My brother and I were having a conversation the other day about parenting. We talked about our kids and how we valued their trust and openness. It’s a new generation. Our kids think differently, and make their own choices. It’s hard at times, but we are closer because we have conversations that mutual respect.
Then we both thought back to when we were kids.
“I just nodded and smiled then did what I wanted when I was out of their sight” he said. And I agreed. We didn’t feel respected when we were “talked at” and told without feeling heard. Don’t get me wrong. I love my parents, but communication was not one of their strong suits.
The way advertising communicates has evolved too.
Back in the day, TV was a novelty and early advertisers paid for the content that ran on it. Advertising was “baked into the content”. “The Colgate Comedy Hour” for example, had Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis peddling soap. Nobody minded as long as the “free programming” kept coming. But content has never been free.
Skip ahead a few generations and the same is no longer true. Viewers have lost patience with the self serving monologues of advertisers. Ad blockers are the norm and people can find free content in a variety of places.
“So how do you sell to people who avoid advertising?
Through building relationships and talking WITH people instead of AT them.”
In my opinion, it’s always been the case that advertisers and I have an unspoken agreement. I’ll put up with (and maybe even talk about) your ad, as long as you give me something in return. Usually, as in the case of Super Bowl TV spots, that something in return is a good laugh, or at least a grin. Ads that respect my intelligence and tickle my funny bone earn my share of heart. “I like these guys” I think to myself. And next time I buy beer or whatever they’re about, they’re in my “brands to consider list”.
You don’t have to have the budget of Budweiser or the creative team at Nike to do it either. You can do it right away by starting to think of your company from the customer’s perspective.
You start the conversation online
- Rethink your website. Build around customer experience and needs instead of focusing solely on your offering.
- Read and re-read your content. Filter out all the industry jargon and buzzwords. Talk in the same tone-of-voice you would if you met them in person and had to explain what you can do for them.
- Build content around their needs and their typical questions.
- Build an online community. Be consistent in both the timing of content and your messaging. Stay relevant and on-brand by understanding them and their needs.
- Choose relevant social channels for your audience. (ie. you might choose LinkedIn and Twitter for business customers, and Instagram or Facebook for consumers).
- Be authentic, personable, polite and helpful.
- Build personality by making your brand relatable and interesting.
And continue the conversation in traditional media
- Deliver ads that speak to your customers according to your demographic and psychographic research.
- Your ad messaging works a lot better if people actually read it. Give them a laugh. Or at least make it creative.
- Be consistent. Customers aren’t won overnight. You need to stay top of mind by being where they look.
- And lastly, learn to develop your brand’s authentic voice and approach. If your look and voice keep changing, you lose the cumulative effect of your ad spend.
An experienced branding professional can help you find the best stories to tell about your brand. They’ll help you stand out from your competitors and set the tone for future efforts. With some planning, your next campaign should build on the one before. Always reinforcing your key messages. This way, every time you advertise, you’ll build on previous efforts.
Nobody gets it right all the time. The important thing is to start the dialogue and stop shouting at the people you want to sell to. Because nobody wants to be talked at.
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