3 Strategies for Brands to Stay Relevant in Marketing’s Ad-Free Future


Social Media Week

“Consumer behavior is trending in opposition to traditional advertising channels, so it’s on the marketing community to alter their approach in favor of more agile, authentic experiences”

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Face it: people don’t enjoy most advertising, but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t passionate about brands. Younger generations of consumers are born marketers – content creators who churn out UGC as part of their daily experiences. They define themselves by the brands they love, and support brands whose values align with their own.

Being “relevant” for brands means being agile (moving at the speed of the consumer), being authentic (being real) and being influential (having the ability to cut through the noise and provide real value).

Here are three characteristics of brands that will stay relevant in 2016 and beyond:

1. Be agile: Plan for the unplanned

In today’s marketing world, the only constant is change. The companies who will succeed in the coming years will be those that value speed over perfection, adopting agile research methodologies and processes that accelerate innovation cycles and quicken the decision-making process.

Some ways to do this include partnering with consumers to ideate and co-create new products in an iterative fashion, and using agile research tools to gain rapid pulse-checks on creative and messaging before content ever goes to market.

Today, complex organizations are being tested by disruptors that are architected to make faster business and marketing decisions. Large brands that adopt processes that enable them to move more nimbly are seeing wins across the entire marketing cycle.

As an example, heritage brand Ricola, a family-owned company, and agency The Burns Group, utilizes real-time online panels and focus groups to field iterative brand research and crowdsource product innovation. This strategy allows them to nimbly make business decisions and align marketing efforts with the shifting behaviors of Ricola’s target customers.

2. Be authentic: Go beyond the impression

This year brands may truly start to look at people as more than just as impressions – that is, “consumers” who have a one-dimensional ability to buy stuff. Your customers are so much more than that.

They are people with ideas, opinions and stories, and by unlocking the voice of real people across your marketing and even product development, marketers can build more authentic, long-term relationships with people over time.

Of course, this means consciously moving away from an old marketing model in which messaging is “pushed” onto people via methods that are increasingly disruptive and unwelcome by consumers. In a world where upwards of 30 percent of Millennials have ad-blockers installed and advertisers are openly telling people how long they must endure pre-roll ads before they can skip them, smart brands will move to a more open model in which they begin marketing with – not at – their customers.

For example, McDonald’s fans had been clamoring for the option to enjoy their favorite breakfast foods past 11 a.m. for years, so when it was time for the QSR giant to give the people what they wanted, they went straight to their fans.

To announce “All-Day Breakfast” to the masses, McDonald’s scrapped public social media conversations to surprise and delight people who had previously lamented about not being able to order McDonald’s breakfast foods beyond a certain time. The brand’s PR and social media teams reached out to these fans first, granting their wishes and generating authentic social buzz ahead of the launch.

3. Be influential: Rethink your arsenal in the content wars

Content discovery has become so proliferated, and so democratized, that media distribution strategies have been completely disrupted. Decades ago there were established media stalwarts – leading media outlets, cable and broadcast properties – but today’s landscape features a seemingly never-ending mix of platforms and upstart properties that are capturing younger audiences at an increasing rate.

Marketers are learning that partnering with content creators in these user-generated content-dominated spaces is a smart way to get in front of relevant audiences in a highly authentic way.

This past holiday season, New Era partnered with three high-profile content creators to promote a limited product line among Millennial and teen men. Knowing that mobile-social apps like Snapchat and Instagram where the best places to capture attention, the brand enlisted the influencers to create custom branded content around the product – all while still granting them the editorial freedom to maintain their own voice and style in the content.

This strategy allowed New Era to enter conversations authentically while tapping into the established reach of relevant creators.

Consumer behavior is trending in opposition to traditional advertising channels, so it’s on the marketing community to alter their approach in favor of more agile, authentic experiences that play into people’s desires to give feedback and create their own content.

Brands that incorporate more open models to fuel marketing and product innovation will build stronger relationships for future generations of consumers who are actively seeking something different from brands.

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Andrew Bolton

Marketing Manager, Crowdtap



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