This is the part two of an ongoing series of articles about the future of branding and brand marketing.
In part one I presented my thoughts on using social media as billboards to point to your brand. Tweak your audience’s interest through clever use of social media so they exit the information highway at your off ramp and come to your destination.
Now that you’ve got their attention and they’ve stopped the car, the last thing you want to do is set up a tourist trap. Lots of color and flash, but no substance. Cheap, chintzy trinkets are fun for a few minutes and maybe some selfies to post to your friends, but not someplace you want to visit again. That’s going for the quick buck, not long-term audience engagement. You’ll need to continually lure a new audience to make the tourist trap work. To do that you need a connection.
Your off ramp will most likely take your audience to a website, it might be your own, it might be a third party. When your audience gets out of the car, and enters your destination, you want to give them a reason to come back. If people come back, they’ll share that information readily to their network of friends, colleagues and online followers. How do you make them come back? Stories.
Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd said of the cruise line industry “People need to experience a cruise to appreciate it. The best marketing we have is word of mouth.” People we trust, tell us a story that makes us ‘lean in’ to consider using the product or service. Why? Because we are hearing a first hand account of what made the storyteller so eager to share their experience. Someone who is not (at least from all appearances) being paid by the advertiser to share their story. How many restaurants have you visited or trips have you taken because someone you know and trust recommended them?
So your destination should not be thought of as merely a website built only to sell, but as a cross between a bookstore, theater and Google. Bookstores are inviting retail spaces that are full of information, stories and often good coffee. The coffee is there to help make you linger for a while. Theaters are gathering places to be entertained, sometimes in realism and other times full escapism. “Google It” is synonymous with finding useful information and shopping details fast. Relevant information fast, entertainment and shopping. Consumers getting relevant information quickly alongside entertainment with access to shopping. In other words, edutainment. Edutainment is the key to storytelling that can make an audience ‘lean in’ to your brand. It’s the modern version of ‘word of mouth.’
Don’t tell me why your product/service is so amazing, show me through the stories of real people I can relate to. That relativity to the audience is key. You can’t create one set of stories and connect with your entire, desired demographic, it’s not possible. GEICO is a great example of this with the varied types of storylines they run in various ad campaigns. Each campaign appeals to a different demographic and collectively gets the attention of a larger audience base than any single story-based campaign.
Social Media and those who influence us on the platforms are the billboards for Word of Mouth today. Social Media gets your attention to make the turn to the exit ramp, stop and get out of the car. Now you need to present authentic stories on the what, why and how of your brand without selling. You need to present good, quality information that the audience can use and relate to. Give me value, give me a reason to want to connect to your brand and tell everyone in my network about your brand. In other words, real stories from real people showcasing their connection to a brand because they WANT to is worth more than any advertising dollar spent on any messaging that says “buy this thing because it’s awesome.”
So don’t litter your destination with splashy ads, click bait and a continual barrage of Buy This Now! Instead, build a destination that educates, entertains, informs, adds value and builds long-term loyalty in a brand. What do these stories look like and how do we sell an audience with selling? Well, sit tight because that will be the next chapter. We’ll take a little stroll down a very famous street.