I believe there is a very simple – but validated approach – for you as you consider the role of digital to build your brand or company. I use, and recommend, a straightforward way of thinking based on simple consumer habits and needs. It tries to ensure you are always putting the consumer/ customer first. Of course, this should always be the basis of marketing initiatives – but we can be distracted..
I originally developed these thoughts right back in 2003, when I was a Global eBusiness leader, and trying to help guide brand leaders across the company on use of the internet. They worked then, and still apply today. Fundamental to the approach was:
- Focus on WHAT people want to and like to do. Not what they could do.
- Do not focus on the HOW they can do things, or what is available now. Accept that the HOW will constantly change over time based on technology, available methods and so on. You may need to invent a new HOW!
The danger is that the “how” is what diverts the focus of senior leaders, marketing teams and agencies. It is easy to get focused on the tools available and hot right now. You see this at many industry events and conferences where the focus is often too much on the shiny new tools.
Here is the analysis you should make:
Assume that the consumer has four main uses of digital media to make their life easier, more efficient and faster. Let’s look at each in turn – their roles, applications and then the opportunities they present:
- People are social animals and want to engage and interact. So not surprisingly, they mostly go online to interact – with email still being the most common tool. Instant messaging, community sites, chat and other what are now called “social media” are all growing fast.
- It is not surprising then that many of the big successes are those that enable interaction. Think Facebook. Think Pinterest. Think Twitter even.
- This doesn’t just mean shopping – although online retail is the area that gets the publicity. The real powerhouses are actually things that enable and simplify and make transacting easier, faster and simpler: like online banking (faster and more convenient than queuing at your high street branch), price comparisons and peer-to-peer activities – such as where consumers transact with each other in goods (eBay), information or money (PayPal).
3. Research and education
- The starting point for many people on the Internet to find out things are search engines. Google, Bing are among the most-visited group of sites. Though YouTube is actually one of the biggest sites having searches submitted by users.
- Sites that consumers associate with education, research and learning are second in popularity only to online transaction sites.
- There is an important trend though now emerging, and this is the role of online recommendations by those they trust online, be they people active in social media sites, blogs or formal review sites like Tripadvisor (though this site has some issues to address on reliability it seems from some
- When thinking about digital media for entertainment, many people tend to think of the much-publicised music downloading and some of the issues around that. But the powerhouse and biggest growing trend in e-entertainment is actually watching video online. One of the most down things online is watching video, from sites like YouTube.
Actions and Implications?
- Can you or should your brand or business be active in any of these 4 areas the consumers wants to be engaged with?
- As your consumers are online, ready to interact, chat and engage with you in as close to real time as possible, you need to find the best way to do that for your business.
- Do not try and build “destinations” yourself. Too many brands have burned piles of money trying to build destination sites, you need to focus on having a presence and relationship with those applications and places where your target customers are going already.
- You need to ensure your sites or products are listed well and high up in search engines by making use of search engine optimisation and listings. But increasingly you need to have advocates and find ways for people to recommend and share thoughts ion your company. Many brands and companies are seeing fast growth in the amount of traffic coming from social media sites.
Focus on the four main areas of digital media and channels that the consumer operates in: interaction, transactions, research/ information and entertainment. Look at each in turn and see what the implications and opportunities are for your brand, product or company.