How emotional content can change the game for digital marketing

24th of Jul 2018

Michelle Bourke


What should the creative role of a digital agency be? In Australia this year, CMO’s have allocated an average of 40.2% of their marketing budget to digital (that’s up from 37.6% last year). In China, Sweden and the UK, marketing budgets have already grown to 55% for digital activities.

So in a world where digital accounts for more spend than traditional media, what leadership role does a digital agency play?

Traditionally, demand creation campaigns that focussed on brand awareness would have TV, radio and other offline spend allocated to them. Often campaign concepts would be determined by creative agencies who have amazing creative skill sets, but lack a thorough understanding of the digital channels that the campaign would be delivered into.

This ends in a concept executed beautifully in a TV campaign being dumbed down for digital distribution to the point where there is no emotional connection between the brand and the consumer.

Why would you try to execute one message across all digital channels when you have the opportunity to intricately target your messaging? In this environment, a new approach that takes the delivery nuances of each digital channel is needed.

For instance, you have a maximum of 6 seconds to emotionally connect with your audience on a YouTube bumper ad.

Marketing Ad Skipping Syndrome - Foresight Digital Marketing Cartoon

Or perhaps 15 seconds on a Facebook video ad. The content that will drive action and engagement in such a short period of time is VERY different to a 30 second TV ad.

I would argue that during this time of both consumer and marketing budget transition from offline to online media, we need to consider that the concept of being a “digital agency” may become largely irrelevant.

Instead, one of two things will happen. Traditional agencies will need to add a much deeper understanding of digital to their repertoire, or digital agencies will need to rise above their execution-type role that many play and become creative architects and orchestrators of the digital realm.

Foresight Digital Marketing Cartoon - Creative Orchestrator of Digital

Imagine a time when your digital agency sets the creative concepts and tone across the complex and fragmented landscape of digital media. And imagine a time that work flows from digital to traditional channels, rather than the other way around.

Over the last 6 months in conversations with various companies, I’ve come across multiple situations where there is more revenue, more acquisition, more retention coming in via digital channels and yet budgets are still controlled by a team responsible for non digital tasks. I’m not sure the answer is to hand over all control to digital by the way, but I believe we need to think more strategically about what best approach during this transitional period should be.

While chatting with Anshu Arora from RMIT Online a couple of months ago, we were discussing the concept of demand creation vs just demand acquisition, and I think this is a big part of the gap.

The role of digital, by virtue of the fact that you can track EVERYTHING, has turned into a demand acquisition beast.

Foresight Marketing Cartoon - Digital Demand Acquisition Beast

Every campaign is defined by its ability to deliver a direct response, ultimately a conversion. In some ways, because we expect digital to measure up in ROI at a campaign level, we forget that:

a) Someone needs to sit at the top of the machine making sure people actually understand the benefits and value of what we’re selling, regardless of who they buy it from.

b) Someone needs to create a deeper emotional connection with the audience than a static banner ad can achieve, to build awareness. Increased brand awareness equals more brand searches, and brand searches always convert at much higher rates than discovery or “non-brand” searches.

So, how do we create that emotional connection?

We need to elevate the creative planning part of digital performance planning to the same level that the number crunching is at. So what if you can get 5,000,000 impressions across 2 months for your display ad? If it doesn’t emotionally connect, if it doesn’t say something useful, all you’ve done is show a bunch of people your dirty laundry. That’s not inspiring anyone to choose your brand.

Here are just a few ideas for how you could tweak digital execution to generate emotional connection:

  • Start by being really aware of the channel that a campaign or always-on brand message will be run in.
    Each channel has different targeting options, and different levels of interactivity can be built into ads depending on the channel. This should be considered at the beginning to drive both ad creative and messaging because it will have a direct impact on the level of engagement you can expect.
  • For instance, why not come up with different messaging based on the way your segments break down and can also be targeted in the channel.
    So if Facebook allows you to target by gender and by age, and the biggest differences you see in communication styles are across age brackets, then why not match your ad copy to the market segment preferences? Then test your ad messaging on Google Consumer surveys before publishing to confirm the wording on a broader scale before media investment.
Create Facebook Audience
  • Or how about starting the process above by tapping into existing internal customer survey data.
    This is especially relevant for organisations who already track NPS or other CSAT measures. If you’ve never run a customer survey before, never fear, it only costs $350 for an annual subscription to SurveyMonkey and you get unlimited responses. So there’s no excuse for not understanding who your customers are. Give them ample opportunity to write in their own words, not just check boxes.
Foresight Marketing Cartoon - You Cant Checkbox Emotions
  • For instance, what do they do directly before and after they purchase from your brand? Even if just interacting with your brand, what are your customers doing? Why did they buy from you? Why might they stop buying from you? Get to the bottom of their motivators, their core drivers, look at the language they use and then link this back in to your advertising. Authentic wording (whether in written text or as part of a video script) rather than marketing speak is what creates those powerful emotional connections.
  • Customers aren’t the only ones with amazing insights into what makes you different.
    If you’re looking to understand what key messages should be covered in a brand campaign, speak to your sales teams or your front line staff. They usually know exactly which value proposition actually works with customers, they’re the ones having those conversations every day.
  • Consider the content beyond the ad.
    Where are you actually driving people to? If it’s a brand ad, how can the page you send them to help to reinforce your brand promise, or the differentiator you mention in the ad? For instance, if the message is to consider the brand because all clothing fibres are manufactured and made local to Australia, then imagine a landing page that gave them more proof points: a web app they could use to inspect the material up close, short videos with the men and women who make the material, images or illustrations of normal Australians wearing the clothes, perhaps gathered from Instagram hashtags.
  • Repurpose existing successful content.
    Review content that you have created for other channels such as SEO or organic social, could you use it for an ad? What’s already working in other digital channels for your audience and how could it be repurposed? Is there a Facebook video that your staff or customers made which could be turned into a video ad? Have you created an infographic which, with the help of an animator, you could repurpose into a beautiful interactive display ad?
  • Make it real. Genuine.
    Someone asked me the other day when I said this, what I meant by “genuine” and I’ll admit, like “authentic” it’s a very overused and under-explained word in marketing. To me this means – if you’re doing a video ad for YouTube, get some real life customers in it, or do a vox pop. Don’t overthink the production, this isn’t going on TV. You’re better off creating shorter messages with a bit of humour, than longer content which people will generally stop watching after 15 seconds. To be clear, I’m not advocating for the end of long form video content online. I’m simply suggesting we consider the balance of investment vs outcome, while also keeping in mind the general behaviour of consumers online. If you’re interrupting their activity, you can always expect much lower and shorter engagement than if they’re already a captive audience. For example, if they’re already on your landing page, that may be where you choose to present them with longer form content.

The merging of creative and its ability to connect emotionally through the practice of segmentation, targeting and tight budget management across digital media channels is the future of digital marketing. This balance of the left and right brains is what we need to actually cut through a vast sea of information and connect with our customers on a deeper level.

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