Platforms change; new apps burst on the scene like fireworks before falling precipitously to earth; teenagers commit whole-heartedly to whatever holds their attention for a moment and then change their minds entirely a few days later. At least in the frenetic digital world of marketing some things stay the same: whatever else you do you must get the message right. Once you’ve done that, you can think about the swirl of digital choices for delivering it. As Priyali Kamath, Brand Director of Procter and Gamble told Marketing Matters 2017 in Singapore, it was easy to get distracted by these “impossibly complicated” choices and miss the vital task of “great brand messages”.
David Porter of Unilever also stressed this point. Unilever’s marketing strategy leans heavily on ‘brands with purpose’, and Porter emphasised that defining what your brand stood for was the key to crafting and communicating a strong message. In China, he said, channels and platforms changed almost as often as teenagers changed their haircuts, but “consistency of purpose was the key to marketing there: you had to be “really, really clear of what the brand stood for, because that trumps all.”
This is something that Chase Carey of Formula 1 motorsport is working on. The message that would reach younger fans, and those hard-to-reach audiences in the US and Asia, he said, needed to be based around the spectacle of a historic and emotional sport that married technology and sporting prowess. People had to experience Formula 1 through this lens – it had to be held in a ‘destination city’ and involve a week-long build-up that reinforced this impression of a Grand Prix being a great annual event, rather than just a few cars whizzing around a track. The heroes, the human drama, the cutting-edge technology, even the chequered flag at the end of the race: all were just part of this central message that Formula 1 is special.
Just as the message has always been key to marketing, the next step is understanding out how to communicate this to the audience. This is where the digital age gets confusing.
For Formula 1, that whole week of spectacular build-up was the opportunity to engage. Everyone who was there, said Carey, should be buzzing for ages afterwards, talking about it on social media and sharing the experience. F1 had to help them find things to share – from data and tech insights to content about the drivers themselves. Absolutely everything had to be underpinned by emotion and drama.
But working out how to do the communication and getting that content right can be tricky, argued David Porter. Paradoxically, although people tended to have short attention spans when using mobile devices, they could be intolerant of interruptions from advertisers and marketers. “We can’t assume that we will be welcome on that device.”
If you do get through, you may only have seconds to get your message across. We’re all teenagers now, said David Porter, and a thirty-second cut might as well be considered a director’s cut. Consistency is vital, but so are high production values and being able to track exactly where your audience is and what it is doing. If you know your message this becomes easier. If it’s the right message it will get through to your audience.
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