The pace of marketing change today, driven by digital innovation and technology - has us all focusing on the latest tools, platforms and models of engagement. Obsessed with the ‘how’ instead of the ‘why’, we struggle to truly innovate and find ourselves swimming in a sea of sameness. We all create the same gift finders, music playlists, look books, and Facebook apps with the intention of simulating a ‘friendship’ with brands and other fans.
In the rush to define a new marketing model or invent the digital future, we’ve lost perspective of what drives people and have missed the opportunity to truly reinvent, to establish deep, relevant connections with people – not audiences, not fans, not prospects, or consumers – people. Ultimately, in our urgency, we’ve forgotten a simple human truth: our innate desire to connect with one another, to forge authentic relationships that have meaning in our lives.
Instead of focusing on tools and mechanisms for reaching people today, we should focus on creating experiences that enhance what the brand enables people to do day-by-day. Before creating another Facebook canvas app, let’s ask ourselves – what experience is authentic to the brand and would allow our consumers to enhance their passions? Or more simply – what could we be doing that would create more value for the consumer and why?
This shortsightedness has us all clamoring to discover the next big thing, but in doing so, we’re failing to peer not merely over the horizon, but inside our own horizons. The next big thing should be a shift in our model.
We need to move away from thinking of ourselves as the architects of brand stories to the architects of brand relationships. If relationships are the new economy, then we have to change the way the game is played. Therefore whatever we do needs to come from these core principles:
1) Establish a relationship based on giving, not receiving. Innovation comes from putting consumer needs first – simply provide value, utility and service to consumers and they will reciprocate. Consumers don’t want to spend time in complicated systems of rewards and heavy immersive engagements. Giving doesn’t need to be complicated – take for example, HP’s sponsorship of the Lorax movie. It would have been easy for the brand to use this platform to push eco-friendly products, but instead, HP supported the Lorax message by pushing environmentally friendly learning, delivered through social sharing and giving to the World Wildlife Fund.
2) Connect people with each other. Create new ways to bring people together based on what they care about and provides value. Technology can isolate us as much as it can connect us. We crave human connections and seek relationships that have genuine meaning and substance. Brands need to offer new ways for connecting people based on their passions rather than fragmenting them in their own isolated brand communities. This is one of our core philosophies here at DK – to be connectors – instead of replicating platforms that already exist, we ask ourselves how we can support existing ecosystems or create content in service of a real consumer need and genuine connection. Be a conduit for people and their interests – be the Reddit of their world.
3) Be transformational in your problem solving. Focus on where you can create transformational value, utility and connection for people and do something that’s never been done before. Set your aim higher - stop reading trade publications and following what other brands are doing. Take Uber for example, it’s not that conventional taxi service was broken; it was just an industry that had fundamentally remained unchanged for 70 years. In today’s world- traditional taxi service was falling short, it was inconvenient for both the driver and the rider. Uber identified this as an opportunity to create a new value chain directly connecting passengers and drivers to cut out the middleman. For this, people are willing to pay a premium. Brands such as Uber, Netflix, AirBnB have become great disruptors and are true innovators. Ask yourself- what value could you be creating for consumers?
4) Differentiate. Products that stand out and provide a killer experience and unique value to consumers don’t need to market themselves. The product itself is the marketing. The iPhone launch is a great example of this – they just needed to show people what was possible. Brands that live in an undifferentiated space, rely on people at the shelf to determine the products’ value or worth. Do you want to take a back seat in your category, or set the benchmark?
We have a tendency in the industry to focus internally and deconstruct the mechanics of the most successful brands in an effort to replicate their success. At the agency we see countless client briefs with the same mandate - “We need to create the next big thing…” and cited are examples from Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola, or Starbucks. At the heart of their success is a human truth, an experience that builds on a passion. When we are bold enough to step outside of ourselves and identify the true human need, we understand what is truly at the core of these emerging experiences and engagement and we can innovate.