2017: The Future’s So Bright (People, Data, and the Right Message)…

2016 was a whirlwind of a year. With all the things that have happened since I’ve joined Vaudeville Ventures in May 2016, there has certainly been a shift in my perspective on how business and media is changing. I’ve had the opportunity to manage and execute a various array of digital marketing and content strategies for some great clients. And, with the current focus on how data and more personalized content strategies can drive more meaningful and authentic consumer actions and outcomes, it’s become clear that some focus needs to shift.

First, specific to the profession, if you asked me today, “What is a skill that every digital marketer should have and why?” I would reply with: the ability to master change and adapt with a flexible comfort level. We have seen so much change in digital marketing, and to succeed, people need to quickly adapt to new tactics, technology, channels, and measures. Having this ability allows us to be educated on the latest marketing techniques.

Second, specific to the mediums used for digital, my first thought is that email, although it’s in flux, still holds its position as THE medium of choice for digital marketers aiming to drive engagement and actions. Not only are emails 5x more likely to be seen than Facebook posts, but it’s also proven to drive a higher conversion compared to all other channels, including social.

Third, I believe the biggest opportunity (and challenge) for digital marketers is putting things into context and adjusting our ways. We have the ability to target the right people and read more digital cues about what’s happening in their lives in order to put our messaging creatively into context with what’s happening at any given moment for a targeted individual. We can find them.

digital-content-marketing

That adjustment is a huge opportunity for success, but as I’m learning, it’s also a challenge. With the available data and various tools needed to gather and model it, we have the ability to put a successful program or campaign into place. A lot of people in the business know they need to do it, but the struggle is real.

Furthermore, people-based marketing, or targeting at the individual level – at scale is a huge opportunity, especially if it’s able to be pushed in real-time.

Finally, there are a lot of prediction pieces being published across the media about what the next big thing NOT TO IGNORE in 2017 will be for marketers. Here are my 5 for the year:

  1. Apps, podcasts & messaging bots will become more used by businesses to market their products and services
  2. Social media as a marketing tool will become less effective – already has, and email still reigns
  3. Recommendations by celebrities and influencers will be less respected and therefore, played down by brands
  4. In-house digital strategists will be the hot job to have in 2017
  5. If it is not on your phone, your business is in the dark ages

All in all, email and content marketing success in general lies in marketers’ ability to master real-time personalization, deliver dynamic and engaging content, and leverage traditional storytelling and creativity alongside data to deliver resonating messages to the right audience.

So, in 2017 let’s be more positive, remain flexible and embrace change, and be more data- and people-centric.

The future’s so bright…

Millennials Need All Five Senses Considered

When marketing to millennials, brands must consider all five senses. Their eyes are always looking, ears are always listening and fingers are always, ALWAYS typing, but figuring out how to tap in with millennials is an ongoing challenge for marketers. They must be met exactly where their attention is with an authentic, genuine message promoted by someone they trust. So let’s check in to their five senses…

Sight: What are they watching? 

Digital is the BEST way to reach millennials. This has been said over and over. But the facts remain:

  • There will be 78 million millennial digital video viewers, representing more than 92% of all U.S. millennial Internet users, according to eMarketer.
  • The above is coupled with the fact that of millennials who are consuming traditional TV, 65% are using a second, third, or more screens to consume content simultaneously, according to Verizon.
  • With multiple screens vying for their attention, millennials are texting while watching TV, or watching digital video as they video chat with friends, or engaging with more screens than just that. How about that AMC Theaters allowing texting during movies scare? Oh, for goodness sake.

With that, we know the connection to content is constant.

In today’s influential world, Millennials are more likely to listen to and be influenced by their favorite YouTube superstars compared to professional athletes. According to VideoInk in 2015, millennials watch 11.3 hours of free online video per week and 8.3 hours of TV per week on average. In the YouTube vs. TV battle, marketers should be mindful that millennials hail YouTube as the ultimate winner.

Hearing: What are they listening to?

In terms of music, Millennials are discovering and enjoying music differently than the generations before them. Younger listeners spend on average 25 hours a week streaming music from a variety of online services, according to Vevo’s new “Music Fan Report”.

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Via Variety.com

Brands need to be sure they’re mixing things up where these Millennials ears are ringing.

Touch: What methods are they using to communicate?

A millennial’s communication originates in their hands. Everything starts on their mobile phones, including snaps, Facebook posts, Instagram tags, and Tweets.  89% of adults ages 18-29 use some form of social media, according to the Pew Research Center. Millennials are finding new ways to engage with their friends, family, and their communities every day. That means that brands and other organizations must do the same to stay relevant and in front of their target audiences. Snapchat is a great example of a company leading the way, instead of following trends and adapting.

Taste: How do millennials prefer their content?

Of course content has to be informative, enjoyable, passionate, funny, original and unexpected, but for brands – IT NEEDS TO BE SHAREABLE. Period. But what do they REALLY like? AdWeek hit up many millennials and summed up a few things – click the image:

fea-millennial-mosaic-01-2014.jpg

Via AdWeek

Smell: What products are they ultimately choosing, and why?

