How to Write an Interactive Strategic Brief, Part 2

In part one of this series, I described how to write the basic building block of an online strategy: the brief. In this second installment, I’ll talk about how to translate a product benefit into an effective interactive ad. Remember, there’s a basic template and fake case study available on my blog that you can use with these columns.

Why People Buy Stuff

People buy things for the same reason people do anything: They perceive a benefit to engaging in the action. This is the pure economist view of the world and humanity. Why did he do it? Because he believed that doing it would bring him some benefit. This is certainly not the only way to see the world, but it is the most elemental.

When you think about product purchases, you can divide the benefits of making a purchase into rational and emotional. The rational half tells you all the real-world efficiencies that a product will afford. The rational benefit for buying a hybrid car is economic: you’ll spend less money on gas.

Emotional benefits are a bit trickier. These are positive feelings a person gets from a product. They’re tough because they are harder to quantify. Sometimes this is simply the sense of power one gets from wearing a designer label or the feeling of athletic achievement from wearing running shoes to a meeting. For the hybrid, the emotional benefit is wrapped up in a feeling of doing the right thing for the environment.

Generally, you’d see the emotional benefits communicated in the pure branding work (TV, outdoor) and the rational benefits communicated in the direct marketing stuff (mail, direct response broadcast). The cool thing about the Internet, however, is it blends rational and emotional communication methods together, allowing for ads that actually take a consumer from emotional to rational to purchase.

Strategy = Plan

A strategy isn’t a clever insight or a slight twist of familiar phrasing. It’s a plan to move a person from one state to another. Your interactive strategy should be built to bring people very far along the purchase cycle. A number of agencies have keyed into this and developed marketing methods that are generally called direct branding or branded direct.

The driving idea behind this approach is you don’t need to settle for either branding or direct tactics. Online, there’s a method of having an ad unit that begins with an emotional tug and follows through with a direct call to action.

Consider the release of a new movie, heavy on special effects, space battles, fire trucks, Muppets, and whatever else generates big opening weekends. Ad units can highlight some of the most powerful sequences in the film, maybe by showing clips or character close-ups. In movies, the emotional tug is often clear. It may be a tragic death or a great love story. Whatever the case, the ad units can lead with that emotion.

But here’s where the Internet’s power becomes apparent. The same clip on TV can only say, “In theaters July 4.” But Internet ads can say, “Click here to preorder your tickets.” The strategy behind the ad is to connect with the consumer in a moment of pure emotion, then to capitalize on that spark by generating a direct marketing-style call to action.

Making It Work for Other Products

Of course, your product may be tax services or a router or an investment in pork futures. Where’s the love in that? This is why it’s critical to remember every product has both the emotional and the rational as a part of its core. Strategic development’s goal is to identify what they are and find a way to balance the two within the interactive strategy.

Once you’ve identified that core and created the brief that describes how you will convert consumers, you must stick to it. The worst thing you can do with a strategy is change it too many times. At some point, the value becomes diluted and those benefits muddled. Certainly pay attention to how the campaign is operating and be flexible if things aren’t working to plan, but always try to stay consistent with your strategy.

Although basic marketing communication concepts are the same across all channels, the Internet represents a unique experience for consumers and brands, and the campaign should take advantage of those characteristics.

Meet Gary at Search Engine Strategies in Chicago, December 4-7, at the Hilton Chicago.

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