In a world where consumer behaviour is changing and evolving at a rapid rate in response to new technology trends, savvy brands need to constantly adapt and refine the ways they communicate with their target audiences. The result is that we as marketers are faced with a growing toolkit of digital marketing options and ever more confusion about how and when best to use them.
Just in the past few years, we have been swamped with new approaches to digital display advertising that have promised more relevance to the consumer and a lift to return on investment. For example, behavioural targeting – targeted ads based on a user’s behaviour – and contextual marketing – banners meant to be displayed next to articles relevant to their messaging – were meant to help us target our ads with more accuracy to our target markets.
And digital advertising continues to evolve and grow within and beyond the banner with new options coming to the fore all the time – among them, guerrilla marketing, remarketing, retargeting, exchanges, social media, mobile engagement, native advertising, real-time bidding, responsive web design, QR codes and more.
The question that marketers must face is which of these tools are relevant to their businesses and customers, and which are not. The challenge is to find the tactics in the swarm of buzzwords that will enable the brand to meet its strategic objectives by reaching the right audiences at the right time with the right message.
Consumers today embrace and react to new trends and technologies at a speed that leaves all but the most nimble organisations behind. As such, a core quality a good marketer needs today is the ability to judge whether embracing a new trend is a good idea or a bad idea.
Adopting a faddish trend without proper research and a sound understanding of the customer could make a company look out of touch rather than cutting edge. Perhaps a badly thought out campaign will sink without a trace, wasting the money you invested in it. If you’re really unlucky, you could trend for all the wrong reasons.
Consider, for example, the risks of wading into social media without having thought through the tone and content you’ll use to communicate with customers. Ask McDonald’s, which tried to promote its brand through the promoted trends #meetthefarmers and #mcdstories. But many users sabotaged the campaign by using the hashtags to relate negative stories about the fast food chain. The negative brand posts were so numerous that McDonald’s suffered harm rather than benefit from the campaign.
Or think about the many examples of contextual advertising gone wrong – like ads for Greek tourism placed alongside news articles about violent protests or recruitment ads for the police served with YouTube clips of police brutality.
What this means is that the brand that wants to be at the forefront of the newest trends must have a sure handle on the needs of its target audience as well as a sound understanding of trends and technologies from which it wants to benefit. Execution must be confident, smart and fast.
Incorporating the newest trends in your marketing is a delicate balancing act. If you want to be associated with the latest developments, you need to be able to identify a new trend in its early stages, know what to do, and be able get out before the trend becomes passé.
This means you need a long-term strategy, but you also need to be able to execute campaigns in as little as six to eight weeks to stay ahead of the market. Move in first, learn quickly from any failures, and be able to exit quickly if the trends change.
Some trends – like social media – are here to stay. Others like QR codes are hard to get right and may simply be passing fashions of the moment. It’s important to develop the instinct to tell them apart. Success is knowing when to quit and when to keep investing in a new technology or trend as an integral part of your business.
* Chanel Mackay is the Digital Media Director at Acceleration Media