BREAKING NEWS: THE WORLD IS CHANGING.
This comes as no surprise to those of us who work in digital – a space in which technological evolutions move almost as quickly as our minds can think them up. At times, the speed of change can be frustrating, astounding, or confusing. But as I learned from Publicis Groupe Chief Growth Officer Rishad Tobaccowala when I attended the 4A’s StratFest on October 16-17, 2019, “Change sucks, but irrelevance is worse.”
It’s true: cultural relevance is currency in today’s world, so the value of adapting, thriving through periods of change far outweighs the discomfort of enduring it. And in fact, a quarter of consumer purchase decisions are based on a brand’s cultural relevance, according to a study quoted by Twitter Head of Global Agency Research Meghann Erlhoul in the Inside the Zeitgeist: Conversations Shaping Culture lunch-and-learn session. We know cultural relevance is important – but how do we, as strategists, help to create relevant brands and campaigns?
STOP THINKING OF PEOPLE AS “CONSUMERS”
People don’t view themselves through the lens of a brand, explained Tobaccowala in his opening session, Welcome to the Era of the Empowered Citizen. Instead, they see themselves through the lens of their experiences, their relationships, their real lives. “…it’s our job to bring truths from the streets to the boardroom,” as McGarrah Jessee Brand Strategy Director Hunter Sunrise said during the workshop they led, Mindsets Over Matter: Evolving Personas for Inclusivity and Reduced Bias in the Brief.
Part of the truth we seek to infuse into a brief comes from the understanding the experience – and our place in a larger journey – is fluid. Whether a person is brand new to a product or a life-long user, he or she can take on the role of any persona at any point in their journey with that product. The path isn’t always linear, which presents a greater opportunity for content strategists to think about how we can help people learn and grow by delivering the content that helps them move through their journey as seamlessly as possible, such as progressive content series, sequential messaging, communities where people can share stories and guide one another. No one stays in one place on the journey just because their demographics align with a particular idea we have of a consumer because...
MEDIA 👏 TARGETS 👏 ARE 👏 NOT 👏 PERSONAS 👏
Amen, Hunter Sunrise! There’s so much more to people than the demographic and interest-based information that a media partner can use to reach them on a digital platform. Our job is to create meaningful stories that connect our brands to the people we ultimately serve, not just people who fit into the gender, age, and interest groups we’ve identified as being relevant to the brand. It’s our job to create relevance for the brand to reach people, not to find the users that we’ve deemed relevant for our brands.
IT’S TIME TO RETHINK THE CLIENT REQUEST
Nearly all of the Jay Chiat Award winners did so. Like that time Monash University in Australia asked their agency for a bar brochure to help protect students from having their drinks spiked. Yes, you read that correctly. 4,500 Australians have their drinks spiked every year, and about 40% of those lead to sexual assault. Naturally, brochures could be deployed to solve this problem, right? Changing the culture to reduce drink-spiking would undoubtedly be more effective than a brochure or any marketing effort, but would obviously take much longer to do. So the agency used BJ Fogg’s behavior method to identify small changes that would help to keep students safer. Unsurprisingly, brochures were not recommended, so the agency and the university went back to the drawing board to figure out what would resonate with students while they’re out drinking. They came up with SipSafe, a revolutionary wristband that would allow a student to put a drop of their drink on a designated area to assess in two minutes whether or not it was safe to drink. Much more effective than a brochure!
Another great example came from the New York Public Library, which wanted to get more Gen Zers' off their phones and into the library. The agency, however, had other ideas. Rather than bringing young people to the library, they’d bring the library to them by creating InstaNovels – Instagram Story versions of works available in the public domain. They charged social designers to recreate book covers and redesign book pages to allow people to read library books right on their phones. According to the team, more than 300,000 InstaNovels were read start-to-finish. tl;dr if you can’t beat ‘em, join ’em.
It was a really informative, eye-opening two days at StratFest. Thanks, Digitas Health, for allowing me to attend, learn, and bring back the new knowledge to share!