If Forbes is to be believed, then ROI has a new full-form – Return on Impression (http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/05/14/understanding-the-new-roi-of-marketing/). The digital era and virtually omnipresent Internet users have heralded the need for brands to have an online personality. Softer metrics such as shares, likes, endorsements, ongoing conversations about the brand, hashtags, pins and the number of followers a brand has are being identified as key deciding factors to measure success. With companies paying attention to their online presence, indirect marketing in the digital era is helping to build a personality for the brand and is giving it character.
Starting a Meaningful Relationship
While special discounts and limited period offers will get someone to visit the brand page, it is hardly an example of a consumer-brand relationship. It has to be more than that. Brands are stepping out of billboards and television sets into the virtual social circle of customers, a space ideally meant for friends. This means that brands have to understand the importance of starting and continuing a relevant conversation, which means equal parts listening and talking. The brand doesn’t have to be best friends with a follower or a fan; just a more humane and accessible entity that they can associate with. Taco Bell for instance, has nailed the part of playing the ‘fun friend’ in spite of being a brand. Best Buy, another great example, changed the idea of a brand being an identity to the idea of a brand being a collection of people, by allowing their employees to address customers using their private twitter handles.
The Art of Listening
Steve Jobs once told ‘Business Week’, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” – but then that was Steve Jobs, and he was talking about Apple products. Most brands have to rely on other strategies – highlighting the need for a product / service by tapping into the subconscious of the customers or really listening to what they have to say about their requirements. Does this mean that brands have to play mind games with their customers? No! A simple thought will suffice. Bravo TV, which was also cited by Kate Canales and Ben McAllister from Frog Design at a session hosted at SXSW, is perhaps one of the best examples of what a business can do if they really listened to their customers on social media platforms. The channel paid attention to the comments pouring in and started a new show, titled Bethenny Getting Married, which set viewership records.
Bob Lauterborn’s (professor of advertising at the University of North Carolina) suggestion that the traditional 4 Ps (Product, Price, Place and Promotion) of marketing have to be replaced with 4 Cs (Consumer, Costs, Convenience and Communication) in the digital era only marks the beginning of the changes to come in the world of marketing and branding. Indirect marketing is becoming increasingly important. After all, as Tom Fishburne, the marketing cartoonist, from Marketoon put it, “The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing”.