A simple Google search inquiry, such as "which refrigerator should I buy?" yields 1,100,000 listings in 0.3 seconds. This access to information has radically changed consumer behavior. Yet the advertising world remains largely the same as it was 50 years ago. The typical advertisement is still a one-way message with smiling faces, fancy jingles and exaggerated claims.
This is not to say that advertising is dead. Advertising is an undeniably powerful tool. We are simply asking it to do too much. We need to shift our focus to drive this industry forward. Here are some actionable recommendations for making changes that will advance us to the next generation.
1. Change the Key Performance Indicators From a Marketing to a Business Focus
We are looking at the wrong metrics. We all recognize it, but rarely do we demand that we look at a metric associated with our true responsibilities of growing revenue and profitability. We run surveys that measure advertising recall. But does anybody really care about an ad that is remembered for all the wrong reasons? We promote campaigns often based on nebulous data points. But what is engagement? And does it really correlate to product sales?
Thankfully, one of the crucial trends of 2011 will be growth of attribution modeling. One of the exciting companies emerging in this space is C3 Metrics. According to C3 Metrics CEO Mark Hughes, "we've been forced in the past to use the wrong metrics largely because we didn't have a choice. Now we have the ability to look at one key number that unites CMOs and CFOs by understanding how every aspect of a campaign impacts revenue." When we change our key performance indicators from something campaign-focused like "engagement" and shift to a business metric, like revenue, we'll be liberated to think differently about how we influence consumers.
2. Thin Slice the Brand Experience to Simplify Consumers' Lives
To counteract the diminishing role of advertising, we should think more like "marketers" than "advertisers" and look at all touch points to provide true consumer value. We need to "thin slice" the experience to elevate the granular moments that are critical to consumers. One inspiring example is Virgin America. Every touch point in the flight experience is slightly more convenient than what is offered by the competition. The check-in kiosks are bigger and easier. The boarding passes are on thick card stock with full color. Most important, it provides on-demand food ordering to remove the annoyance of food carts. These granular touches work together to create a superior experience, one that its customers are more likely to recommend. Find the moments where you can provide convenience to your customers and they will carry the marketing message for you.
3. Create an Educational Platform
Rather than focus on providing entertainment and humor, we should shift some of our efforts to provide an educational platform for consumers. Educate the audience about the specific personal benefits provided by your products. Or, educate the audience about critical factors in your industry and authentically associate your brand with that platform. Look at what Apple has done with its Genius Bar. By helping its customers more effectively use Apple products, it empowered brand ambassadors. Few emotions are more influential than empowerment. It has directly created loyalty, brand differentiation and increased revenue. To create an educational platform, look at the problem that your products solve then look at the holistic experience for consumers when faced with that problem to find an opportunity for educating your audience with authenticity.
Advertising Is Not Dead. It Just Needs Support.
Advertising is still enormously powerful and we do ourselves a disservice by speaking in platitudes, such as "the advertising model is broken." It is not broken. It simply needs to mature at a pace commensurate with the rate of change for consumers. This is an enormous task. We created a system that rewards us for building campaigns. But if we continue to focus the vast majority of marketing dollars on projecting an image through advertising, we are missing an opportunity for differentiation and increased return on investment.
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