By Graeme Hutton
In my last column, I discussed how Always-On can now be seen for what it is: a potential biological addiction. In a world where we are never far away from an electronic, online screen, we increasingly feel an inner urge to check our emails, social media pages and IM in every circumstance, despite how inappropriate that situation may be.
The internal impulse to check our messages at such challenging times is fostered by the brain. By checking our messages in such circumstances, the brain rewards our apparent furtiveness with a minute release of dopamine. Dopamine is a hormone and neurotransmitter related to the pleasure system of the brain. In large doses, it can provide a real high.
Intrigued by this phenomenon, we approached UM’s standing panel of academic psychologists about the concept of Always-On. These psychologists are typically U.S. professors and other leading practitioners in their field. We wanted to solve the following riddle: How do we break through the obstacles created by Always-On and reach consumers in the most compelling and convincing way?
Our expert panel brainstormed the issue of Always-On and its implications for both brands and media marketing. Overall, we identified ten key areas essential to overcoming the barriers of Always-On which in summary are:
- Celebrate the brand’s excellence. As one psychologist astutely noted, in a world of Always-On, it is easier for the digitally savvy to find strong brands. Once found, it is cognitively easier to stick with a winning brand that puts consumers first. As Robert Passikoff’s noted in his book, Predicting Market Success, “Brands are competing to meet or exceed customer values first, and against each other second.”
- Tap into the key emotional needs the product satisfies. In other words, “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle” or as Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt once famously exclaimed, “People don’t want quarter-inch drills, they want quarter-inch holes.”
- Ask not what your consumer can do for you, ask what you can do for your consumer. Build the brand and its inherent consumer rewards for the longer term. Over time, consumers will immediately associate the brand with this powerful value that will break through many Always-On issues.
- Ensure message simplicity. Make the consumer’s decision process of getting to ‘yes’ easy, and the emotional benefit clear.
- Assess reward and loyalty systems. Added-value offers and promotions are very seductive to consumers in the short-term and can help marketers achieve break through when and where they need it most.
- Consider personal, human icons. e.g. Kim Kardashian or Dr Oz. Here the idea is to humanize the communication by appointing a well-known personality as a focal point. Anthropomorphization of the brand communication helps provide personal relevance.
- Request user feedback and respond back directly to the consumer. Social media fits this solution like a tailored-made glove. It provides scale and an immediate platform for consumer interaction. Apple has also shown an alternative approach by having Apple stores which offer advice as well as sell their product. iTunes will genuinely answer any account question within 24 hours.
- Be Green or consider a cause that is close to the brand’s heart. Besides classic brands, cause marketing can work for brands which are less conventional but still evoke high consumer interest.
- Pursue word of mouth and event marketing. Face-to-face marketing is the natural antidote to ‘Always-On.’ This type of marketing not only allows a deeper, personal connection with consumers, but it can also be readily harnessed by brands driven by short-term demands such as movies and music.
- Engineer 360⁰ media communications. Custom-constructed, cross-platform activities provide opportunities to break through the morass of more standard media offerings.
Of all media-related opportunities outlined above, the last two can be especially powerful. In particular, UM has seen word of mouth trust levels double those for TV advertising. Moreover, our detailed custom research programs reveal that customized media solutions can often help boost ROI by +600%.
So where will Always-On take us next? Paradoxically, social TV, i.e. commenting on TV programs in real or near-real time via social media, also appears to be driving the totally unexpected revival of live TV! According to a study by TVGuide.com among its panel of 10,000 consumers, the number of people claiming to watch live TV in order to avoid social media spoilers has grown from 20% to 27% in the last two years. It’s an ironic twist of fate that the internet appears to be helping to rebuild TV, the very media channel it has competed with for viewers over the last ten years.