As discussed last week, professional relationships are an amazing way of establishing word-of-mouth advertising. This sort of advertising proves extremely effective because individuals are more likely to trust recommendations from their friends than random advertisements online or on a billboard. At the same time, very few companies can rely completely on this word-of-mouth tactic. The world of advertising and marketing changes at a rapid pace, and since the advent of web 2.0, the industry has evolved at an even more exponential rate.
To some extent, old-world advertising still has an important role in marketing. Television commercials, print advertisements, and radio spots still engage a large number of customers, but the most successful companies take a more creative approach to marketing. Some of the most effective campaigns of the past few years have made use of viral Internet trends. Perhaps the most memorable example from the past few years is the ALS Association’s ice bucket challenge, which became a craze in 2014 nearly overnight. The brilliant marketing campaign generated more than $100 million in donations to the association in just one month, with basically no upfront investment. While this campaign involved a nonprofit, for-profit companies can use similar strategies to engage a wide range of people.
Modern advertising moves beyond the realm of social media as well. Think about any major music festival and a number of sponsors come to mind. Sponsorship has become a way for many huge companies, from Apple to Google, to reach new audiences, but smaller companies can undertake similar sponsorship campaigns in their immediate communities or use local events to generate buzz. Take, for example, a company that sponsors a music festival for local high school bands and encourages its employees to volunteer to run the event. This sort of event is a great opportunity for building relationships with community members, including potential customers and other key business owners.
Today’s marketing must blend artistry and science. In former decades, marketing was more of a science. Data drove campaigns by showing what worked and what did not. Today, however, audiences expect more. They want engagement, and they want companies to tell them a story that wraps them in and makes them feel connected to a brand in a certain way. This step is where artistry comes into play. Artistic advertisers strive to understand what motivates and resonates with a company’s primary audience or with new, potential customers. While the scientific advertiser can measure impact, it is artistic creativity that engages the modern consumer.
Perhaps one of the biggest emphases of modern advertising is consistency. When a company tells a story, that story needs to remain consistent or change only slowly over time. This consistency means that companies need to commit to their brand. While changes are completely acceptable, companies cannot spin one narrative to a select customer population and then create a competing story for another. This approach appears disingenuous and will end up alienating both populations. Consistency also means staying true to a brand for significant periods of time. When companies try to change their image every year to stay fresh and cool, they seem like they are trying too hard and they fail to develop a brand that people readily recognize. As soon as they gain a following, they alienate that following by changing the brand.
Similarly, companies should avoid jumping on every bandwagon because they think it will make them seem on the cutting edge. For example, many companies would benefit from Foursquare, an app that allows customers to check in at a location and sometimes receive rewards. This app is great for restaurants and retailers. However, imagine if a bank tried to use it. Lines would form out the door for transactions that people could easily handle at home, at a lower cost for the bank. Another popular trend involves QR codes. While these codes make sense in some situations, how often do people actually scan them? Companies should only use this type of information if they have a compelling reason to do so, such as offering coupons or other rewards.
Sometimes companies overlook their website, but a great online presence is an important part of marketing. The website should be consistent with the company’s brand and look both modern and clean. Too often, small business owners invest little or no money in their website, thinking that they will attract customers purely by virtue of having a convenient storefront location. These business owners overlook that fact that even someone who lives next door is likely to look at a company’s website before stopping in and will likely decide not to visit if the website looks terrible or is uninformative. If the website is especially good, on the other hand, the person may share it with his or her social networks and generate more buzz for the company.