In the marketing industry, we have been talking, writing and even creating a shift in the way that we do business for over a decade. Early blogs and (what is now called) social media provided an inkling into where the shift was going – away from paid media into “owned” and “earned” media. This was a difficult, but relatively understandable transition because we were essentially talking the same language – the language of media. Accordingly we shifted from media planning and strategy towards “content planning and strategy” – we were still talking about the same processes behind the brand curtain – it’s just that some of those activities happened on the other side:
- Paid media – traditional advertising like print, television, radio, direct mail, retail/channel and the kind of placement that you have to pay for. The benefits of paid media is that you get (mostly) what you pay for – control over the context, content, use of your logo and other branding, messaging, focus and tone of voice.
- Owned media – your own properties like your website, microsites and blogs, forums or branded communities. To an extent, your Facebook fan pages, Twitter profiles and YouTube channels etc fall into owned media – though you have less precise control over interaction/commentary, overall look and feel (ie your Facebook page is always going to look like it belongs to Facebook).
- Earned media – the word of mouth, social mentions (tweets, status updates, mentions, reviews, blog posts) and so on that are produced about your brand by your fans. You have little influence over the structure, timing or even appearance of your messaging or branded assets – but it ranks as one of the most influential forms of media.
But while we (marketers) were talking about the different kinds of media, technology companies and startups were out there changing the form and function of that media. They weren’t interested in the marketer’s view of media – looking instead for ways that technology could extend, enhance or accelerate the flow of that media from brand to consumer. Accordingly they focused their efforts on four technology trends – creating an enterprise-scale IT model known as SMAC which combines Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud. And while this works from an inside-out point of view, it must be revisited and reframed to deliver value and relevance to our customers.
Experience as the beating heart of brands
It’s easy to rant about poor customer experience. We see it on social media all the time. Sometimes it is warranted. Sometimes it isn’t. But SMAC has removed the barriers to entry for the vast majority. All we have to do is take a photo upload it to Facebook or Twitter and tag it with #fail and it will reach not only our friends and connections but others who monitor and amplify these kind of failures of brand experience (yes, these people really do exist).
Take a look at this single tweet from Mashable about a “Valentines Day flower failure”. With over 5 million followers and hundreds of retweets – a poor customer experience can turn a bad day into an unfolding disaster.
— Dolores Burks (@doloresburks) February 16, 2015
The point, however, is that we – as consumers – experience brands at a very personal level. With this in mind, it is worth reframing SMAC and media from the outside-in. It’s time to understand the behavioural triggers that arise out of SMAC and create engagement that works for our fans, customers, and advocates.
- Social: The Social dimension has the potential to deliver powerful, personal yet scalable CONNECTION. It offers a single conversational channel, builds trust and offers a way to accelerate a resolution or conversion process
- Mobile: The Mobile dimension delivers LOCATION. With a connected device in your pocket (close to your beating heart), a mobile phone is the convergence point where the digital and the “real” worlds collide
- Analytics: The power of big data is not in crunching everything known about a customer. The real value is in delivering AWARENESS to a network. This effectively means creating USER context from the social, mobile and business data signals available
- Cloud: And the cloud provides the mechanism for SERVICE. To remain relevant to customers, brands must re-acquaint themselves with the value of service. And Cloud provides the mechanism to do so.
Combining SMAC with an understanding of customer behaviour means that SERVICE can be delivered conveniently at the right time, in the right space in the right context. And even in the right environment.
Is it the future of marketing? Don’t look too far towards the horizon, for this future has already happened. Only some heard it knocking on the door.