IF YOU’RE STILL DEBATING OVER TV SPEND VS DIGITAL YOU’RE ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION
It’s Time to Re-evaluate our Approach to Communications Planning
Too often I still hear the same ongoing discussion around the planning table; how much spend can we afford to reduce from TV or other mediums to plug into doing more in digital? Despite the forward moves we’ve made in recognising that digitisation has created a valuable new way to communicate that is more than just owning a Facebook account, we are still caught up in a discussion that focuses on how much more we should invest behind digital over other channels, when we should be asking ‘how are my consumers making their purchase decisions today?’
The Old Communications Model we used to love.
Back when I started my career, we were trained to create a communications plan that focused on big mediums first (TV, Outdoor, Radio, Print), supported by WOM drivers (PR, Direct Mail, Events, Influencers), wrapped around in-store mechanics (promotions, giveaways, sampling) and then topped with whatever was left, if any at all (digital). This built an incredibly robust plan and if you got your frequency of message right, you could build enough brand connection and barriers to competitors that you could wait for at least 2-3 months before you had to deliver a new campaign again. It used to work well, but things have changed.
The Internet and Smartphones have changed consumer behaviour.
Today this approach leaves big gaping holes in your competitive edge. Where media consumption was previously more structured, today consumers are dipping in and out of media at a variety of different points in the day. The reading of news is no longer constrained to breakfast TV or a paper with your coffee, playing games is no longer an after school or work only activity, researching or shopping for new clothes, shoes, furniture, books (the list goes on) is no longer limited to your weekend trip to the high street.
The introduction of the internet and smartphones has created a new environment where consumers can react to what Google calls ‘Micro-Moments’ 24/7, jumping online at a moment’s notice to fulfill their ‘I want it now’ urges whether they are at home or on the move. They may be prompted by a brand’s own awareness media (yes TV etc still has a role) or via their own desire to fulfill a need. Either way, consumers are now able to react instantly and their first step…they head online.
The consumer journey has changed.
In almost all industries today, it is unlikely that a consumer’s purchase journey will not involve some level of Social Discovery or Social Sharing. Sheer curiosity and the ability to have more options at your fingertips will mean a consumer’s propensity to dive online and research opinions, pricing, history is unavoidable. Because many of us see ourselves as social evangelists who love to be recognised for our input (positive and negative) or because we want everyone to know that we’re part of the crowd trying the latest thing, our need to share our own experience has become second nature (cue grams of your latest meal at that restaurant).
Online has become this central core to much of the activity we carry out and therefore as a brand, choosing to approach this platform as an afterthought is unwise. You will always be behind the eight ball catching up and losing your future funnel of consumers who aren’t seeing the best of you in this dominant discovery medium.
The road forward needs a complete shake-up.
It’s not about TV vs digital. It’s about building a communications plan from the ground up that captures your audience at the right moments and feeds them through the new purchase journey. If you fail to set up the right platform online, then no matter how good your TV ad is, how engaging your Outdoor media or event, you will lose your consumers at the first hurdle. If you are not set up to leverage, create, or more importantly moderate, the experiences shared of your brand online then you’re losing out on great influencer materials or allowing negative sentiment to influence your business unhindered.
It’s time to stop building our communications plans by trying to rewire an old archaic model that was constructed for a different time with different influences. As we spend energy debating on the volume of digital spend we are failing to focus on what matters most – the consumer. In short, it’s time we threw the old model out and built plans with a modern consumer model in mind. So, the next time you start discussing how much you’re spending in digital versus elsewhere, make sure you’ve asked the more important question first ‘how are my consumers making their purchasing decisions today?’
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