April 08, 2010

Talking to Recession Survivors The recession traumatized Americans. Forced to roll with the punches and devise coping strategies to counter complex economic forces beyond our control, consumers figured it out by trial-and-error. Now that there’s a glimmer of hope and a few data points to suggest the beginnings of recovery, we see the world through different eyes. Eyes skeptical of government and financial institutions. Eyes looking inward. Eyes that stared down economic ruin and made crucial trade-offs to survive. Eyes with “a renewed sense in their own resourcefulness and priorities” according to Eyes Wide Shut, an insightful and eye-opening qualitative study of 1200 consumers and a quantitative survey of 700 consumers conducted by Ogilvy& Mather in Chicago and Communispace. Consumers made conscious choices either to re-trench by shifting spending patterns to preserve their lifestyles or by re-imagining new ways to work, live or operate. It wasn’t fun but “consumers made very interesting trade-offs across seemingly unrelated categories in order to get their lives in balance while still feeling like they are treating themselves to those things that make them feel normal and well taken care of.” We coped. Often by eating in, gorging ourselves on junk or comfort food and booze, popping happy pills and zoning out playing games or finding friends online or in front of the TV. Now we’re thinking and acting differently than before… at least for now. And we think we’re re-setting our behaviors and our perceptual filters. Consider these four implications for crafting post-recession consumer advertising messages: Everyone’s from Missouri. Hype be damned. Consumers want unvarnished facts and figures, stats, odds and data without the spin. They Google everything and check you out on Angie’s List, Zagat or Facebook. They ask around online and off and carefully weigh every purchase. Each purchase is a careful choice, often a trade-off, so it has to deliver both intrinsic and psychological value. We Want What We Want. Purchase decisions are “deliberate and intentional” and may include complex personal trade-offs and calculations to justify or fund purchases. You can’t psyche out millions of consumers inside their heads. Instead make the value proposition clear and help them do the math. “Personal context and attitudes change daily” as we buy things to make ourselves feel better, feel safer and to put distance between us and our recent memories of deprivation. Everyone’s a Survivor. Americans coped one-by-one. As a result there’s not a great reservoir of trust in the system. Instead consumers believe “if its going to be; it’s up to me.” So messages have to help individuals sort themselves into your product or service offering by emphasizing, utility, value and convenience. We are weirdly optimistic and empowered. The Game has Changed. The recession changed the ground rules and assumptions behind the America Dream for many. We hit the ceiling, lost our jobs and our savings and our homes. We faced the kind of physical threats our grandparents lived through and warned us about. As a result we are re-booting our relationship with money, work and property. We’ve readjusted our sites downward. We’re more appreciative of what our parents had and we shifted the target from having it all to keeping it together as best as we can. For the moment, we’re talking about family, stuff we actually like or can do and direct. And we have a new appreciation for our own resourcefulness inner resolve and strength. Brands who don’t get it risk being dealt out. You don’t have to serve each individual variation but you have to speak to the mindset. You need to be where consumers are and intercept them doing the things they’ve carefully decided to do. Brands, who focus strictly on deals, will be jettisoned once we’re feeling a little better about things and seek to forget the recent hardships. The actual state of the economy has nothing to do with consumers’ mindset. We’re done with the recession. Been there. Done that. We coped and we’re moving on. Brands need to accompany us.
3 Digital Marketing Imperatives Going to market is no longer a matter of crafting messages and buying media. Brands need to craft communications strategies that take into account the channels, the media and the target mentality then plan, design, parse and orchestrate the messages over time, geography and channels in the face of competitive activity and increasing noise-to-signal ratios. Successful online marketing requires adherence to 3 critical imperatives: Brands Demand Orchestration. Imagine that rather than concentrating your web presence in a single web site you distribute the messaging using satellite sites and by syndicating content to present your brand in an array of venues aligned with target audiences and brand objectives. It becomes perfectly okay to present the same content in several places or in several channels at the same time. This creates opportunities to piggy-back on the semantic magnets like Wikipedia, Facebook or YouTube to stimulate a much wider and deeper conversation between your brand and your customer base at modest cost increments. It opens up the possibility of dialogue and persuasion using a wide array of platforms and devices that empower consumers to take-in information when, how or where they want it. Brands Must Embrace Distributed Messaging. Syndication trumps destination as the website moves from a position as the be-all and end-all to a position at the center of the wheel as the repository for the mother lode of branded content. A digital strategy must provide a decoupled channel experience with the ability to deliver the right type of content to the right channel whether it is to a browser, a desktop, a console, a portal or a hand-held device. Brands will re-purpose, de-construct and mash-up assets like videos, images, data, articles, press releases, polls, quizzes, KOL opinions, reviews, white papers and other key assets and seek out venues to distribute them elsewhere on the web with link-backs to corporate and branded sites. This tactic will simultaneously increase the trolling area for prospects and customers and positively impact on natural search results. It will also create built-in networks for re-marketing campaigns. Websites Are the Hub of a Brand’s Ecosystem. As content is distributed, accessed and used in countless ways, the new mission for a branded website is at the center of a brand ecosystem. A branded website is the primary shop window aimed at educating and engaging prospective customers. A web site validates the brand’s claims offline and establishes a tone and manner for digital communication. The persuasive burden is to quickly and easily communicate the value proposition, build demand and prompt lead generation or interaction. A site should be the base of operations for online marketing and include the mother lode of data, imagery and copy necessary to fully represent the brand posture. Separate landing pages should be constructed to manage campaigns and the site should be optimized for natural search. Blogs can be built-into brand sites or established (and linked to) as independent entities depending on the content and the marketing objectives. In an always-on 24/7 mass media culture where the number and variety of stimuli is too many to count and where everyone has set their personal filters to filter out the vast majority of messages, you have to carefully pick your shots and marshal creative and media firepower to get your point across on-target. Technology enables the flow and the filtration, but marketers have to factor in the environment and the audience mindset in order to identify, target, reach, engage and persuade customers.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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