Decades ago, when print media set up the modus operandi for mass communication, brands and businesses were an information oligarchy. Most of the time, consumers had to listen to what brands and businesses said, as they are short of reliable sources of information — at least sources they could consider committing to print. Back then, a lot of people could make a fortune out of their monopoly and pairing people with information mismatch. This is the era we call Communication 1.0.
However, with the development of modern business, and the awareness of customers, things have changed. On the one hand, industrial markets are becoming more and more competitive as there are more brands joining the game with similar products and diverse advantages. Within this situation, on the other hand, the awareness of consumers has shifted their role from that of an obedient dog to a cool cat.
Brands need to make consumers happy to draw their attention; no longer will customers run to brands if they become suspicious of misinformation. Consumers spend more time considering, comparing, and evaluating with the digital tools to hand. The competitive market has raised a new challenge for customer retention as the business need to face a brand switch as well.
For sure, this challenge comes with its own miscommunication and unresearched bias, but now the playing field is level, with brands and consumers able to make their own factual faux pas that will influence a large audience.
Communication models in the modern age.
Brands and businesses have evolved several communication and marketing strategies to meet this trend. STP (Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning), the four C’s (Consumer wants and needs, Cost to satisfy, Convenience to buy and communication), the four P’s (Product, Price, Place and Promotion) and other marketing models have adapted to the evolution of communication, switching from a one-way communication street to a two-way dialogue between marketers and consumers. This is the era we call Communication 2.0 and in it brands and businesses need to speak what consumers want to hear.
In Communication 2.0, the game run a little bit like this. Firstly, information overload has decreased the credibility and influence of brand communication. Secondly, mobile technologies and the internet have empowered customers with unique voices. But it gets better.
Social attributes are one of the basic factors that make up us as humans. It’s also how customers talk to each other and spread the real powerful stuff — widespread endorsed public opinion. That's why businesses have started to appreciate word-of-mouth more nowadays. Due to the power of social media, everyone becomes a source of information. Brands are no longer superior to consumers; brands need to speak with consumers, and eventually, consumers will speak for brands. This is what modern communication looks like, and we call it communication 3.0.
To step from 2.0 to 3.0, brands needs to put its feet into its consumers’ shoes, as Red Bull has done (see our blog in part one for clarification). They need to define and find a clear direction for their words and ideas with ‘vessels’ of content that can be communicated so that their brand and products are highly bonded under a range of topics relevant to an emotional territory. They need to tap into a philosophy that consumers believe in and are crazy about, one which refers to the latest trendy topic and insinuates a crowd culture. A big budget helps here, but it won’t surpass a good, shareable idea.
During the Communication 2.0 era, businesses followed the philosophy that the customer is king, or the customer is God (as the Japanese liked to say).
However, in Communication 3.0, businesses and customers are no longer superior to each other. Instead, they are brothers and sisters who co-create the same value and contribute to each other’s ideas. This is the first principle of modern communication.
Why the king’s reign is truly over.
Another reveal from Red Bull’s story , particularly if you’re working within marketing yourself, is that the days the advertising king no longer reigns supreme. The king has stepped down, and while they’re still good at moving products, they’re not solely responsible for making the decisions.
That’s because of the shift digital media has allowed. Instead of writing ‘at’ audiences, using the brand, catchy message or jingle to implant the idea that your make of running shoe is better, digital media puts the user in the driver’s seat. Nor do the audience direct you, the business, into saying what it wants to hear.
Think of it this way. The king tells you what to do and think. A brother or sister plays the game along with you while you have a leading role in the action. Together, the siblings write the brand story.
How is that digital media can do this?
Like we said earlier, digital media is a two-way street, allowing the advertise (the one who sees the ‘ad’) to respond in real-time. If they don’t like what they see they’ll, at best, repost it, at worst, ignore it.
Something has to make the advertised person feel special enough to want to share and participate in your brand. Either it's entertaining enough to be clicked or compelling enough to follow. Maybe it requires an action from the audience, like committing to ‘just do it’ (as the famous Nike slogan goes).
Whatever it is that the brand wants you to feel, therefore, should be generated within you, not simply stated. If you want your audience to associate your brand with excitement and high energy, create a content plan that ties in with that energy. Get them to share it, repost it, do it themselves.
By the end of your campaign, the user should ‘feel’ the energy themselves and equate that feeling with your brand. You haven’t told them how to feel, you’ve felt along with them. It’s a much more subtle way of advertising, and it works far better — particularly when you consider how skeptical modern audiences are in relation to any advertising.
What to do now?
Start making a content plan and positioning strategy around what you want your customers to feel. Leave the actual product or service off for now — think more about the core benefit they get when engaging with you. What sort of feeling do you want them to have?
Your content strategy should get them to those levels, ending with the brand association. Create a multiphase touchpoint plan. Think about where and how your customers will see you.
It doesn’t need to be on the phone (we all still have some physical world existence, after all), but it will likely involve some digital process. Effectively, you want your audience to be researching you. Give them something that excites them and makes them take notice. Strip back your brand story till it’s just the flavour, and then create content based on what you want your audience to feel. If they click on your message, then they’ll go research you. And if they’re researching you, they’re far more likely to convert than an impassive audience.
The journey of a thousand steps starts with the desire to walk. You don’t have to make your strategy this long, but it should be building up excitement, giving your audience things to read, engage with and otherwise get excited over.
Lastly, don’t be Red Bull. Red Bull is Red Bull. Figure out what makes you exciting and different, and do that. Those who aim for second place often don’t get noticed at all.