Millennials may not be relying only on their noses to remember their favorite products, they can sniff out when they’re being marketed to. According to Animoto, two out of three say that they will stop watching a video if they feel the tone is too promotional. Brand loyalty is influenced heavily by whether they think they can trust a brand and by what others highly recommend to them, from the shoes on their feet to the snacks they eat and the apparel they wear. Fifty percent of millennials say that being real, genuine and authentic are the most important factors with regards to distinguishing favorite brands, products or services. Keller Fay Group has enormous amounts of data on this group.

To sum up, Millennials are consuming original content that has an authentic voice, connects to them personally and provides a message that they relate to and possible share. In order to succeed, brands need to be active & multi-sensory in the space that millennials are interacting otherwise they just won’t reach this demographic holistically.

Audience Building Is Not a Spectator Sport

Building an audience from scratch and fostering meaningful conversations is intuitive and normal for individual people, but an obvious challenge for brands. From traditional marketing tactics to experiential, digital and word of mouth (including social media), marketers can’t sit idly by and just expect that their customers are engaged with their brand, or that most of them even want to engage. Yes, social media allows millions of active users globally to compete for attention, but if all of us are now publishers, who really listens?

Are we all slaves to our digital platforms? Or can we go back to the basics? Define your audience, reach out to them in person and online, engage them with what they like and want, ensure authentic conversation, create experiences and share products that relate to them so they not only stick around, they bring more people along with them.

As technologist and founder of Kapuno (an online community platform for niche discussions), Cyrus Radfar says in his recent post, “Social media isn’t going anywhere, but as it continues to get harder and harder to win the channels, the social proof communities can provide will help niche communities work together to spread the messages they decide are important through the more mass-market feeds.” He closes with a call to action, “Find your community and help build it, because that is where the next generation is going when they realize that social media won’t afford them a voice.”In every conversation we have with our clients, whether we’re in the “nice to meet you” phase, executing mid-program, or recapping our work, we consistently reinforce how an engaged community is crucial to a brand’s Integrated Marketing Communications success.

Encouraging our clients to push through Integrated Marketing to what we coined as an Integrated Engagement Plan is an achievable goal if done right, and will complete the circle of consumer to advocate for a brand. Our formula: 

Integrated Marketing Communications:

  • Brand & Agency Collaboration
  • Aim: Ensure consistency of message & complementary media use
  • Marketing to Consumers

Integrated Engagement Plan:

  • Brand, Agency & Consumer Collaboration
  • Aim: Sustained “On-Brand” Conversation led by Advocates
  • Engagement, Amplification & Recruitment with Brand Advocates
  • Marketing with Consumers & Advocates

Community and audience building goes a long way when fostering authentic brand love. It also requires marketers to think and act differently, even in the planning stages.

Social May Win At Volume. But, What About Influence?

Research shows social media is often less than 5% of all Word of Mouth on a particular subject. With the many different ways to look at this, we decided to focus on volume over impact – with the recent topic of Scottish Independence, as well as the focus on Millennial culture and digital behavior.

After a robust social media blitz that indicated a potential separatist landslide, Scotland decided to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Appinions did some digging and noted that news versus social means different formats lead to different impact. Sometimes social can win the volume game, but still lose on the influence game; social can be efficient but not effective.

Above data via Appinions

The win at volume gets tremendous contribution from Millennials. In the last decade, this group is a paramount focus for brands and organizations. Rising into adulthood at the start of the century, their impact has proven to be a major focus to take fast action toward, from the White House and the auto industry to global and social issues.

As we start to plan our trip to Hollywood next month for the WOMMA Summit we reviewed our “A-Ha!” moments from the April 2014 WOMMNext event. Our attention returned to this data point: Millennials spend close to 18 hours per day on their smart devices (via Crowdtap). But for brands, Word of Mouth still overtakes all that time spent when it comes to influence and impact. Despite Millennials’ time in the digital space, still 84% of these Word of Mouth impressions from Millennials result from offline conversations, the majority being face-to-face, according to the latest research from the Keller Fay Group.

Escalate sees program-specific results that support the assertion that social media, while not a tactic to be ignored, is perhaps not as revolutionary a marketing innovation as some would have us believe. Through our experiential programs, we learned that:

  • Face-to-face recommendations for a client brand were 15X more likely to include desired key brand messages than social media recommendations.
  • Analysis of a one-month spike (>2X the next-highest month that year) in digital “buzz” about a client brand found that 80% of all digital “conversation” was, in fact, neutral in tone (for example: on Twitter, a simple re-tweet without a meaningful personal comment; a shared Facebook post with no point of view from the consumer)

As much as the research can be revealing, Millennials are still a very digital generation and sharing online is a part of their makeup. But, it’s not the only way they communicate, and far from the most common…or most effective. All marketing touch points need to be considered. Social is just one of them. In order to reach Millennials and make their way into their conversations, brands need to be as authentic and transparent as they possibly can. Otherwise, no matter what the the format, they’ll tune it out and the message can die. Brands need to consider all the channels, especially the real world.


image via WOMMA

As Millennials are increasingly tapped into digital media, the question isn’t whether they hear a brand message, but if they’ll listen, and talk about it with their friends.