How Does The "New Generation" Experience Brands?

Posted by

TL;DR: they see a brand message. If it resonates, it worked. If it doesn’t resonate, it didn’t work.

Maybe that’s an over-simplification, but it feels true. Does this “new generation” of consumer not see the billboards as they cross through Time’s Square? Are they blind to their Facebook feed? Do they not do searches on Google and see the paid search results? Do they never turn on a television, pick up a magazine, notice a brand embedded in a video game, see an email from a brand that they signed up for? Will they not sign-up to receive information from a brand that they are interested in? Will they be immune when a friend makes a recommendation? Do they only care if a message is from someone they like and respect on Snapchat?

Do we over-complicate marketing more to validate our business models than to speak the truth about what gets attention?

If this “new consumer” follows an influencer on Instagram, is the post of the influencer on behalf of a brand any different than when people from generations past saw a celebrity endorsing a brand in a print ad? Yes, we have more channels, more content as media, more connectedness and more of our media consumption is happening on a smartphone, but thinking that technology solves the attention challenge is not what will bring new business models forward. Too many pundits believe that marketing and advertising agencies are out of touch, because creativity is no longer the right business model. Too many pundits also believe that marketing and advertising agencies have lost the plot, because they have creativity but lack the business acumen to mix tight management while handling scopes of work. Too many pundits believe that marketing and advertising agencies are relics because the “big idea” now takes a backseat to data and technology.

Everything is “with” not “instead of.”

When social media started taking hold, many of my peers believed that the end of traditional advertising (think thirty-second spot) was upon us. Content became media and that media format would replace the advertising format. I believed back then (as I do now) that everything is “with” not “instead of.” Advertising will continue to be a very powerful model for business growth and success – not just for a brand to create attention, but for a brand to sell (and, if brand’s stop selling we’re going to have major global issues around countless social aspects of what makes us a functioning civilization). This idea is nothing new. With that, advertising has changed on many fronts, but here are the three primary ones:

  1. The scarcity model has shifted to one of abundance in a fragmented media planet with many more options that don’t require the traditional content production flow of destination viewing (we must all watch NBC Thursday nights at 8 pm or we get our newpapers every morning). Content is 24/7 and so is advertising.
  2. There are more ways to create a message than ever before. It ranges from 140 characters to high-end video production (and everything in between). Plus, the creation of advertising can be done on a very simple laptop.
  3. Consumers (and not just new ones) are more skeptical of advertising and brands, because of exposure over time mixed with brand experiences that have not always delivered as advertised. Consumers don’t believe ads, because they are inundated with them and they don’t believe the hype.

Don’t confuse choice, always-available and skepticism for a consumer that does not want to be reached.

The concept of the big idea is not flawed. The concept of the big idea as a value-add to a brand that is struggling to get awareness and sales is not flawed. Advertising continues to create new value for the brands that do it well (and, the brands that often do it well, are also the brands that have a strong agency relationship). It’s easy to look at the many business models that are competing with advertising agencies today and think that they have a better mousetrap (for more on that, here’s my article about the competitive agency landscape from July 2015: Disruption, Disruption Everywhere). They do not. Let’s agree that the smart agencies of today have a fundamental understanding of data, technology and how to run a proper scope of work. It’s easy to dismiss that and believe that brands are better at doing this in-house, or that major accounting agencies that now offer marketing and communications services have better access to this thinking, or that the publishers and platforms offer up more technology to the advantage of the brand/advertiser. This is, simply, not true. Yes, there are some agency laggards, but those are the ones that are struggling. There are many agencies (from full-service to specialized ones) that are thriving – I’d like to believe that Mirum is in that camp.

This is all connected to one central theme: if the “new consumer” experience brands in a different way, then brands need a new solution to reach them.

This is flawed. This “new consumer” experiences brands in very much the same way. Brands (and agencies) simply have more tools, opportunities and chances to make better experiences and connections. A great idea will push through way better than a brand with better technology or a better handling of budget and scopes of work. This is not to diminish the power of a well-organized, managed and technologically adept agency – these are core competencies that drive better efficiencies. To say that brands and consumers care less about creativity and great ideas and experience brands is different ways is offside. Pushing that further, big ideas and creativity is not something to be diminished as a flawed or dying business model.

A brand that doesn’t need creativity, big ideas and a smart campaign is a brand that will struggle in the marketplace, regardless of how good their data, technology and management team is. New consumers want a creative brand experience.

Do you agree?