How quickly consumers have come to expect that brands tailor their message to "me," the individual -- from Amazon book recommendations to a shoe that we might like to the banner ads that surround what we look at. But -- as in the case of my colleague -- when brands get the communication wrong, they quickly become an annoyance instead of a point of interest.
For marketers, online advertising is a way to be more relevant to an individual and guarantee a way to measure results. However, the Federal Trade Commission's exploration of and potential implementation of a "do not track" button online is forcing marketers to consider what's next. While much of the discussion has been focused on what will happen online, we need to broaden it to offline.
As an industry, we've become too reliant on the technology to both serve up what we hope is a tailored ad and to justify success. In truth, a click might raise our CTR, but it may not engage people with the brand -- which is the true end goal. A recent AdweekMedia/Harris Poll says as much -- when people were asked what forms of advertising they tend to ignore or disregard the most, Internet banner ads ranked the highest.
Given today's economic uncertainty, people are re-evaluating what they really need -- and they want greater interaction and connection with brands. The boon of the local and handcrafted movement is a testament to the fact that consumers want to support their community and -- on a deeper level -- be part of one.
Smart brands such as American Express, Ikea, Best Buy and Starbucks have managed to skillfully develop integrated platforms that provide meaningful interaction, beyond "click here to learn more." To be successful over the long term, companies need to create live interactions -- through the physical, the digital and the personal -- that speak to people and provide some form of tangible human interaction. Take, for instance, American Express' Small Business Saturday initiative, which drove consumers to shop at businesses in their communities with special promotions in-store and on Facebook. Even after the event, the American Express Small Business Saturday Facebook page continues to rally the support of small business, with almost 1.5 million people who like it.
KLM is another marketer that has provided consumers with the type of interaction they are craving. The company's Surprise Initiative leveraged social media to make people at Schiphol Airport feel special before they flew. Certain passengers who had shared their travel plans via Foursquare and Twitter were greeted by a Surprise KLM team with a personalized small gift to turn the boredom of waiting at an airport into a moment of happiness.
The online world offers great access and connection, but it has also become a place where we can be easily distracted by the barrage of messages from email to IM to ads. And they are especially intrusive when, as in the case of my colleague, they miss the mark. Meaningful human interactions -- underpinned by great creative thinking -- will continue be the best way to reach consumers. That's how marketers can "tilt the cookies" in their favor.