3 Ways to Simplify Online Marketing
Jonathan Gardner is director of communications at Vibrant Media, a leading digital ad company. He has spent his career as an innovator at the nexus of #media and technology, having worked in communications and as a journalist.
Technology makes the magical possible, but it’s also making #marketing complicated. With ad exchanges, hyper-local targeting, and endless mobile options, it’s easy to get tangled up in an alphabet soup of #advertising technology. Just one look at Terence Kawaja’s ad-tech landscape induces tears of empathy for over-marketed-to marketers. Basically, the time for simplification is here.
What did Steve Jobs do when he returned to Apple in 1997? He simplified the product line and, by extension, Apple’s whole #business. That worked out pretty well.
The same goes for Google. Every once in a while the tech giant cuts products to move forward with new offerings. Sure, some of their initiatives — say, wind energy or self-driving cars — may seem to come out of left field. But Google’s basic promise to consumers is to develop products and services that help them organize and navigate the world in a better, geekier way. (I’m talking about you, Google glasses.)
We need to learn from these examples. When advertisers obsess over brand impact, and agencies insist on slicing and dicing every impression, it’s hard not to wonder if we’re focusing on the wrong things. For all the efficiency we’ve gained with the burgeoning of ad tech, we’ve lost a lot in the way of simplicity. Keeping marketing simple — delivering compelling ads and content that consumers actually want to engage with — could take the industry a long way toward improving performance for both brands and consumers.
Here are three rules that brands can follow to simplify their marketing for everyone involved.
1. Put Consumers in the Driver’s Seat
Let’s move away from strategies and metrics that aren’t really relevant for branding. Brands always look for some kind of number and stat to justify their online spend — CTR, view-through, attribution, “likes.” Does that make sense at all? Did brands worry about measuring the impact of a full-page spread in Vogue back in the day? The issue is over thinking the numbers and not thinking enough about advertising in the interest of consumers.
Give people choice, control, and relevance in their experience. Don’t put a roadblock between anyone and the story, images, or video they want to see. Create intriguing, value-add experiences that are relevant to the page, that make users want to click, view, and engage. Make it user-initiated and easy to start and stop engagement. Instead of real-time bidding (RTB), how about trying real-time relevance?
2. Get in the Content
We’ve seen a recent surge in attention for the “native ad,” sponsored content, and branded-content meme. But it’s really nothing new. Ever watch soap operas on TV? Those started out as radio broadcasts that were literally created by consumer packaged goods companies. Since the dawn of digital time, we’ve known that the traditional ad concept had to change and that brands needed to move into the content-creation business and get their content seen.
But what if your stellar campaign assets are part of the one-third of display advertising that, according to comScore, goes unseen due to banner blindness? Even if you have awesome, entertaining, useful branded content like Red Bull or Unilever, you still need to surface it. How will your brand’s content be discovered by consumers who have literally zillions of content channels to choose from?
Focus your attention where consumer attention is focused: in the edit well online, on mobile, and on the tablet. Surface your content through advertising technology that gets you in the words and images where a relevant, immersive brand advertisement or content experience will really make an impression with consumers.
3. Simplify Your Strategy
Instead of doing one thing on mobile, another on tablets, and something else on desktop, consider putting mobile at the center of the design process, then refining and customizing everything from there.
Brands can now respond directly to how consumers interact with all kinds of devices. In an era where we swipe, expand, and share an ad or useful brand content, it isn’t enough to rely on the same old creative approach. Brands need to leverage their great assets with amazing creative executions in high-impact, exciting ways that are native to devices, contexts, and formats.
So let’s leave the purchase funnels behind, and stick with these three simple rules. Chances are people will thank you with ever-coveted, ever-elusive, real engagement.