The emergence of ultra-specialized trade publications, 124-channel cable, automated
inbound-outbound telemarketing, movie product placement, data-triggered CRM
messaging and push/pull interstitial Internet email bombardment have provided
enough marketing stimulation to keep most business people higher than Andy Dick
on a four-day weekend.
But enough is never enough
Oh, no. We want more. So today you've got your micro sites, your mega
sites, your mini micro sites, your marketplace sites, purchasing sites, mall
sites, your e-this, that and the other, as well as wireless phone displays.
Even the screen in the office elevator.
And watch out, world. We're buying space on your fruit, coffee-cup sleeves
and urinal cakes.
Why, there are so many new channels for communicating to
customers and prospects and so many competing forces jockeying for position
on them that the resulting pea-soup cloud of clutter makes it difficult for
companies to get through to anyone.
And if your job is to get through to people, then you have
every right to be as nervous and jerky as a Belfast parking valet.
You haven't seen anything yet, Scooter. As technology
gives customers more access and more choices of how they get the information
they want, the way they want it, wherever they want it, whenever they want it,
it will only get worse.
And even if it doesn't (like that's going to happen)
it's already wreaking havoc with business communications and branding programs
around the world. Why, there are more b-to-b marketing casualties out there
over this one issue than there are in the director's cut of "Reservoir
But let's get the issue straight. It's not so much that there are
so many new and different media to deal with. (Even though many of them are
untried, untested and undecipherable.) It's not even the fact that they're
emerging so fast it's almost impossible to keep up with it all.
Clutter is not the problem
The real issue for business communicators in this new paradigm
is that messages are being fragmented like an overripe watermelon at a Dave
Letterman fruit drop from the 82nd floor of the Sirajul and Mujibur Souvenir
City warehouse. Splat. Kaboom. Disintegrate.
And when messages go from being segmented to diluted to breaking apart to pulverized
until they turn to vapor and disappear completely, then brand promises and brand
image, and even brands themselves, can't be far behind.
Time famine sweeps the planet
But wait, there's more. Add to all that a little ditty we like to call
time famine. It goes something like this: There simply isn't enough time
to assimilate the growing mass of messages. There isn't enough time to
cope with the volume of traffic going through our brains. There isn't enough
time to sort out the valuable from the mundane.
So increasingly we let it all pass through like a bad bean burrito. Only in
this case, it passes through unnoticed.
Complexity and overchoice reign
And if that's not enough, let's add another idea
from Alvin Tofler called "Overchoice." He says, "We are racing
against the point at which the advantages of diversity and individualization
are canceled by the complexity of the buyer's decision-making process."
There are simply too many messages chasing after too few
openings in your buyers' minds.
Which means you can't expect a series of unfocused,
disjointed, single-medium campaigns strung together by strategy to add up to
long-term gains any more. Your audience simply has too many choices and too
little time to pay attention to high-frequency, low-imagination, irrelevant,
not-very-memorable, inconsistent, non-engaging, uncreative messages and brand
Out of the quagmire
The new imperative is to develop a dialogue with customers
and prospects that is highly identifiable, relevant and engaging and that looks,
feels and sounds consistent from one medium to another. In other words, your
messages will have to stand out like Marlon Brando in a Day-Glo thong and be as
inseparable as Pavarotti in a wet suit.
The idea is to use information and emotion to create value
around your brand that customers will actually seek out. The paradigm has shifted
from controlled, interruptive monologue bombardment to dialogue with customers
and prospects when they want and need to talk. (Something we call dialogue communications.)
Through the prospect's decision
Throughout this process, relevance, creativity, emotional engagement and executional
consistency are the ways out of the morass of slimy, decomposing messages and
brands. But how do you do all that at once?
First, you might want to start with a firm understanding
of your customers' and prospects' buying processes. That includes
knowing who is involved, what role they play and when in the process they play
it. And of course, what's important to them when they make a decision.
Second, you should consider posting a "no dumping" sign on all your
communications. That's because you simply can't dump on people all
the brand information you'd like them to retain all at once. Otherwise
they'll be more confused than Al D'Amato on Celebrity Jeopardy.
The goal is to know what's important to them and what
they want to hear at each stage of the purchase process and give them just enough
information, incentives or offers to push them to the next stage. We call this goosing.
With each goose down the purchase path, customers and prospects
deepen their knowledge and involvement with the brand through experience rather
than interruptive corporate belching.
So the "no dumping" law includes:
||Simplifying messages at the early stages of the buying process.
||Dividing all brand information up into component parts.
||Prioritizing messages according to their relevance and importance to different audiences at each stage of the process.
||Spreading them out along the buying path to take each audience from awareness through purchase and repurchase and to build and deepen involvement in the brand.
||Making each and every one of them highly memorable, engaging and identifiable with your brand.
Hit them when they need you
Of course, the most effective way to do that is to hit them when they are most
susceptible to each message. This usually has a direct relationship to when,
where and why they enter the decision process.
What emerges from this analysis are unconventional, nontraditional
media that are much more effective because they are totally relevant. Not only
in message but also in time. Customers and prospects initiate many of these
communications. And all of them deliver the right message and opportunity for
dialogue when the audience is dealing with that relevant issue through the medium
that is as close as possible to the places where the actual decision process
is taking place in their minds.
Don't go quietly into that
All of which means that fighting the slime of info-glut, clutter,
decomposition and disintegration these days means truly integrating your messages
across all media, threaded together with a central, unique, compelling, creative
selling concept that is executed memorably and consistently in every medium.
take on integrated communications.)
But it also means making those messages stand out instead
of blend in. And that requires you to make them more relevant, interesting,
engaging, believable and emotionally resonant to the people you want to reach.
(A principle of communications efficiency we
call creative leverage.)
Stand out of the quagmire, don't
sink into it
Because every day, new technology and new communications techniques are widening
and deepening the giant quagmire mistakenly, in our opinion, called "communications
Make no mistake about it. It is much more than that. It's
more sinister and disruptive than mere clutter.
It is really message and brand disintegration on a giant scale.
And unless you develop a strong, consistent, unique, relevant,
impactful, consistent, easily-recognizable-in-every-medium, memorable, consistent,
comprehensive and, of course, consistent communications presence out there it's
going to be glug…glug…glug time.