We’ve all seen this play out in life: There’s the popular, interesting friend—the reason everyone comes to the party—and the sidekick, the one everyone tolerates because they pick up the tab. This is also the story of media. Media companies (and social media platforms) are the cool friends who attract the audience. Brands pick up the tab in order to be included in that experience.
It’s been this way since the invention of brand marketing. In the early days of print, radio and TV, audiences were truly thankful for the advertising that made programming possible and accessible. That appreciation made the model work.
This is a truth we seemed to have forgotten in the digital era. And the promise of automation turned out to be a bit too effective, even removing humans from the audience.
Billions of dollars of global advertising revenue consumed via bots and criminals masked a fundamental shift in the ad-supported media model, leaving brand marketers disappointed, and looking for scapegoats, questioning the definition of viewability itself.
Truth will set you free (and make you uncomfortable)
This can be the turning point in the story of brand marketing for those who look more deeply to understand some basic truths:
1. Unseen impressions have no value. While sellers and buyers debate the minimum seconds required get a brand message across (and qualify as “seen”), common sense tells us they’re not even close. We know that the world’s most valuable brands were created by 30-second TV spots.
2. Empowered audiences win. Competition for audience is fierce. Today’s fastest-growing and most-successful media platforms are either completely ad free or offer ad-light or ad-free subscription options.
3. Sacrificing quality of attention doesn’t work. Brand marketers need to be able to buy real consumer attention, at scale, in order to create consumer demand.
Brand Marketing’s New Story Begins …
Technology both unlocked that infinite supply of precision-targeted impressions and it empowered consumers to avoid them, choosing experiences that do not include advertising.
In order truly to reengage with consumers, brand marketers must do these things:
1. Cultivate context. If you can’t quickly answer the question “why” you ought to be in front of an audience, you are swimming upstream where you’ll end up in front of someone you don’t want to meet – like a bot.
2. Engagement will foil the bots. Bots don’t buy things, humans do. Creators of bot technology will continue to strive to emulate human behavior. Investing in campaigns with deeper interaction and engagement will trip up most bots on the first hurdle, filtering them out so you can focus resources on the attention of real people.
3. Get real about trust and relationships. So much marketing spend feels like a treadmill because we don’t treat people as real people. Every dollar we spend attempting to validate whether the audience we are reaching is real is a dollar taken away from cool creative or creating real connections. Misaligned platforms and publishers waste budget and damage brand equity.
4. Have fun. Relationships are the result of mutually shared, enjoyable experiences. If you’re having fun, your consumer probably will too. That’s always good for your brand.
2017 shook us into the realization that we need a more authentic, valuable and creatively satisfying approach to brand marketing. Marketers should feel liberated to test new models, creative dimensions and partnerships. This is the new story of brand marketing and it is going to be so much fun.