In these modern media days of supposed consumer-centricity, the consumer having control and brands letting go, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’d moved into a wholly new marketing and communications era from just five or 10 years ago.
The reality, of course, is that most communications are not consumer-centric. They’re brand- and media-centric. “Consumer-centricity” remains shorthand for we know our target audience, how much we want them to pay and when we want them to buy it again.
Sure, there are more consumer insights informing the strategy, but the song remains largely the same.
Similarly, brands have not “let go” -- nor should they. While consumers certainly have more control over the media they use, the content they consume (or create) and how they use it in today’s fragmented media landscape, it’s simplistic to suggest they are in charge.
It’s not an up-and-down issue of one side or the other having control, and it never has been.
However, none of this is to suggest things haven’t changed. Some of the effects of digital technology and all it has spawned impact the brand consumer relationship in ways that make building effective communications plans more complex -- not to mention measuring their effectiveness.
So let me humbly offer what I feel are the Three Rs of successful communication today:
Reach: Nothing new here. The need to reach large enough numbers of the target audience at an acceptable cost will always be with us. What has changed is the media mix, the attendant functionality occasioned by interactivity, a return path, mobility and the like.
Receptivity: Basically, reaching the audience at the best moments according to what you are trying to achieve and what they are doing at the time. This is fundamental to their likelihood of shaping the creative message to be practically and emotionally relevant, the media used to deliver the message and the likelihood of the audience responding as intended.
Resonance: If you’ve utilized the best media for the task and crafted the message in the most effective way, then the campaign should achieve a higher level of resonance with that audience -- whether seeking to drive a physical response (e.g. buy now) or an emotional response (e.g. trust the brand).
If a campaign is successful in achieving all of the above -- and if a brand can maintain that success over time -- then a fourth “R” comes into play.
Relationship -- of choice: By which I mean the consumers’ choice. I fundamentally believe that the notion of any brand ever being able to “own the consumer” has always been something of a testosterone-fuelled myth.
The idea of earning the status of “brand of choice” -- sometimes despite an unfavorable price comparison -- has always been the ultimate goal for a brand. Only now with more competition from different types of entities and a more tangled media labyrinth to navigate, attaining top marks all of the three Rs is more important than ever.