Before I begin with my points of view on the topic, I think, what this entire CoronaVirus episode has done is put the focus back on humans; human intelligence and human emotions. Relationships are taking different meanings. Time at hand is allowing people to reflect and say and do things they haven’t said or done before. It will be terribly sad if those who stay unaffected and those who get cured just go back to where it all ended, when the world becomes normal. This is a time for pressing various reset buttons and setting somethings into full or partial transformations, as the case may be. Having given up a large and successful global agency career just because I felt the agency business needed a revamp, I’ve been a keen observer of everything around me, more than ever before, in my entrepreneurial journey as a nonconformist transformation consultant.
I’ve mixed feelings seeing the way brands are operating in the current phase which prompted me to offer this point of view on the topic.
A top Bollywood actor “licking his fingers” to exhibit satisfaction from a meal, a national bank’s card which a guy uses to impress his girl when they are “out” and A car promoting “being on the streets” with it to attract the opposite sex etc. are some of the “contextual” commercials that I have been seeing on the TV during the lockdown phase. Just out of curiosity I tried making an enquiry for the car brand and perhaps owning to the availability of human resources, the response I received only managed to create friction in my journey. The mostly “outdoorish” millennials, the target for the credit card, could be a frustrated lot currently, fully homebound. This insight and a communication to that effect would have made the brand closer. The finger licking gesture may not be appropriate currently and, in the panic grocery buying phase when people aren’t going to be worried about any particular brand, this brand, perhaps, had other reassuring message opportunities to stay relevant. I’m saying these against the backdrop of the common brand cry for a while that advertising isn’t working. But why? That’s my question.
Almost the entire country offered gratitude to those who needed it the most for 5 minutes at 5 PM on Sunday, 22nd March based on a single mass media call by the honorable PM.
Coke in Philippines put out a message that they won’t be advertising during these times and the entire budget allocated will be diverted towards #CovidCare Mr Anand Mahindra is trying to figure out ventilator production. He has offered to convert their resorts into temporary care centers and 100% of his salary towards a #CovidCare assistance fund. These messages received tremendous appreciation.
I know some part of all the above ads are also working. And I’m not saying any of the above brands need to pull out all their current advertising or all brand owners need to suddenly become saints from business owners and all purposeful etc. Businesses are created to be profitable. I don’t think anyone has any doubt about that. But, what we will from here on discuss about are the nuts and bolts of creating something that will connect with people and make them act. First and foremost, that something is not just those beautiful images or award-winning campaigns. The topmost priority is to create an internal culture for “communication” Perhaps through as much “acts” as possible and not “ads” alone.
For all the discussions about micro personalization, when it comes to mass media, it is always about a group of people that the brand is trying to communicate to. Since there are different individuals even within any group, I’ve concluded that a successful segmentation can only happen based on one key insight that makes lots of people act on various aspects. And, after all my assessment and insight building, I believe, broadly we are dealing with 3 types of consumers; all of these 3 types will be present among the GenX, Millennials as well as GenZ and it is true for all the NCCS and even both urban and rural. One, “The Informed Intuitive” Two, “Hearsay Decider” and Three, “No Reason Contrarian”. Giving Simon Sinek’s theory a different dimension, Let’s presume it is a human brain with these 3 layers. The Inner/limbic part of the brain will be the Informed Intuitive and the first of the two outer layers; the Neocortex, will be the Hearsay Decider and the last layer will be the No Reason Contrarian.
Despite all the Share of Voice brands create and all the paid influencers they employ, unless the messaging sits in the limbic part of the brain, it doesn’t move into a purchase decision. If you know that all decisions are taken at the limbic part of the brain, getting the “Informed Intuitive” aligned to your communication is the only way that you can finally say that lots of it is working and you know what’s working as well.
For you to get anywhere closer to exploring this, it needs a clear re-orientation in the thinking based on the law of diffusion of innovation. You may even have to kill your urge for “large” number of views/reach from every campaign. In order to quantify, I’m defining 50% of the universe (Innovators, Early Adopters and Early Majority) as the Informed Intuitive and 35% (Late Majority) as Hearsay Decider and 15% (Laggards) as the No Reason Contrarian. The tipping point and “mass” alignment is surely a possibility and even some of the Laggards who the brand can ignore will eventually also get aligned if it creates a process and most importantly a different culture.
As usual, I’ve some specific and intuitive solutions, all practical. If some of these can be put to practice, each and every “communication” from you can start looking very different.
Having been an Un-Agency for 3 years now and after having understood the fundamental challenge of a no-trust relationship between marketers and their agencies (both can’t do without each other either) which unfortunately also filters down to the customers and all other businesses constituents, making everything a transaction, I feel these 21 days is an amazing opportunity to re-set some of the legacy practices, relationships and create a culture for communication which will finally also result in Lifetime Value of Customers in real terms.
