Okay. I know I’ve been envisioning a world where advertising will be transparent, seamless, targeted and minus all the mumbo jumbo that we’ve become accustomed to. But to reach this level of efficiency, a product or service has to first establish itself in the market. Herein comes the matter of branding.
A quick example. When Apple launched the iPhone, it did virtually no advertising. The mere mention from Steve Jobs that Apple is launching a phone was enough to create a ripple onto the sea of consumers. A buzz was created first among newsmen and techies then all the way to college nerds and the average consumers. People formed opinions about the iPhone months before it was even officially launched. And when it did hit the stores, the demand for an iPhone was overwhelming. Even that that time, advertising was minimal.
So what does this tell us? It’s not that Apple didn’t have to money to advertise to create the desired buzz, they just let consumers do it at almost no cost. But to be able to do this, there are 2 key criteria:
- The product has to be revolutionary and ground-breaking. Something that consumers have not seen, heard, felt or used before. It has to be a product that taps into a relatively untapped market. In the case of the iPhone, it’s Mobile Phone Entertainment.
- An established brand presence; especially as a leader in your market segment. In the case of Apple, it’s The Most Innovative Tech Gadget Maker. It also helped that Apple had already launched other successful products: the iMac and iPod come to mind.
Granted, the big boys with the dough have the advantage. They can leverage on their big brand presence and seamlessly transition into an advertising future that’s becoming more and more minimalist. Let’s say Google announces it plans to launch an application that scans the world’s online documents and creates an article on any subject in a click of a button, with contributing writers compensated. You pay a fee of USD3.99 for each article churned by this application which is fact-checked, referenced and annotated.
Now Google is a big, trusted online brand and people would be happy to part with their money for a product that they know would be of quality. Now if Microsoft announced it wanted to launch a similar product, well let’s just say there could be a couple of issues. Remember Windows ME anyone? Here’s while the product is revolutionary, the brand that is advocating it may have a problem convincing consumers due to past functionality problems. For the record, I would just like to say here that I have nothing against Microsoft.
So what can up and coming brands that do not have the presence do? For them, the product or service becomes critical. They must get it spot on. It has to be of real use to the consumers. It must create a new market or venture into an underserved segment. In short you have to be the first in your brand category, a pioneer. No one else must have what you intend to offer, even differing USPs won’t work; it has to be a brand new product or service.
Here are some success snippets as examples:
Apple, a now revered tech company, created the iPod, a portable, intuitive digital music player.
Nescafe, the world’s largest selling coffee, was the first instant coffee.
Old Town Coffee, now a successful franchise, was the first upmarket “Kopitiam”
Perodua, now the No.1 local car brand, was the first to introduce compact cars in Malaysia
Digi, a leader in the pre-paid business, was the first to introduce prepaid calling.
A word of warning though, just being first isn’t enough. You must also be the first in the minds of the consumers. And you must work to keep the brand presence at Top of Mind levels consistently. This is why Proton is not the No.1 local car manufacturer anymore. It was the first, but never really did anything after that.
Forgive me for the rather long title. But then again, it is still within the 8-word limit, which is presumably the threshold of an effective headline. But then again again, this and pretty much every other ad-rule that you and I have painstakingly learned over the years could turn out to be antiquated junk. Remember the ‘cow-gum’ anyone?
While we’re haggling on the most catchy headline or where not the place the logo or how many more slides it will take to convince the client, the industry is evolving at breakneck speed, right under our noses. Ignore the signs at your own peril:
1. Mass advertising is dying: TV audiences are dwindling, newspapers are seeing reduced readership and radio listeners are tuning out.
2. Consumers are becoming or are already smarter: with a wealth of information just a search away, consumers are making purchase decisions way before they even go to a retail outlet or pick up the phone.
3. Clients are becoming increasingly results oriented: viewership, readership and strong creative do not faze clients anymore. It’s Click-Through-Rates, Page Views, Cost Per Impression. Bottom line… ROI.
4. Ads have to work harder and quicker with the amount of clutter that permeates the media. Consumers are seeing through the creative fluff, which is becoming increasingly cheesy.
5. Shouting FREE! and EXCLUSIVE! don’t seem to work: okay, let me rephrase, they don’t seem to work as well as they used to. The audience know exactly what they want and crave relevancy, quality and newness over freebies or empty promises.
These are just 5 early warning signs, from the top of my head, pointing to an advertising future that may become unrecognizable sooner than you think. I guess we’d all be happily trudging along had it not been for the internet, which is threatening the livelihood of traditional advertising. But the web is not the only contributor to these winds of change.
There’s a far more powerful force that is dictating the evolution of advertising, and yet we hardly notice. If fact, we are part of this force as every time we use it, it becomes better. This entity began with a humble quest of ‘organizing the world’s information’ and I must say it have succeeded admirably. I am referring to none other than our favourite surfing buddy… Google.
What has Google got to do with advertising you ask? Everything I say. For the average user, Google is a tool to search for content online. Google’s business is search, and it was just search in the beginning. Slowly but surely, Google has evolved into a media cum content cum advertising agency. It has made advertising even more transparent, bridging the divide between advertisers and potential customers. There will come a time where you will be able to buy almost anything online (if that’s not the case already). No more fancy advertising agency, kick-ass creative or mind-boggling strategies.
Advertiser signs up for a Google account, and with a ridiculously low budget creates a targeted, virtually risk-free advertising campaign. Consumers search for a product or service, sees the sponsored link on the results page by an advertiser and clicks on it. The consumers are now at the advertiser’s doorstep to be done with as pleased. Simple, effective, direct, focused, efficient and economical.
You may argue that this is just an online trend. How would this work in a real, physical world? Technology is moving at such a blinding pace that we will become more and more wired as the years or even months roll on. There are web-enabled mobile phones, GPS navigation systems and the now humble laptops to encroach into our increasingly wired world.
Imagine this scenario:
You walk out for lunch from your city-centre corporate office. The restaurants are crowded, there’s hardly a spot for you and your lunch buddies.
Normally, you would ‘tapau’ and dine on your desk while pretending to be a model employee. Well, that’s so… hmmmm… 2.0. Fast forward a few years into the future and this is how your lunchtime might pan out.
You whip out your phone (which is a PDA cum netbook cum camera cum navigator cum alarm clock) and search for restaurants with a table for four in your area. You make a reservation, which will be held for, say, 10 minutes.
Now that’s lunching made easy. Now where does advertising come in all this? Can you see it? Subtle but effective. The restaurants will actually pay the Lunch Search Service to be listed.
Isn’t that advertising at its fundamental form? Connecting businesses with potential customers? No art direction, no compelling copy, no insightful strats… no fuss!
You know what? It’s not too far away I tell you.