When every media planner comes to his/her client asking for more money for advertising and content, Dormammu (the client) stands at the door and says, “I need results, and I will not pay much.” It is this very conundrum that the marketing strategist plans around.
Netflix is set to reach 90 million US homes, but does not offer any content tiers to their service. What does that mean? The heat is cranking up. The content game has just begun and YouTube, Facebook, Voot, Amazon Video Prime, TimeWarner, and millions of creators across the internet are fighting for your attention. Stranger Things and Black Mirror were two of the masterpieces that came out last year, both with strategically different PR outputs. Content is really cheap to consume and in many cases, even free.
What about advertising? Did that get better? Unfortunately, it did not. Advertising is still where it was three years ago — still struggling with poor engagement and worse, manipulation of the “trending” sections of YT (algo-dominated), Twitter (dying), and FB (robotic mess). From social experiments and feel-good videos, to bland tasting launches and porn festivals, we’ve seen everything this year from our advertisers.
So here we have an industry that stands to gain everything from supply-side economics but can’t convert due to risk-aversion and lack of empathy for their customers.
I’ve personally worked on many big and small campaigns, either directly or indirectly through consulting, and let me tell you this — we still have no concrete idea about what you, as consumers, want. We’re still stumbling and bumbling, with major research houses giving us data that doesn’t communicate anything. We’re still making decisions based on papas and uncles that are holding fort at the CEO position. We’re still talking to every level of hierarchy imaginable just to get a simple creative approved. This is life for us marketers, and B2B is getting worse every year.
Now let’s look at the other end of the spectrum at big brands like Gaana, Apple, and Google, the ones that innovate beyond their competition to take over markets. Here are their ads:
Now as you can see, these ads communicate very little and are simply using wordplay (as one executive described it to me) and brand leverage to pull consumers into choosing their products and services. We still have no idea what they want. But we’re trying.
The biggest problem of 2016 was the lack of trying due to the higher attrition rates we saw in both upper management and low-end executioners. People were moving left, right, and centre because they realised that ‘social media’ and ‘digital marketing’ aren’t just tweets and shares. It’s real business. And people are opening up to the fact that they don’t know much of anything. We even relied on celebs and influencers to sell our products but even that led to them just opening their own lines of clothes, fitness products, or makeup. Brands are losing the battle and are nowhere to be found, with competitors simply surviving on price leverages and lipstick-on-a-pig brand launches. Big brands, especially in the hospitality, telecom, and real estate sectors are struggling due to a lack of a clear brand message. This is because we’re still, as Seth Godin would describe it, looking for a purple cow.
Which was the world’s biggest ever launch? It was the launch of Tesla’s Model 3 car in 2016, which had a bigger opening record than any brand that has ever existed — 3,25,000 cars ordered in one week. Want to know why? It’s a purple cow. People have forgiven Tesla and Elon for multiple mistakes because customers love the brand, and Elon knows the importance of developing a good one. Now the biggest launch in India in 2016? Reliance Jio — competed on price mechanics and utilised its gigantic infrastructure pull (previously lying dormant). It is set to reach 100 million subscribers by the end of April 2017. However, how much is Jio really going to make off each patron? Not much, if anything.
Now look at the loyalty that fans have for franchises that develop into brand deals. Look at the number of risks that the content industry has taken with movies and shows like Dr Strange, Black Mirror, Stranger Things, Sherlock, Deadpool, and so on. These are purely based on fans’ love and appreciation and a real solid brand developed on top of it all. Some call it pure luck, and others like my industry and I see the whole episode as a brand communications strategy, one scene at a time. We used to innovate but now we just allocate — spends, media plans, and lead-generation strategies. We’ve stopped believing in people, in our customers.
Let’s not make 2017 a mirror of our mistakes in 2016. Let’s really talk to our clients and customers and offer them something they love instead of just another vendor and provider in the sea of others.