Let’s start with what everyone in the marketing communications industry sets out to achieve between their brands and customers… sales, results, loyalty and continued endorsement.
And whilst we can theorise about the importance and weighting of service versus innovation versus price versus any other dimension, to be truly successful, any and every offer must resonate in the hearts and minds of your prospective customers. In other words, all communication must build and deliver one key ingredient: engagement.
In the beginning (well post-war beginning), engagement was largely and almost exclusively achieved via a new telecommunications revolution called television.
Originating from the Greek for far vision, television as opposed to other mediums of the time, allowed potential customers to ‘engage’ and almost interact with their brands, services and products; to assign, establish or embellish personality, tone, voice, colour and movement; to portray the essence as being ‘something for someone like you’…all without leaving the comfort of their own home.
But today, television no longer operates as the visual monopoly it once was. Today, ‘vision’ is ubiquitous and comes in many different forms, shapes and sizes; from gigantic 3-D Home Entertainment Plasmas to miniature Skype-enabled wristwatches.
And just as television once changed the way we access the world, we are now witnessing a change in the way we access our ‘programmed’ vision. Today, we find screens in our living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms…we encounter them on public transport and in our cars; at home and abroad, at work and on our holidays …in virtually every space during every second of the day.
They are more than mere vehicles for commercials; today’s ubiquitous screens are also our cameras, game modules, travel alarms, social media facilitators…our windows to the world. Of the estimated 10,000 brand images a day we are believed to be exposed to, many come via the omnipresent ‘screen’.
‘Far’ vision has essentially morphed into ‘far(ther) vision’ so much so that even our language is evolving into more visual than text based, where previously little used symbols such as # and @ and shortened words have become ungrammatically accepted and commonplace. And each and every marketer is trying to determine exactly when the ‘tipping point’ between ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ media will be reached…when does the new become the norm?
Welcome to the next generation of visual engagement…one not constrained to a single type of screen, but to a multiplex of screens.
Just as ‘wireless’ evolved in meaning from a transistor radio to a form of non-restrained communication, we now genuinely have entered a brave new world of ‘broad-cast’, a revolution where we don’t just meaningfully reach more and more people, but reach them more and more often.
But despite the explosion in the number, shape, size and mobility of ‘screens’, there still remains an imperative to deliver genuine and relevant ‘engagement’. This has not changed since the 1950’s… nor will it change even as we head towards 2050.
Put simply, without engagement, you will never achieve desire. So as a starting point, engagement via new technology needs to be at the heart of developing and growing any business. But if communication without engagement fails to deliver, so too does engagement without any real form of action.
And right now, there is a fast emerging yet equally important consideration to developing any marketing communication… delivering and fulfilling connections.
Without connection, you have nothing more than pent-up desire.
And while this may be good in some areas where anticipation is at the heart of the marketing programme (such as the launch of a new Apple product or the next installment in the Twilight series), in the vast majority of cases, there needs to be a second string in every piece of communication. We need to quickly and simply connect our customers with what we have told them they need…and we need to do it quickly.
We live in a world where ‘real time’ has become the only time.
The concept of having to wait (much less save) has well and truly been superseded by credit cards, no deposit and interest free offers, DHL deliveries to your home and, of course, twenty-four hour availability via the internet.
The internet has succeeded, in part, because it delivers both on-screen engagment and real-time connection. When you are engaged to an idea, product, service or brand, you have an ability to access right at your fingertips, which is why retailers are currently struggling with marketing programmes too heavily weighted towards engagement while ‘connection’ remains all too reliant on store opening hours and an often unacceptable time commitment (to travel, to park, to visit, to look for service!).