I have previously and consistently put forward the following proposition:
Your brand is the collected memories and emotions that person has from interacting with your company
Assuming that is accurate, that means that marketing is, at its core, nothing more than creating memorable communications between a brand and customer, in the service of creating customer value. Whether or not the message sticks is therefore a function of the communication's clarity, memorableness and emotional content.
It's like that wonderful scene in Mad Men, where Don Draper explains how the Carousel can build a powerful emotional bond with a consumer, through what it does.
Mad Men: Season 1, Episode 13 - The Wheel
However, these things are contextual. A story told through a book which takes many hours to read can be incredibly memorable. Equally, the same could be said of the punchline to a joke delivered in seconds. They are two very different things, enjoyed in different places and at different times, delivering different impacts and creating different memories. When it comes to creating truly compelling, powerful stories, we have to start, as with all things, at the beginning.
An organized course of action to achieve a goal.
Before we decide what we're going to say to the audience, we must first decide where we're going to engage them. Marketing needs to respect the channel being used. Something like the recent short film/ad "The Tale of Thomas Burberry" couldn't work as a 30 second TV spot.
The Tale of Thomas Burberry
It requires the length to tell its story, which means it needs to be distributed a certain way, thus also promoted to ensure that channel works as well as possible. We can see this in earlier long form adverts, such as the 2004 advert "Le Film" for Chanel, directed by Baz Lurhmann.
Too often, digital marketers forget what traditional marketers have known forever: no channels work in isolation. The creation of a TV spot engenders media buy, print ads, billboards and so on, all designed to support the flagship channel, and the flagship message it's delivering.
Marketing must work the same way.
If we're creating a video series (or indeed just a one shot) for YouTube, a social campaign built around a hashtag, a series of investigative pieces for a website or a one off piece of flagship content doesn't fundamentally matter. Those are all excellent ways to engage people. But none of them are enough on their own; they must be conceived as part of a larger, strategically focused campaign.
There's a lot of channels available to the digital marketer nowadays:
- Communities (forums, blogs, YouTube, niche topic-specific sites like Goodreads etc...)
- Online PR
- Partnerships with influencers, other brands, media portals
- Search-based (SEO, voice queries, local)
Having previously researched our messages and competition, we can now create different concepts for our flagship piece. This is the main, flagship piece of content which everything else will support.
There should be dozens of ideas put forth before you start to whittle them down. Having brainstormed what could be done, the challenge becomes picking out the best options. For that, we pair the best ideas to channels, then reach out to people involved in them and get feedback.
With communities, that means finding leading members of those communities and soliciting their help in picking the best. For PR, pick the publications you'd like to target, and reach out to their journalists and editors and see what they think has legs. For search-based channels, look at what people are already looking for and see what can be best matched to the ideas created.
Once you've got their feedback, you'll be in a position to evaluate which options have received the best recommendations, and then which you as marketers think will have the strongest emotional resonance. Having done that research, you'll be in a position to start to create that flagship piece, and start looking at how to support it.
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