Today’s brands are more focused than ever on adapting to consumer lifestyles and delivering a branded experience that resonates with their audience. The importance of well-executed brand media increasingly puts all brands, including retailers, in the content game.
Marketing’s role in retail is shifting from advertising to brand storytelling. In the past, the driving force of many marketing strategies was to use print and broadcast to get customers out of the home and into the store. Customer segments were focused on demographics using age, gender and location. In this traditional “push” model, the idea was to reach a captive audience and deliver them a message, with the goal of influencing a transaction.
Today, marketing is about creating a brand media network that spans a variety of engagement channels. We’re not simply trying to get customers to a location. We want them to create a lasting connection with the brand and adopt it as part of their lifestyle. Moving beyond demographics, psychographics focuses on behaviors, interests and lifestyle. And rather than a push model, brands are pursuing an engagement model that creates a two-way dialogue between them and the customer.
Everywhere, All The Time
Brands are becoming more omni-focused, with content executed across a variety of channels, from the digital world to physical locations. The brand media should be consistent and adapted to suit the channel type.
1. Broadcast is still a major platform for all brand media. Broadcast is still primarily about traditional television, but the landscape is shifting rapidly. YouTube is becoming a big player for brand media, with strong appeal for the brand. The ability to better target audiences and track engagement is key. And brands are able to tell more of their story with longer form content and media that moves beyond the 30-second spot.
2. Social Media is a fast-moving target. It’s easier to think less in terms of the individual applications, and more in terms of a communications network with a shifting landscape of providers. Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and others provide new ways of engagement and require new methods of branding.
3. Mobile is increasingly becoming synonymous with online, and commerce transactions are shifting away from the desktop pc and retail website to an untethered, app-centric world. Mobile apps are about personal empowerment and enabling relevance in time and place.
4. In-Store is where all of the engagement channels can be brought together to create an impactful brand experience that can create deep engagement with the customer. The physical location presents a powerful platform for telling the brand story in a contextually relevant way.
The Art Of The Happening
Going to a physical store to shop is an event. To use an analogy, it’s like going to a movie theater instead of watching at home. Sure, there’s the instant gratification that comes from going to the location to “get it now”. But there’s more to the theater than exclusivity. The venues, at least the better ones, provide an experience. It’s an event and a happening.
Shoppers who “check in” to a physical store via social media aren’t simply looking for a coupon or offer. Often they are saying “Hey, look…I’m doing something. I’m out there in the world, taking action.” But are they being treated to a feeling of excitement by the brand experience and given reinforcement that what they’re doing is interesting? In other words, did they arrive at a location, or at an event?
The Audience As Participants
In the age of the connected customer, the audience for brand media is not passive. Because of their affinity for empowerment and communications, they are able to be active participants in the new media.
For a compelling example of brand media engagement, take a look at the recent campaign by the fast fashion retailer Uniqlo. To promote their new line of t-shirts, a multi-channel experience was created to engage the customers as brand media participants.
A purpose-built mobile app was created for the campaign. The app allows customers to create two-second video clips showing them with their new Uniqlo t-shirt and “showing off their moves”. The app is promoted in the store, with a small stage area set up with lights and a backdrop. Customers can shoot their video (either in-store or elsewhere) and can post it to social media and to a special microsite set up by the brand at ut.uniqlo.com. The user-generated content is also showcased in the store as montages on digital signage video-walls.
In the post-advertising age, the most effective brand media content can go beyond storytelling, and into customer participation. Brands are now finding ways to move audiences to participate in the storytelling process.
The Store Is Still The Star
For most retailers, the store is the ultimate manifestation of the brand. It’s the place where customers are fully engaged with the brand. And while it’s still the moment of truth for creating transactions, it’s also the time and place for creating a deeper connection with the customer.
Many retail brands have great mobile apps, websites, YouTube channels and social media. But there is often a lack of awareness of these touchpoints. This awareness gap can be bridged by more effectively leveraging the store to tell the brand story, and to let the customer know all the ways they can engage the brand further after leaving the store.