Marketers need to build on existing media knowledge, to assess what's already been done, and to make it better still.
You've no doubt seen dozens of "top trends" lists over the past few weeks, rehashing the big marketing moments of the past year. You've probably also read predictions for 2013 that speculate about what's to come. Take a holistic look at these and you'll find a pattern: things that brands have already done that are ideally suited to the evolving media landscape and what the forthcoming year will likely bring.
This is the place to start when you're planning your media buys for 2013. Digital marketing can't be executed in a vacuum; marketers need to build on existing media knowledge, to assess what's already been done, and to make it better still. With that in mind, here are my top three tips for taking your brand and client campaigns to the next level.
1. Think of your ads as content. "Content marketing" was a big buzzword in 2012, and with good reason: it was the year in which brands really began to realize that consumers respond to ads as content - if, that is, the content is any good.
Research firms and tech companies have provided all manner of advice for achieving this nebulous rank, from effectively balancing promotional messaging with entertainment to not focusing too much on "going viral." All that's really needed to develop good branded content, though, is a thorough understanding of one's target customers and their likes and interests.
Financial planning and insurance company Sun Life Financial has won both industry awards and consumer attention for its Brighter Life blog (brighterlife.ca), because it's rich in lifestyle tips and information with a smattering of subtle house ads. Other brands have used live stream video, branded comic strips, sponsored infographics, and memes to engage consumers while also keeping them informed and entertained. It's simply about determining what resonates with your customers and delivering it in a way that relates to your business. Do that, and your content becomes plenty worthy of sharing online.
2. Don't hesitate to run your ads online first. As you may recall, 2012 marked the first time that social media played a critical role in promoting Super Bowl ads. Advertisers like Volkswagen and Chevrolet posted their spots to YouTube and Facebook well before the game, racking up millions of online views.
Some said this spoiled the fun: come Super Bowl Sunday, it was largely just more of the same. But pre-releasing ads on social media sites heightens interest and interaction so much that it's worth sacrificing the element of surprise. Factor in the millions brands spend on these ads and getting one's money's worth becomes a vital goal. Placing spots online can help.
In the new year, this approach will become valuable for all brands that invest in cross-media campaigns. Posting an ad online first will become common practice, generating online buzz and shares before uncoiling itself to reach the masses. Prior to running a version on national television on New Year's Eve, Google posted its "Zeitgeist 2012: Year In Review" video to YouTube to the tune of more than 10.6 million views. Now that it has extended its reach to TV, shares will only increase. This is a media buying strategy designed for a new world - a world in which simultaneous media consumption is the norm and ads represent an experience to be shared and enjoyed any time, all the time.
3. Link social media with your campaigns. Marketers are getting very good at responding to consumers by way of social media, and for this reason customer service has already been taken to new heights. When it comes to promoting ad campaigns, however, there's more that can be done. Social sites afford media planners and account managers an opportunity to point customers to the ads they're placing, both online and off-. Featuring ads on branded Facebook pages and YouTube channels, alerting consumers to new campaigns via Twitter, posting behind-the-scenes images and exclusive ad campaign content to Pinterest - these things can do wonders for extending a campaign's reach.
The problem with online ads has always been their limited capacity for being shared, but with the increased use of video and interactive rich media, media buyers now have ways to ensure that every ad they place will be seen not just by a site's user base, but by other potential customers as well. Think of it as an add-on, like extra RAM for your PC. Except instead of being optional, it's a necessary enhancement capable of producing extraordinary results.
As you embark on a new year of media planning and buying, online branding, and social media management, consider what can be learned from the year that has passed. Exciting things are happening all around us, and there has never been a better time to make our mark.
Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.
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