Twenty years ago marketing messages were mostly about "providing solutions." Today they're about "building relationships." These business objectives have been around for centuries – so what's so different today?
It's not just the technology. Technological advancements are inherent to human history: from the plow, to the combustion engine, to the modern-day computer. What counts is how these advancements enable and empower us – to do the human things we've been doing for a long time now – in different and in better ways.
Web-based technologies have brought about the democratization of traditional communications. Quality metrics like writing, graphics, and accuracy have given ground to the lightning speed of content access, personal delivery, and collaboration. Sound fidelity of music and the quality of video images have been sacrificed for mobility and portability. With the rise of the iPod and Blackberry, many advertising companies are making use of applications that allow users to access their media outlet with the click of a button. For example, Amazon.com has mobile applications for the Blackberry and iPhone. With search engine technology and web-based software supporting a decentralized, consumer-based publishing model, today's Internet is a place for conversations, not broadcasts, for empowerment, not docility.
Old Models Don't Work as Well in a New Environment
There are those who continue to retrofit television advertising models by using web page banner ads and wonder why they're not getting the same paybacks per impression they use to. The convey the same old messages that their product is the "best", the "brightest", the "least expensive" – not seeming to realize the effectiveness of "informative" marketing and that with a few clicks, a web surfer can probably get all the facts and customer testimonials about their products, service, and reputation – the good, the bad, the indifferent.
Even pioneers of the one-way broadcasting age knew the power of informative marketing. David Oglivy the co-founder of Oglivy and Mather said "factual advertising...always sells better than empty advertising. All I did was give my customer the facts. The majority of ad campaigns fail to give consumers enough information." Raymond Rubicam, co-founder of Young and Rubicam, claimed that "advertising has a responsibility to behave properly."
However, many people are still dazzled by inane, wiz-bang graphical user interface "effects." It might be okay for "wowness" or for an artsy, emotionally charged branding campaign; however, the internet has spawned savvy, search-based consumers who are responsive to informative marketing – not "wowness." Similarly, today's incessant procreation of "apps", RSS channels, and social networking links may soon fold over on itself due to oversaturation and blurred context for business users.
Traversing such as tumultuous media webscape presents challenges and opportunities for professional communicators. It's up to us how we choose and use our software enablers, and whether or not we take the time to make smart decisions and adjustments to align software functionality with our strategic communications plans, our business objectives, and our company's mission statement.
Don't Advertise, Demotise!
The question for students and professionals in the field of communications (especially advertising, marketing communications, and public relations on the internet) is where do we go from here? I think we need not just advertise – but "demotise".
A combination of demonstration and advertising, "demotising" engages viewers and prospects – taking them on a product tour, telling them a story, allowing them to drive product around the block for a virtual test drive, or even using interactivity to transform "viewers" into "participants" by completing a product task or solving a problem.
Fiat, for example, created an innovative new product, called "EcoDrive", which got users engaged with a USB drive that plugged alternately into their Fiat cars and their home computers. It monitored such things as your gas mileage and CO2 emissions giving you tips and targets for improvement. They demotised this interactive product with an animated YouTube video that was fun to watch, very informative, and worth sharing.
Fiat's EcoDrive is an example of demotising at its best
A demonstration can also link your new product to the viewer's experience, achieving the "product familiarity" needed to support a successful product marketing campaign. Traditional advertising cannot achieve what "demotising" can.
Effective product demonstration elicits a level of trust, confidence, and product knowledge that advertisements alone cannot achieve. Website visitors are more inclined to learn about, believe in, and in some cases endorse what they've seen. A great example here was Samsung's "HD camera trick challenge". Samsung introduced their I8910 camera phone, which had a built-in HD camera, by creating a film that demonstrated the camera by using its HD capabilities to perform a cool visual trick. They turned it into a contest where people could try to guess how they did it. People not only endorsed the idea, it became one of the most popular viral videos on the web. (Here is a link to the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iX8iVo5vc8o)
You can even email your demos to customers and prospects, paving the way for a more production follow-up telephone conversation or offline meeting.
Be it Adobe Flash demo or a straight video feed, your demonstration should be at the heart of your overall web advertising campaign. We should become more familiar with technologies such as Web 2.0, Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), and the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA). We should work closely with your business analysts and IT people when developing your "communications plumbing" – plan it, manage it, and adjust it intelligently.
Things to Think About Going Forward
Use these questions to guide you:
The online world is not as much about optimizing presentation; it's more about optimizing interaction. Create as much 'surface area' on your site to engage viewers in dialog and collaboration. Supplement product demonstrations with call-back software, follow-up webinars, hypertext links to Sales and Customer Support inboxes, customer testimonials, online content, and offline events.
Not only do these tactics bolster lead-generation initiatives, they help qualify sales prospects and provide for a shorter, more efficient sales cycle. Remember, share of market feeds the ego; share of customer feeds the company.