July 31, 2012

Give Brands nothing, but take from them EVERY THING!

Battle: The Great War of Digital Consumerism
Strategy: Use Digital to connect, engage, and destroy brands, one interaction at a time!
Weaponry: Digital media or media enabled by the converging forces of social, mobile, cloud and internet of things
Incumbent: Brand
Challenger: Consumer

Who will win this war - consumers or brands?



digital strategy for the great war on digital consumerism

Consumers push Brands forward...
If today brands are feeling that customers change loyalties at the flip of a coin, they have absolutely no idea about the Great War that is only beginning to take shape. This War will be started by the Digital Consumer and will inspire the entire consumer base to rise and win the war of consumerism if brands don't act now!


There are 2 main challenges and they go hand-in-hand: 

1. Consumers are in control - With the proliferation of the social media, internet, and mobile platforms, consumers have access to product information and peer reviews, and are constantly challenging the brand propositionBrands today are more exposed than they've ever been before. Whether a brand owns the media channel or not, consumers will find a way to share their opinion or experience. This may negatively impact your brand health.

2. Everything is becoming Media - There is a new digital revolution in the horizon and we are only beginning to see how disruptive it can be. Brands will find it increasingly difficult to keep up with their consumers. If you think, consumers on social media platforms have forced brands to fish where the fish are, Brands haven't seen anything yet! The Generation S (Screen) today expects everything to not only become mobile but also touch and swipe. And with smartphones, context-aware pervasive devices (QR codes, RFID, NFC) and internet of things starting to take traction, every thing around us can potentially become media that can be experienced and consumed. 
Will Brands ever be able to win the war if consumer behaviors and technologies change so frequently?


How Brands can win the War of Digital Consumerism:


In the new digital age, brands need to rethink the way they communicate with consumers. 
The problem is that majority of the brands are still using traditional marketing tactics with digital weaponry.
For instance, while many brands have begun owning media, such as creating their own Facebook pages and Twitter sites, their tactics of engagement are still old school -- many are treating each platform separately and stressing about ROI from each investment. And therefore even if brands today exist where their consumers dwell, they will continue to struggle to effectively engage their consumers in a sustained fashion. Brands are wasting their energies, time and money creating silo'd digital campaigns.

So here are 5 strategies that brands can immediately adopt:


1. Earned Media is a Secret Weapon. Treasure it!Earned media fulfills the unique promise of creating authentic social proof for your brand. Brands cannot buy or create earned media (i.e. free consumer-generated media, such as likes, shares, comments). It has to be organically developed and earned from its consumers. That means brands must create content that consumers will want to share. Also, Earned media has a multiplying effect and causes viral behaviors. So the more brands accumulate earned media, the more authentic it becomes in the eyes of the consumer. Brands focusing on growing earned media save customer outreach and acquisition costs, as well as build a more sustainable consumer-centric brand.

However Earned media is a double-edged sword. Since this kind of media weaponry is developed using social tools, the resulting outcome can cause damage to brands as well. Brands need to sharpen the right edge of the sword and skillfully use it along with owned and media weaponry.

2. Converge Media: Add "owned" and "earned" media, and build a "converged media" armor when fighting the digital war. Brands that are able to effectively apply a hybrid of paid, owned and earned media to connect with their consumers stand a chance to win this war. (For examples refer to this paper from Altimeter.)

3. Integrate traditional and new media channels (social, web, mobile): Brands need to keep up with the consumers and more importantly, integrate traditional with digital media in order to be where the consumers are. Greater presence across social media channels provides brands more opportunities to listen to their consumers and encourage conversations, that in turn improve brand awareness and health.

4. (updated 16-Aug-2012) Orchestrate and improve brand storytelling across converged media: It will not only be important to orchestrate a compelling story across converged media channels but also select the "right application" of new media channels based on the campaign or brand story. Brands will need such skilled media technologists and transmedia storytellers to maximize impact. Critical success factor: Make sure you take cues from the social ecosystem of your consumers and incorporate them into your stories. This will improve odds of acceptance. For recently published insights, refer to 5 storytelling principles and Birth of Storytelling.

5. Become agile and act on consumer insights from all channels: Brands that listen to their consumers in real-time across customer touchpoints, understand changing consumer needs and behaviors, and continuously innovate as consumer insights are acquired will remain sustainable. Metrics of awareness, engagement, viral and influence must be monitored across paid, earned and owned channels.

To summarize, brands are fighting a battle that cannot be won with traditional media or by using owned or earned media in isolation. If brands want to be more effective in the new digital age, they need to leverage converged media, and integrate traditional and digital media seamlessly to the marketing mix. Also organizations cannot afford to have internal departments, such as Customer Service, Operations and Marketing, operating in silos. Implementing integrated media experiences will first require the breakdown of these internal silos. Brands will also need to work with multiple agencies to provide such an orchestrated, converged media experience. And lastly, brands need to enhance consumer knowledge and insights from interactions with their consumers on all channels in order to build a stronger brand with long-lasting relationships with their consumers.

If you have used any of the above strategies or have any additional strategies, please do share..

You may also be interested in reading about The New Brand Tree and Fruits of Earned Media.

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