The Power Of A Message

Marketers right now are struggling to generate the best possible results from their marketing dollars.  Efficiency is critical, and top of mind for Q4 and early 2009 is how budgets will be utilized across channels generating the most positive results.  Sure, a discussion will continue about the merits of paid search and other more measurable, controllable forms of media that are being leveraged in these tough times. But as mentioned in previous articles, consumers are more than ever looking for deals, researching before they purchase, and are likely to be much more cerebral about what marketing messages they take note of and trust, and how and where they purchase products or services.  What's a marketer to do when the total number of potential customers shrinks, and those left still spending must be driven towards an intended action more frequently and with the utmost efficiency?

The Creative Opportunity
Can the current economic situation be the catalyst we need to get back to the fundamentals of great creative concepts and messaging?  I believe so, and I'm sure there are many who'd agree.  Sure, it's fantastic that behind Google's lead the culture of online advertising and marketing has become focused on quantitative metrics, tools and technologies for daily campaign management, optimization, and rapid creation and trafficking of ads (text-based primarily with the growth of paid search).  However, something's still missing, and online it's unfortunately been the appreciation -- and more importantly the use of design and messaging -- to differentiate from the clutter of ads in order to cleverly beat the competition.  

Maybe we've been so interested in beating the competition at achieving a click on a paid search ad, bidding more efficiently, ranking high through SEO efforts, and buying media at the right time, place, and context, that we've forgotten that when marketing is successful, people respond to the message -- not to the means by which the media is purchased.  The understanding of how consumers will process marketing messages (words, images, functionality, successive links to content or breadcrumbs of information followed in the digital universe) leading to an intended conversion or action is elusive, and so we're kept wondering where the secret to groundbreaking success hides.  In times of breakdown, there's always breakthrough.  What will make a marketer great right now is a message that clearly convinces consumers by saying "I'm what you want, because..."  

Marketers shouldn't waste the opportunity to rethink messaging, get creative, and answer the question of why they're the best choice. Of course, this should always be the motto of any marketer, but to my point again, now is the perfect time to kick this approach into high gear (or else your competitors will, as the going gets tougher).

Brand Matters (Really)
I peered over someone's shoulder on the train a few days ago and caught a glimpse of a bold headline in the Financial Times that read "Should I Tell people I'm An Investment Banker?"  Well, what's your first thought when I say "Wall Street investment banker"?  Even if you have no clue what a Wall Street investment banker does, there's a sheen that's dulled over the past few weeks in the opinion and perception of this historically prestigious and successful role.  Just as these kinds of negative brands have been created by the current economic situation, opportunities exist for nearly every company in every sector to stake their claim to what's positive and powerful about their promise to consumers, in stark contrast to top-of-mind concerns and negatives surrounding us all.  

Good luck achieving success in persuasive and powerful creative messaging if you can't clearly define what your positive value is as a company and in your products and services.  

When consumers become more discerning, they look deeper.  When marketers that traditionally win on price have competitors offering deals just as good or better to their left and right, something else must do.  For premium brands that have gotten away with high profit margins and by leveraging quality and service, what should be done when consumers could care less and just want the best deal?  The only answer is to go back to business and marketing fundamentals and start at the core: with your brand.  Be the maverick managing search or online media who says "we need to be piercingly clear about our value right now."  Why?  Because I believe during tough times, people will search and engage in dialogue much more, which by default should put search -- by far the most efficient and controllable marketing medium -- squarely at the center of a company's current marketing discussions.  

We're in the midst of an information-seeking revolution, whether it's related to the upcoming election, getting the best deal, finding ideas for a more thoughtful versus expensive holiday gift, hiring the most trustworthy and cost-effective service provider or professional, and much more.  Empower your brand, then think like an aggressive direct marketer and drive through these tough times by measuring and testing more, spending budget wisely, but never discounting the power of a message to determine the difference between success and failure



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