What is at the heart of creating digital experiences that resonate with users and prompt loyalty and advocacy? People.
Traditional “advertising is the art of arresting the human intelligence just long enough to get money from it” (Quote from Chuck Blore in Ben Bagdikian’s The Media Monopoly). This one-way form of bombarding people with messages designed to hack their cognitive processes worked well throughout the 20th century, when the advent of mass media allowed marketers entry into a high volume of U.S. households.
A room full of ad executives had little trouble making emotional appeals to people and helping businesses to sell their wares, fueling the growth and importance of marketing and advertising as a legitimate practice that has become standard within organizations of all types and sizes.
One of the challenges with one-way, mass messaging is that it is difficult to measure success outside of correlation. Another is that it lacks the human element that facilitates a deeper sense of loyalty. The sheer amazement with brands that have shiny logos and broadcast booming messages from the mountaintop kept people in awe for generations. Then, something happened at the turn of the century. A new medium emerged that allowed the participatory creation of an entirely new digital world.
As the World Wide Web evolved, forums and social media began to allow the people to interact with the companies they do business with. Tools such as Urchin/Google Analytics emerged, enabling companies to begin tracking the people that interact with their web properties. The introduction of Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) codes allowed businesses to assign parameters to links so that they could begin to track their marketing efforts with more accuracy than was ever possible in the past.
People sense advertising and avoid it
The paradigm shift that enabled a new world to emerge as a layer on top of our natural and built environments is bringing new insight and opportunities for businesses and organizations of all sizes. It is also bringing new challenges to traditional marketers. The “old way” of promoting, advertising, and marketing products and services is no longer relevant for Generation X, Y (Millennials), and subsequent generations.
People have become more adept at sensing a plug for a product or service and would rather consume grainy videos of people smashing iPhones than a well-produced video with sexy actors and exquisite dialog. They would rather consume content generated by peers than ad or promotional copy written by a brand.
The implications of a new landscape are voluminous. As digital marketers, we need to empathize with and measure the experience that our users have while interacting with our organizations by utilizing technology and with a genuine sense of understanding. We need to help people to solve their problems and become friends that offer information and content without a hitch – while still keeping a storefront that is available for people when they feel like they want to make a purchase.
Human-centered Relationships – Enabled by Technology
One example of providing content in addition to having a storefront is Cakes.com, which has moved away from being solely an e-commerce site by continually posting new tutorials that provide people with ideas, inspiration and techniques for creating desserts and sweet treats for each season and occasion.
The common impulse for business is to rush to force someone to purchase immediately in order to see short-term boosts, while the lifetime value of loyalty and advocacy is completely ignored, along with the needs of people.
The new world of marketing is one where we need to acknowledge people’s needs and desires. As marketers, we also need to accept that people want to support companies that are socially responsible. They can smell “greenwashing” from miles away and avoid organizations that continually tout their initiatives without any demonstration of substance.
User-generated content that establishes the ethos of a business by giving tangible peeks inside of their good works, along with open exchanges that are unhindered by marketers trying to control the image of the brand, resonates with people in ways that traditional marketing cannot. Aside from that, it is the right thing to do.
Use Tools to Measure and Connect with People on a Human Level
Tools such as Google Analytics, SEMRush, and Sprout Social allow for marketers to listen to their users. It allows us to meet them half way and provide them with what they want and need. It also enables the semblance of a friendship to form, where businesses can provide resources, products, and services in a way that makes the user feel valued, while the user becomes an evangelist for the organizations that they share experiences with and that represent their core values.
It is time for businesses to put down the megaphone and extend a hand to those they are fortunate enough to interact with in the cyber world, and this can only be done by leveraging digital measuring, research and sentiment analysis tools to gather the empathy for those they serve.
Bagdikian, Ben H. The Media Monopoly. 6th Beacon Pbk. ed. Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 2000.
Photo by Tom Hilton (cc by 2.0)