The power of choice is both the friend and enemy of brands in the attention economy — a positive and negative charge at the nucleus of dynamic brand activation (DBA). Understanding the attention economy is one thing; how brands prove they have paid attention is quite another.
A recent study reveals that bad advertising may reduce purchase intent, an outcome that is quite problematic in an era where brands need consumers more than consumers need brands. People follow values and hope to believe in the verity of their brands. They do not want to be played or hijacked. Who are these people we speak of? They are us: individual yet tribal.
Simply segmenting audiences by tribes won’t allow brands to connect deeply or broadly enough with potential consumers. We all belong to a subculture of people characterized by feelings of empathy, camaraderie and, for the most part, sharing. Thus, we see fandom as the strong motivating desires that link audience tribes.
Fandom is the mass following of people who appreciate something or someone. These fans are happy to be associated with, share and even support a valued idea or person. For example, the people that follow the courage of Malalai Joya and her advocacy for women’s education and empowerment constitute a fandom. Another example of fandom is the Virgin brand. On the surface, the brand flies forward on its devotion to its airplanes and many other services and products. However, Virgin’s constant endeavor to reach beyond the predictable and advance people’s perspective on both material comforts and a signature feeling of togetherness makes it beloved by many.
We are also united by our shared need to be understood, channeled and supported. People, by nature, want to feel needed, and our state of being can change frequently. Having an understanding of how to cultivate fandom and need at moments that matter often defines commercial strength or failure.
Many brands die in this space. They promise great things, but at the moment of transaction, they fall apart. Brands must provide the best of storytelling by being richly creative, relevant and timely. However, they must also deliver and go beyond the obvious to excel.
Consumers increasingly fragment their attention across a slew of emerging media, social channels and platforms. Most brands, of course, recognize unequivocally that these mediums are teeming with opportunity. Many companies act on this allure by creating new experiences; however, if these creative experiences have little understanding of the deeper desires or needs of people, they will only ever provide simple “fun” at high commercial cost.
The intersection of human sensibility and AI-powered engines is not enough to ensure success. One critical component of dynamic content optimization is to optimize for emotional KPIs, such as customer satisfaction, sentiment, brand advocacy and net promoter scores, as well as the more obvious financial KPI. Put another way, customers won’t come back if you’re only optimizing your messaging toward a sales objective. Alternatively, if a lot of people are happy but not generating money for the brand, you shouldn’t be repeating the exercise.
There are four hallmarks of dynamic brand activation.
These primary tenets empower brands to align themselves with an audience’s fandom and their common interests, hobbies and genres. The hallmarks of DBA also address an audience’s state of needfulness: their strong need to be understood, channeled, supported through transactions and thereafter.
Authentic Human Connection
Creating authentic human connection is a fundamental tenet of delivering DBA. How can brands do this? By leveraging the power of storytelling and creating experiences that are relevant and differentiated both online and offline. This is best served by understanding the nuances of an audience’s fandom, along with their state of need. Is your brand standing with them, or talking at them?
Consumers have undoubtedly taken power back from brands. They dictate the pace, channel and context they prefer. The power of choice allows them to say, “Take it or leave it. We matter.”
More than ever, it is imperative to leverage data, technology and creativity as we design value-creating experiences that allow people to enter conversations, share and freely participate. As stated in my previous article, brands can use this powerful intersection to understand fandom and needfulness, and thus be empathetic to what matters most to people. This requires seeing people not as segments, but as tribes. It requires an intensified focus on contextual relevance and ensuring empathy is innate to the total organization. Only by recognizing and enabling the opt-in culture will an enterprise succeed.
Clients depend on high-precision, timely activities that are not only good for the moment but are informed enough to prompt a long-tail effect.
Companies have to be present before, during and long after an event to remain relevant and top of mind. Create opportunities to share what is coming. Then be there in the moment, and facilitate conversations and interactions long after that moment ends.
Assumption is the mother of all problems. Consumers within our fluid market require actionable insights to be applied during moments that matter. Brands must evolve by integrating data and using findings gathered from real-time opinions in a timely manner. This goal is best met by designing the separate yet interconnected pillars of fandom and need.
Precision analytics works best through the power of the budget pivot — the ability to keep budgets fluid and relevant. Keep a portion of the budget unallocated, designed as a weapon for the moment, rather than for what you assume will happen quarter to quarter.
Be known for powering perfect experiences fueled by authentic human connection.