- First and foremost, cut down your marketing investments at least by 50% and free up 50% of your resources, during these 21 days. And just to convince yourself on the approach, look at a 3 to 5-year track record of your advertising, an input/output correlation. The unexplainable sales become your baseline. Mirror the same against your advertising, keeping in mind the 3 segments above. It will become amply clear that the communication targeted at the Informed Intuitive, mostly “emotionally active” communication which always answers the “Why” you are doing what you are doing vs what you have to sell, are the ones that moved the baseline. An example, Nike’s exploration of the athlete in everyone rather than selling shoes. This will also help marketers not to get swayed by the competition. If healthy teeth are the brand’s focus, the emotionally active brand needs to understand that it has already thought about various aspects and will also keep thinking about all of that will make teeth healthy including “salt”, reducing the need for “on the face” “advertising”
- Relook at 50% of your current advertising campaigns just as an exercise. Communicate the purpose with your creative agency partners and see how different the messaging will look if those were to be focused on the “Informed Intuitive” and the “Why”. Involve a larger team from the agency. Sometime the most junior writer has something brilliant to offer.
- Engage in a genuine assessment as to whether “Customer Delight” is the force behind all your actions. Communicate with your customer facing teams and understand the mindsets they are operating in, which will also direct you to the internal culture. Change it if you feel the need to.
- Look at all the data as first party data. Communicate with the data/analytics team. Tell them you are looking for human insights from the data and not graphs, charts terminologies. Assess the quality of the current data (how well or how badly do you know your Customers) and the set-up of the current data pipelines.
- Build a journey map of your customers and understand how you will create experiences for them on that journey as per their expectations, not under or over, all keeping the Informed Intuitive in mind.
- Review the UI/UX of all your customer-facing touchpoints and understand how customers are navigating currently through the different channels. Use the data insights to discover their struggles and explain engagement issues, order sizes/abandonments/bad reviews etc and focus on fixing those including the Macro/Micro Optimizations.
- Let the freed-up resources pick up the phone randomly on your customers whose issues had internal escalations, and some are even unresolved. Communicate with them. Understand their side of the story. Send them personal thank you notes and small gifts/coupons. The initial conversations will help build the learning curve.
- If you do not have a data culture, build one without any further loss of time
- Review some of the recorded customer conversation, which they had with your resolutions teams and let them tell you how certain scenarios can look different if customer delight becomes the driving force in the organization and communication focused on the Informed Intuitive. People only remember how you made them feel.
- Assess as to what will it take for you to create better discoverability. Google has transformed from being a gatekeeper to a destination. Look at how you can make a seamless process even for the offline reviews to co-exist with online, real-time. Some businesses are losing out because the entire organic space is currently owned by the yellow pages; just dial, sulekha, India mart etc.
- Assess a day in the life of your “customer-centricity” team and guide them basis the above data insights. If the team is still in operation, Let the CEOs and Marketing heads become mystery customers to derive actual insights.
- Most organizations have very siloed internal structures and channel managements. Take the initiative to create seamless structures keeping customer delight in perspective. Take targets on issue resolutions and even cross-functional accountability
- Connect with your dealers and distributors. See if you have enough knowledge on them for you to bucket them into the 3 segments we spoke about above. If you do not have such data, kindly use this time to build the same. Try and understand their business challenges and see if you can employ any innovative approach to help them. There are many ways in which brands can drive footfalls into their stores, not necessarily mass advertising always.
- Informed Intuitive normally have very good points to offer on social media. They are mostly influencers. Let your social media team focus on finding these people who may or may not be your customers currently. But find people who relate to what you have to offer. E.g. If you are fitness brand, look for these genuine people who are fitness enthusiasts and who are creating intuitive content. Do not apply the “minimum followers” criteria that you would otherwise do when you look at paid influencers. Quality of content and engagement should be the criteria here. Look at a 6-month content track record. Engage with them differently. Don’t make it transactional. Let them see you genuinely value them. As much as possible get an external consultant or your own team to do this.
- Meet all the people in your agencies who are working on your brands through skype/zoom etc and get their individual perspectives on your challenges and guide them. Recognize those who you feel are well aligned to your priorities and send a personal appreciation mail, irrespective of the seniority,with a copy to the head of the agency.
- Meet each of your team members over video and have conversations with them, understand their challenges
- Review the current HR/appraisal systems and see if you need to change it in some way taking some of the above points into consideration
- Meet media owners too and discuss your challenges in their markets and see if you can build innovative solutions to connect with the Informed Intuitive
- Connect with your competing brands and see if there are larger issues on which you can come together, like road safety for automobile companies
- Create one activity where you can align your teammates, cross-functional teams, dealers/distributors, agency partners, consultants etc, during these 21 days and make the relationships a bit informal and fun.
- Last but not the least, Set up an innovation fund. Pull out just 10% from the advertising and dedicate the same for exploring new realms of possibilities and the RoI for those investments should be trackable. Employ an external team (not your agency) with the right knowledge/abilities to guide you on this. Y&A Transformation assists a couple of marketers in this area. This fund if utilized well can deliver results much more than the passive advertising.
Authored By S Yesudas – Co-founder, Y&A Transformation