While I promised myself I would never do it, my wife and I accidentally started watching "So You Think You Can Dance?" on TV. Let me just say that as a middle-aged guy, my most common thought is "how many weeks would I have to spend in a cast if I tried to do that move?" Fortunately, I haven't been asked to participate in the actual dancing, but am very intrigued with the wide range of skills being represented by the dancers and the downright creativity, physicality, and skills being presented.
For those of you not familiar with the program, a huge part of any single dancer's success is the ability to step outside of their comfort zones to learn new things that aren't necessarily easy for them. This means that ballroom dancers have to show some proficiency in hip-hop; jazz dancers need to be able to nail contemporary on a regular basis. But apart from getting the dance moves down, a big part of any dancer's success on the show is the ability to effectively share and bring that experience to life for the audience. Quite simply, it's not about just dancing; it's about presenting, engaging, and making a connection with the right people.
Metaphorically, this neatly ties in with the idea of getting a brand message in front of the right audience. For example, great creative running on the wrong sites is a failed campaign. Bad creative on the right sites is still a bad campaign (although, in truth, better than being on the wrong site). But there are so many other factors that we should consider whenever we make a decision to put our brand in front of an audience:
Does the personality of the brand mesh with the personality of the audience? This is at the core of effective target marketing. If your brand doesn't match the relevant needs of the people it reaches, then it's just noise against the landscape. On the other hand, if the people this message reaches understand its significance and are willing to "try it on to see if it fits" in their own minds, then that may be a perfect match.
Does everything in the campaign work together to give the brand credibility in the eyes of the audience? If your brand message is all about convincing your audience that they may be the 9,999,999th visitor to the site, then chances are pretty good you don't really care whether your brand is taken seriously or not. For the rest of us, brand credibility is a necessary ingredient in getting people to seriously consider the value of a brand and how that value reflects back on them.
Brand acceptance is about finding a point of agreement. That pedigree includes the circumstances under which an ad is seen, including on which sites combined with which other information it is paired to and the ad creative itself. All of these elements work together to help create a complete concept that meshes comfortably with the things we already think about and believe like the value of eating your Wheaties, respecting your elders, and changing your underwear daily. Who can argue with a brand that makes this much sense?
Is the brand experience engaging enough to leave audiences satisfied but wanting more? While there are certainly plenty of examples that would disprove this theory, I believe that in order to be effective, brand advertising should be significant in some way. Whether it's entertaining, dramatically captivating, interactive, or perfectly timed, a brand message can have a strong impact on the consumer's perception of that brand and how it applies to their needs. It's not just enough to get the brand in front of somebody who might want to buy it. It's also necessary to give them a strong reason to consider why they would ever want to buy it.
At the end of the day, it's still about reaching the right audience with the right message at the right time. But in order to make this happen, we still need to consider the relationship that our audiences have with the messages being put forth, how well the creative and ad buys deliver that message, what the recipient is expected to do with the message (what future actions they should take is a good starting point…), and if the whole experience surrounding the message is engaging and satisfactory. And not falling off the stage is good too.
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Rob Graham is the CCT (chief creative technologist) of Trainingcraft, Inc., where he heads up development of customized training programs for a wide range of digital marketing, entrepreneurial development, and digital media clients.
A 20 year veteran of digital media, Rob has served as the CEO of a multimedia development company; an interactive media strategist; a rich media production specialist; a Web analytics consultant; a corporate trainer and seminar leader; and a chief marketing officer.
When he isn't on the road presenting training workshops, Rob teaches at Harvard University, Emerson College, and the University of Massachusetts - Lowell where he teaches classes on Digital Media Development, Web Store Creation, Software Programming, Business Strategies, and Interactive Marketing Best Practices.
He is the author of "Fishing From a Barrel," a guide to using audience targeting in online advertising, and "Advertising Interactively," which explores the development and uses of rich-media-based advertising. He has been an industry columnist covering interactive marketing, digital media, and audience targeting topics since 1999.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT