Marketing, Minus the Interruption

Marketing’s new reality is alignment with individuals: brands are looking seriously at media delivered to an individual, who then carries them to others similar in one or more specific attributes. What I’m talking about, of course, is social media. It’s the practice of developing finely tuned, individualized content servings that are picked up and carried through — rather than pushed down into — social networks.

In the recent “AlwaysOn,” VantagePoint Venture Partner’s David Carlick makes the case that everyone is at the center of a bell curve. The center of the curve describes people a lot like them. Get to one person with a reasonable value proposition, and you get to them all. This kind of approach to the age-old practice of targeting becomes the center of a data-driven campaign. When marketers quantitatively track campaigns and discover tractive (define) community members in the process, they can fine-tune the product and further bond with these customers, thereby ensuring message conveyance. The essential craft becomes developing campaign materials that seek out and leverage those first few connections.

Enter video.

Actually, enter the kinds of messages that can be delivered in seconds via video. Text is great, if you happen to be a reader. But let’s face it, most of us aren’t. I’m not talking about a good book and a warm fire. I’m talking about the deluge of information (the fabled 3,000 messages per day) we’re all subjected to. We just can’t absorb them all. We’ve evolved into scanners.

Pick up the “Ad Age” on your desk, and try reading every word. Most can’t; we don’t have the attention span. For years, TV, having split each hour of each day into two halves, each further split into 15 consecutive two-minute slices alternating between programming and commercial content, made sure of that. Even if you ‘re one of the few who can read an “Atlantic” article all the way through in the office in one sitting (where most of us read “Ad Age,”) something will distract you long before you hit Rance Crain’s column. By comparison, video can deliver in a few seconds what takes 5 or 10 minutes to read. Think about that from a marketing (versus advertising) perspective.

About understands this and is switching to video for in-depth information delivery. Given the choice of watching a one-minute video or reading for five minutes, most of us would say, “Show me the video.”

For some, it’s survival. Take new moms, for example. When a new mom can quickly see why a particular baby bottle is better than another, not only is she much more likely to buy it, because she really understands the benefit relationship and can now articulate it, she’s primed as a word-of-mouth agent. She’ll tell five more people what she saw in that video. That’s what new moms do; they tell other new moms what they’ve learned. Your message found its one, and that one will push your message today to five others standing under the “New Mom” bell curve.

That’s the consideration-cycle marketing loop in action. Firms like Powered have doing this for years, helping leading brands reach the one who then reaches the many. It’s what wikis are all about: one starts it, others join, and pretty soon thousands are attracted and actively picking up on what (only) the few originally knew. You do have a wiki for each of your products, don’t you?

In the end, core themes emerge, but not demographics. Demographics are too broad unless you’re Wal-Mart (primary target: American) or Budweiser (slightly narrower target: American beer drinker). For everyone else, think affinity, community, individual. Start with one, and empower that one to retell your story.

Make it easy for consumers to spread your message. Send-to-a-friend is obvious and essentially free. Yet, it’s still missing from more than a few brand communications. Provide people with the tools to tell others. If you sell things online, think about adding the Bazaarvoice platform and letting past customers guide new shoppers to the things you sell that made them happy.

Finally, participation. This is the one that’s coming soon. Allow end users to create a message about your product or service, confident that you’ll like what they say.

Imagine a world of individuals, sharing and participating in your brand communications. In a world like that, interruptions just aren’t needed.

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