Planning media to differentiate response

Saneel Radia at BBH Labs suggests that media (defined for non-ad people as messaging conduits such as television, radio, print, online banners, etc.) should now be considered as important as advertising strategy or creative in influencing people. In a perfect example, he mentions music — and how the shift to iPods and digital formats and playlists has had enormous impact on how music itself is structured. The channels influence the idea within, just as paved highways have altered the designs of our vehicles.

This is not a new idea, of course; Marshall McLuhan wrote in 1964 that “the medium is the message,” with the channel format influencing how messages are perceived. Yet Saneel builds on this, suggesting that individual media channels should not only be evaluated for how they affect message, but be planned to influence differentiated response (what Saneel terms “experience”).

One trigger. 20 results.

Differentiated response? This seems confusing at first for marketers used to targeting A person with B message through C medium, akin to splitting a single strand of spaghetti at the ends, so let’s use skateboarding sneakers on YouTube as an illustration. A shoe brand such as Vans could reach its audience in many ways: passive viewers could watch a YouTube video featuring the sneaker, or users could forward the cool video to others, or manipulate a video, or even create their own user-generated content filming kids in the backyard in Vans leaping off ramps. Saneel calls this the 1:9:90 rule: “If 1% of the audience drives the experience, 9% participates, and 90% just consumes, wouldn’t a brand want to understand each stratum of people, and how the experience could fit them appropriately?” With the biggest trend in media now being concurrent media use, for instance, teens texting on mobile phones with a laptop on their knees reading Facebook while watching TV, consumers taking different response pathways is now part of life.

And therein is a disconnect. Marketers still often focus campaigns on singular objectives such as lead gen, sales, brand awareness, product launch, and then set up media strands pointed at each target and desired response. Customers, however, interpret brands in any way they want, and engage or react or respond in multiple pathways. Any single message in any individual media channel can push consumers in different directions.

The solution is simple: evaluate all the ways customers could respond from messages in each channel, which types of response provide value, and then restructure your medium-message accordingly. Product differentiation was a 1940s idea. Brand differentiation was a 1970s fad. Customer differentiation rose in the early 1990s. Today, it’s time to differentiate media response.

Image: Trey Ratcliff

6 thoughts on “Planning media to differentiate response

  1. I was reading about “self-expansion” theory earlier this week. (It’s a long story.) Anyway, it says that people have a desire to incorporate others into their conception of self.

    Applied to branding, it suggests that people who really get attached to brands come to regard the brand as their own and will then start actively investing their own resources into the brand to develop the relationship. Spending time on social media would be an example.

    That suggests that different media also act as proxies for different levels of brand engagement, supporting the idea that differentiated media response is the way to go.

  2. Ben
    As always another great post. We’ve (the industry) has been talking now for years about how media is the new creativity. And that when it comes to strategy, that we have to be as concerned with insights regarding how consumers interact with media, content, technology and community as with how they relate to a brand or product category. Media response is a smart way not only to buy media but to inspire the creative and content as well. Some customers will prefer to opt via mobile geo apps. Others are sharers, distributors, posters and will want to be first to know. Still others want a role in creating, participating (crowdsourding, if you will). And finally, some just want to feel as if a brand “gets” them — who they are, where they engage, etc. Finally, it’s worth taking into consideration who among those folks are influencers, as they may be more valuable. Actually there is one more thing. Re: McLuhan. His real message wasn’t so much that the medium shapes the message. It’s that the medium in actually shapes the user, re-wiring how they receive/engage with/and expect to interact with content. If you want a really good modern interpretation of McLuhan, read Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows.

  3. Great & thought provoking expansion on Saneel’s post. I think, as mentioned in other comments, this is part of the continued outcry for Media to take on a larger part of the strategic or creative mix. Why outcry? Because a lot is being said and little is being done.

    One reason is labeling, as @edwardboches pointed out in his latest post.@mtlb (above)says that media has been considered part of creative for a long time, but then
    edward points out that he still meets people who think that he is “no longer creative”. We hold on to our prejudices much too long.

    But I’d like to take the idea of media differentiation in another direction. Matt Howell did a great presentation at BDW on process where he discussed how his team at Modernista is moving away from the idea of the one BIG campaign, with its massive inmarket/outofmarket sine wave, and into a world of smaller more discrete campaigns. This structure allows for a great deal more trial and error and creative thinking while requiring rapid response. You go out with multiple approaches, perhaps across multiple channels, see what works and adjust appropriately. Seems to me that the concept of differentiated media response would have a perfect strategic and creative home in this process.

  4. Ben – you raise some great points about concurrent media use and the need to differentiate media response. It is sad to think that these ideas aren’t more of a reality. Think about the Superbowl. How many of us tweeted at #brandbowl about commercials yet why didn’t these million dollar ads continue their discussion in social media. Look what users did for Betty White…why didn’t BBDO do something similar for Snickers?

    Before I became involved in marketing I was a military strategist. Now a retired Army colonel whose last job was running the Army Strong campaign I leaned on my experience as an artillery officer that developed targeting doctrine to approach how I ran marketing. Yes, Al Ries and Jack Trout’s Marketing Warfare is something I can relate to! ☺

    You’re point that marketers view a campaign as a singular objective is correct from what I have seen. So why not change how an advertising campaign is defined? Let’s look at how advertising and military campaigns are defined according to Wikipedia:

    ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN: a series of advertisement messages that share a single idea and theme which make up an integrated marketing communication (IMC). Advertising campaigns appear in different media across a specific time frame.

    MILITARY CAMPAIGN: is a term applied to large scale, long duration, significant military strategy plan incorporating a series of inter-related military operations or battles forming a distinct part of a larger conflict often called a war.

    What if we define an advertising campaign as a series of advertisement messages that incorporate a series of inter-related ideas and themes that make up an integrated marketing communication plan in order to achieve a set of strategic objectives?

    By keeping everything under the umbrella of one campaign (with the CMO in charge) it keeps the marketing team constantly looking at how everything is integrated and the impact each tactic may have that wasn’t planned for. I believe there are enough problems with companies, and in some cases agencies, not thinking about integration. Talking several small campaigns will only continue that problem.

    As the saying goes in military planning, “the enemy has a say.” In marketing, with the growth of social media, the consumers say is getting louder.

    Dave (Twitter Dave1102)

    PS Thanks to Edward Boches for directing me to your blog!

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