The old model was long, linear, and often laborious.
Most marketing campaigns began with a Planner who would attempt to crawl inside the mind of the target— usually a composite of both demographics and psychographics wrapped up in a descriptive moniker: “Soccer Moms”, “Hard Hats”, “Urban Strivers”… as but a few examples.
After peering into the soul of the target, planners would then write a brief for the kind of messaging required to connect most profoundly with the intended audience.
Enter the creatives.
Teams of writers and designers would work for weeks to get the wording, imagery (even for radio), and most importantly, the USP just right. The Unique Selling Proposition was that signature feature or benefit that set the product or service apart from all competitors.
Two or three executions would be selected (from dozens or more) and usually consumer tested to see how a few dozen folks in a windowless room in some nondescript office complex somewhere felt about them. This was tricky business as a “Hard Hat” from Oakland frequently had different buttons than one from Oak Bluffs. Balancing the two poles frequently led to the kind of watered down, averaged-out work that satisfied neither. However, a winner would ultimately be selected after a few rounds of revisions, retesting…
Start to finish, this part of the process was several months to even more than a year.
Once you were good to go creatively, you began the process of planning for distributing the message. What type of media did “Soccer Moms” consume? When? How often? Next, you began negotiating with those publications, publishers, venues… for the optimal reach and frequency of your message for your budget.
As weeks gave way to months or more, by the time the campaign rolled-out you could scarcely recall how it all began.
Fast-Forward to today.
That model seems quaint if not downright anachronistic. The highly siloed and linear process is rapidly being replaced by a dynamic, multi-faceted, real-time process.
And that pivot has largely hinged on the smartphone.
Today’s smartphone does much of the work of yesterday’s small army of marketers. Where once a small sample was extrapolated into a composite, the mobile device provides very granular and specific data on the target audience individually. The phone is, in effect, the new Planner.
Beyond that, today’s smartphone is not only integral in crafting the message, it’s often the primary conduit for the media as well. Just as the smartphone collects the data to create the customized experience, it usually delivers the experience too.
As an example, say you check-in at your favorite coffee shop or your phone triggers a beacon the proprietor has set up. Based on the proprietor’s rules (after four visits in a week, offer a free biscotti, or, after 3pm offer all baked goods for 50% off to ensure sell-through…) an experience gets delivered to you — not necessarily the person sipping beside you.
The mobile device informs the “creative” of the experience, while then also fulfilling the execution of the media placement at the optimal time (when you’re in the coffee shop, not in an email once you get home). In compressing creation and distribution by creating a direct-connect between the company and the customer, the smartphone utterly changed the marketing game.
Much of that game hinges on how much the consumer wants to share with the brand. If you want to sip your Americano anonymously, not much can be done. But if you’re a regular you’ll soon notice the perks others receive, even less frequent patrons than yourself, and you’ll want in. So you’ll share proportional to the perceived value you’ll be getting back by doing so.
Online and in mobile, this manifests itself similarly to the coffee shop. People are increasingly sharing personal information proactively in a defensive response to unfiltered advertising run amok. Consumers want fewer, bigger, better engagements with real value from brands they trust and value, rather than exhaustingly fighting off all those they don’t.
But to whom much (data) is given, much is required.
If the customer gives you permission, you’d better use it wisely.
Don’t try the “Soccer Moms” schtick with Jane Feit. Jane’s daughter doesn’t play soccer. She dances. There are pictures of the last Feis she competed in on Jane’s Facebook page. If you want to get her worked up, ask Jane about the cost of Irish dresses and wigs. She’s got lots to say on the topic.
And if you’re looking for someone to sell a minivan to, you might want to reconsider Jane. She’s got a Pinterest board dedicated to Land Rovers— a not so subtle hint about what she’s in the market for. In fact, she recently checked in at the local dealership.
Move from advertising at Jane to engaging with her.
She’s looking for a tailored experience. She’s telling you what she’s interested in and challenging you to deliver. The camera has effectively been turned around. The “USP” used to refer to what was special about the seller. Today, the CUSP is about the consumer— the buyer. It’s the Customer’s Unique Selling Proposition. If they’re interested, they’ll let you know. And if they take the time to tell you about themselves, you’d best not treat them like a demo or some amalgam.
Talk to them like you know them (because you should) and you’re on the CUSP of a special relationship.
Potentially, a very profitable one.