Catalyst Branding

The Wisdom of Engaging by Intruding

July 22, 2013

Have you been watching traditional TV lately?  Does showing me the same ad for ED in every show I watch through the day really engage me?  Does watching an ad twice in a single commercial break make me pay more attention?  In today’s world, does the notion of a “commercial break” continue to be relevant for how we really live?

I feel like I’m watching the very end of an era.  The world of advertising and advertisers are struggling to hold onto the last vestige of the Mad Men era, when the consuming public has moved to a whole new way of engaging with brands and making purchase decisions.

Think about it.  Traditional advertising works by intruding into the experience that audiences are enjoying.  It forces targets to stop doing what they want to do and listen to what the advertiser has to say.  And this is supposed to be engaging.

How much sense does that make?  Let’s build engagement by bugging people, interrupting them, forcing them to listen to what we have to say and keeping them from what they really want to do.

Today, we’re much smarter about how our targets prefer to be engaged.  Study upon study shows that targets – both b2c and b2b – move through a learning process where they talk with people they trust, do their homework on brand websites and review sites, consider expert opinions and then make their choices.

It’s all on their terms.  They control the decision process and determine how and when they consume information.  Engagement is built through learning and experiencing.  The preferred media is the web and the preferred communication style is informational.  If you can make the information a little entertaining, all the better.

This is buttressed through recent studies that show us that company websites and the opinions of category experts are the only two media people trust more than they distrust.  All other media – advertising, email, collateral, etc. – are more distrusted than trusted.

Research does tell us that traditional advertising still has a role.  It is a particularly strong validating tool, especially for people who have made big purchase decisions and for the employees of companies that advertise.  However, traditional advertising’s role as a catalyst for shaping decisions is on the wane.  Fewer and fewer customers cite advertising as one of the touch-points that shaped their decisions as they moved through the selection process.

Given this, it’s time for marketers, business leaders, consultants and agencies to be much smarter and more creative in building successful engagement programs.  We need to disrupt the status quo and leverage the touch-points that customers actually prefer to use in navigating through their purchasing process.

We’ll be far better served by teaching rather than interrupting.  We need to be there when customers want us rather than force them to pay attention to us when they would rather be doing something else.  When you think about it, it’s fairly obvious – isn’t it?

Posted under: Branding Strategy, Changes in branding, Customer journey mapping, Demand Driving Strategy, General