand truth is the same reason brands such as Google, LEGO, Toyota and Nestlé enlist his keynote posts on strategic brand management.
About the Sponsor
Google Inc. is a global technology leader focused on improving the ways people connect with information. Google's innovations in Web search and advertising have made its website a top Internet property and its brand one of the most recognized in the world.