A few weeks ago I jumped on a plane across the Atlantic to New York to go to one of the highlights of the 2012 Digital Marketing Event Calendar; Ad Age Digital 2012. This 3 day event was where marketing, technology and media combined; where the biggest brands meet the most innovative start-ups and the new technologies that are transforming business.
In terms of key things to take away from the event, yes there were business cards, mints, pens, goodie packs and insight into some fast moving Digital Technology on the way. Above all of these things though, the one thing that really resonated with me as a marketer and creative thinker was that technology and innovation mean nothing alone. Of course they open up new possibilities and ways to distribute and engage with content, BUT without a strong brand, a story, and an audience that will connect with these things and share it, technology is simply an engine without fuel.
The Online Advertising Game is Changing
Digital advertising is a beast of an industry across desktop, mobile and apps. It has for a decade or more and still is being been sold, viewed and clicked on a massive scale in largely a (from the advertisers perspective) “You are on a digital platform that my ads are on, and you fit a demographic that says you might click, so I’m okay with that…” model.
One of the key aspects of the conference talked about by many speakers such as David Karp, CEO of Tumblr and Tim Ellis, CMO of Activision, was that to consumers of digital, which is basically everyone, content is what matters to us most. They talked about how there was much more activity and engagement on content driven ads for instance off the back of articles, after exposure to the brand in context to a video clip or social mention. In short it told us that users have a “Tell me something that interests and connects me to you, and then ask me to engage further, and I just might…” approach.
It’s no longer enough to have a social presence and not have content that emotionally connects with your audiences.
It really remains to be seen how long traditional online advertising will be around for. The signs aren’t good. People engage with brands and their stories and this is the traffic builder and driver behind connection to their audiences. That’s how the Nike, Old Spice and Starbuck’s of this world do it. They invest in brand and content; content that connects with their audiences and that encourages their customer’s to become brand advocates online and offline.
Emotional Media: A New Name for Social Media
So we all know that social media, along with mobile is a leading growth area in digital marketing right now. If you aren’t visible on social networks, you’re going a long way to becoming invisible, full stop. This event reinforced that fact. One of the resonating things that I was left with from the event was that social and digital engagement is increasingly emotional. It makes sense if you think about it but you have to keep reminding yourself about it when looking at digital strategies.
It’s no longer enough to have a social presence and not have content that emotionally connects with your audiences. There’s too much choice; if you don’t give audiences what they need to satisfy them emotionally, you can forget it. The internet used to be a task based platform, a place to get stuff done and find things out. Not any more…
Jonah Peretti founder and CEO of social-focused news site Buzzfeed put it brilliantly in his keynote at the event:
“Marketers and media companies need to tap into their emotional sides to understand what works. But first, they need to get beyond their bad habits formed by the portal-and-search era… We started thinking it’s a game or an algorithm when really it’s about humans and what we want to share and making things that are worth sharing,” he said.
If I saw this on my Facebook wall would I click it, would I have an emotion, would I laugh and then would I want to share it with other people. And when I share it with other people would it make me look like I’m a good person or look smart or would it make me look a jerk?
“Understanding the social web doesn’t mean [just] being smart. Too often we’ll sit in a conference room and brainstorm the smartest strategy and try to find the smartest person to figure out how to get stuff to work on Facebook and Twitter.”
“Instead it’s about “looking at a piece of content and saying, ‘If I saw this on my Facebook wall would I click it, would I have an emotion, would I laugh and then would I want to share it with other people. And when I share it with other people would it make me look like I’m a good person or look smart or would it make me look a jerk?” That is so true; every interaction in the social web is emotional on so many direct and indirect levels. That makes a social marketer’s job a very difficult one indeed.
Ultimately it was a great event and certainly I am aware now more than ever, that digital media and strategies will not fully realise their potential without a strong brand focus, a brand story to tell, time spent investing in content and making emotional connections that people will engage with, advocate and share.