Over the past decade, the worlds of media and advertising have changed dramatically. Where brands and marketing managers were once the ones who decided what message they would communicate to the market, now their customers have a voice and they’re not afraid to use it.
This is a landscape shift that goes far beyond customers using social media to complain about and praise brands. It is an environment where consumers are deeply engaged with brands beyond the shopfront and the product.
For instance, customers expect to be able to influence how brands do business, which products they produce, even fundamentals like labour practices, through the voice that interactive social tools have given them.
Thanks to mobile technology, customers are able to do so 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Increasingly, they want informative, interactive content wherever they go and when it suits them – their demands are to be listened to, informed, understood and entertained at their whim.
This growing audience is more complex and fragmented than ever before, with niche digitally connected audiences playing an active role in shaping the brands they love and hate.
Applications and services that would never have been sustainable in the past are now viable products for niche markets. But to serve these niche markets, brands need to understand them intimately.
For some brand managers and agencies coming from a background of traditional media, this digital environment is hard to grasp or pin down, as it’s moving very fast. No longer is the audience passively sitting in front of a TV or radio; it is consuming, creating, interacting with, and moving between different media in complex ways.
Understanding this changing consumer demands a new approach from an agency with a digital heritage, who understands the digitally enabled consumer. Not in isolation, but working alongside other partners and experts. This model draws together professionals from a range of functions with a myriad of skills. It demands new ways of collaboration between brands and their various agency partners.
The creative team is no longer made up only of a copywriter, an art director, reporting to a creative director. In addition to these roles, the agency/client partnership of the future will pull in experts in customer service, product/service design, user experience, data-mining, branding, reputation and more, to craft strategies that span channels and create an integrated platform for dialogue with customers.
Consider, for example, how business solutions are starting to interact with marketing and media. Owned media such as websites and mobile apps are transactional platforms, as well as the marketing and communications spaces brands use to talk to their audiences.
As another example; loyalty cards are tied into mobile apps and digital point-of-sales, bridging the gap between marketing, transaction and customer relationship management. This is a world of building customer relations, and yes, marketing, for brands and agencies that understand it.
What does this mean for you as a marketing director or a business owner?
• There are fantastic opportunities to create measured return on investment from digital, by mixing relevant strategic thinking with great ideas and great technology.
• These opportunities span both marketing and business solutions.
• To be successful, you will need a partner who can help you roll out viable integrated strategies for paid (advertising), earned (PR and social), and owned media (your own channels such as your website and email marketing).
• You should take a holistic look at your through-the-line strategy, before you spend any money at all.
This is a daunting, complicated and difficult landscape, but it is also one that is ripe with opportunities for brands that want to be genuinely connected and engaged with their customers. Today, with the right agency engagement, there is scope to listen, scale, change and evolve in response to customers – driving profitable growth through customer acquisition and retention.
Pete Case is founder and CEO at Gloo.