If you're a brand thinking that your best, big idea is to spend your entire marketing budget making 30-second spots for TV and then push those spots out on all platforms, you need to change your whole perspective. Today’s consumers are savvy enough to know that if it looks like an ad and quacks like an ad, than it is most definitely an ad. Instead, your brand's story might be best embodied in a great Instagram feed, a comedic content series, or an innovative use of user-generated content.
The most important thing for your brand's message is not perfection and polish, it's to connect with your audience, your fans and future fans. If you understand who they are, where they are spending their connected time, and what they are seeking out, then meet them in the middle and engage with them now.
Brands also need to be able to respond to how their audience interacts with their content. Storytellers will peer into their audience often to read their facial expressions: Are they engaged, bored, thrilled, curious, confused? The tone of voice or parts of the story might change in reaction.
Brands and creative agencies should do the same thing. Not to change who they are, or what their main story is, but to make an iterative shift in tone or content that reacts to the audience. A hawk in flight may be soaring in what looks like one direction, but will make subtle, small moves to pivot and get to its desired destination.
A good place to look for inspiration for making in-flight adjustments is YouTube. YouTube stars with huge followings are always taking cues from their fans – asking them to suggest ideas and share what they'd like to see next. They engage in a two-way conversation where the viewers are respected as equals.
I’m not saying a brand should forego years of research to build a strategy around what they find in the comments section. But always be learning. By observing your audience's reaction on various platforms to your content, you can discover where your brand has permission to be a part of the conversation.
Two good examples of this kind of iterative fine-tuning:
Lucky's Market: Lucky's grocery stores are founded on what seems to be a purist premise. They were founded with the goal to offer affordable food, free of pesticides and antibiotics. But this isn't your grandma's hippie co-op. Their marketing is fresh and young and appealing. Their marketing is agile enough to respond to what their fans respond to, like Cheese Doodle Day, while serving up their GMO-free granola offerings alongside bacon, candy and beer.
PopSugar: PopSugar was a site primarily focused on fitness and fashion and entertainment news for women. All of it was the type of content people could go out and find elsewhere, but they set upon making themselves a real media brand, and a destination for young women. They started with more than a dozen different sites that they brought under the PopSugar umbrella. They kept the same mission, but rebranded everything to look seamless, understanding that their audience didn't want to differentiate between editorials, book reviews and purely shoppable content. That agility drove PopSugar to where it is today: Reaching 1 out of every 3 millennial women. Content is not like a dead piece of wood, that you just throw out there and hope it floats. It's a living thing that should evolve, that should be agile and responsive to its audience.
Content is not like a dead piece of wood, that you just throw out there and hope it floats. It's a living thing that should evolve, that should be agile and responsive to its audience.