At a recent event my colleague Kristopher Hull looked at advertising in an enlightening way: despite all the speed and complexity in the world today, marketers still need to reach the same brain. A consumer can be hit by up to 3,000 advertising impressions a day from hundreds of brands, but can process only a limited amount of this information.
Conventional wisdom suggests that the attention span of consumers is getting shorter. But going against this wisdom is the fact that people of all ages binge-watch shows for hours on Netflix. Further, Gen Z and Millennials, often stigmatized for suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder, spend hours on end at music festivals, mesmerized by the performers on stage.
Indeed, people pay attention to information (and brands) that are relevant and meaningful to them and ignore everything else. Neuroscience-based research conducted by Kantar TNS brought to light the fact that in a typical consumer journey only 20% of touchpoints account for 80% of the decision.
To succeed, brands must deliver a message that is meaningful to their audience across all these touchpoints.
1. Educate Your Customer
This starts at the top of the funnel, where brands must provide value beyond the product by educating consumers. Indeed, 73% of consumers say that getting useful information from an advertiser is the most important attribute when they are selecting a brand (Google Analytics).
This information can be related to the product itself or to the universe of the brand. For example, luxury jeweler de Grisogono recently created an interactive tourist guide to St Moritz. This chatbot provides users with insider advice and points out unique and hidden venues at this famous ski resort. From the brand’s standpoint, it celebrates de Grisogono’s Swiss heritage and contributes to its image of creativity and glamour. The chatbot also enables the brand to interact directly with consumers.
Rather than creating content themselves, a brand can save time and money by leveraging content created by its users. Ritz-Carlton guests can share their travel photos on its Ritz-Carlton Memories website. Photos are then localized to each specific hotel, providing valuable travel information and engaging content to other guests. The luxury hotelier also encourages guests to use hashtags and amplifies their message through one of its 12 social channels.
The Ritz-Carlton website now hosts over 30,000 pages of information, photos and videos. Most of these are generated by its hotel guests. When planning their future travel, prospective guests can live their experience vicariously through the pictures and videos posted by other members. This content inspires these prospective guest to create new memories, which ultimately may lead them to book a room and companion services such as Spa treatments and dining experiences.
2. Leverage Or Create Heritage
To be meaningful, a brand must also come across as genuine. One way to achieve this is by emphasizing the brand’s heritage. The likes of Louis Vuitton and Burberry are at an advantage in this arena, thanks to their older European heritage. Although more recent, brands such as Patagonia (founded in 1973) and L.L Bean (founded in 1912) have been very successful by leveraging their American heritage. Both clothing companies play up their roots in their branding to capture their share of the newly-booming “Athleisure” market. Patagonia was initially known for its tools for climbers and L.L Bean began as an outfitter for fishing and hunting supplies. Today, both brands market extensive product lines that include both everyday wears along with their original hardcore products.
If your brand does not have any heritage, it is up to you to create one. Herschel Supply Co. has been making backpacks, luggage and duffle bags since…2009. Their old-time logo, apparent leather-straps and rustic colors all contribute to creating a sense of American nostalgia. By using this strategy and aiming at 18-35 years old hipsters, the brand has now expanded to 10,000 point-of-sales in 70 countries.
3. Build Consumer Tribes
Beyond educating consumers and leveraging their heritage, what all these successful brands have in common is they give people something to belong to. In his presentation on the inclusive future of engagement, J. Walker Smith suggests that our desire to belong provides the basis for everything we stand for.
In line with his work, academic research has brought to light that experiences shared with others are some of the most anticipated, enjoyable and memorable. Sharing emotions provides the foundation for a community. In a similar vein, Bernard Cova argues that consumers become members of “tribes” that are defined by hobbies, passions and shared emotions rather than demographics such as age, gender and income.
These “consumer tribes” do not simply consume goods in the sense of using and destroying them, but also contribute to shaping the meanings behind the products. Tribes give priority to human connections, which are always the core source of emotional value. Products on the other hand simply help facilitate linkages between these consumers. Indeed, social relationships (the “links”) are more important than things (products, brands, ideas and experiences).
Unlike traditional tribes that are bound by kinship and geography, today’s consumers belong to “neo-tribes” that don’t rely on historical tradition and are not bound by geography. Consumers do not belong to only one tribe, but to many little tribes. The core meaning of human social life can be found in the multiple social groupings we all become involved in throughout our lives. Successful brands foster these neo-tribes, turning prospects into loyal customers and advocates. These brands leverage their tribes to expand quickly all over the world and cross-sell companion products and services.
Airbnb exemplifies the power of this model, in less than ten years it has grown from a single apartment in San Francisco to over 2 million listings in 190 countries. This social marketplace is now expanding its service beyond offering only accommodation by matching travelers with the neighborhoods, homes and experiences that meet their needs. Airbnb’s ultimate goal is to deliver a much broader travel offering and have the core of its brand value proposition surpass accommodation.
To sum up, brands no longer stand out with more advertising, more products or more customization. And thanks to Amazon, consumers now take quality, service and speed for granted. Brands must give consumers something to dream about, something to believe in and most importantly something to belong to. In the words of J. Walker Smith, the value in the market place is now relationships.
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