Consumers don’t spend as much time thinking about brands as marketers think they do. Marketers often operate as if their consumers are just waiting around to engage with the brand. Yet the way many brands communicate isn’t that engaging.
Last year I had the opportunity to go through Instagram advertising bootcamp while consulting with a brand. The brand was one of a few that had been picked by Instagram to help pilot how Instagram should approach paid advertising. Instagram was wary of introducing commercial messaging. We spent a lot of time getting indoctrinated into the Instagram community and discussing how brands could advertise without coming across like they’re advertising.
Instagram is part of Facebook and our meeting was on the Facebook campus. But we talked in detail about how Instagram is not like Facebook, particularly in relation to advertising. We were instructed to bring a different mindset — that advertising on Instagram is about brand building, not triggering a direct response. And that brand messaging should be about the audience (particularly the conventions of the Instagrammer audience), not about the brand.
I’ve been thinking about that Instagram bootcamp recently when Instagram started opening the advertising floodgates more widely, first with multi-photo carousel ads in March and soon with more traditional direct-response ads. Ad Age summarized Instagram’s ad strategy in an article this month titled “Instagram’s Ads Are About To Get More Facebook-y.” It will be interesting to see how Instagram manages this transition, and the tension between brand building and direct response.
We’re in an awkward adolescent stage of social advertising, as brands find the right way to connect with consumers in all of the new channels that are available. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to create ads that are actually worth engaging with the brand.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed cartoon print. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)
21 CommentsJoin the Discussion
Lenny Teytelman says
This is spot on! There are countless startups in Silicon Valley focused on devising innovative ways for consumers to engage with the brand. In each case, I think to myself, “Yes, I understand why the companies want this. But of all the things people do on their phones and computers, is engaging the brand really something they are craving to do?”
Karen Drury says
The whole approach is hardly customer-centric. shouldn’t people be asking the question from the other way around?
Simon Rushton says
Really, the last thing I want to do is “have a conversation with the brand”. Unless it all goes wrong. Coke, Nike and Microsoft are not dinner guests.
Jacqueline Drew says
In social media, brands need to talk about what they stand for, not just sell. Think of the Dove campaign. Images that illustrate strong stances on social issues, and want to change the world in a positive way (and/or use humour) will be welcomed. The “buy this” approach will be seen as annoyance. The challenge is for Instagram to get its advertisers thinking this way. Facebook’s approach of limiting text on an ad is more of a concrete boundary. Suggesting non-salesy ads will take some more coaching with advertisers.
Chris Dorr says
Very astute points. When it comes to video, I think the Ad business and consumers (users) are on a collision course. We (as users) are getting used to being able to watch video, whenever, however and wherever we want. We are now used to skipping ads on our DVRs. Adblocking software is being used by more people. The art of persuasion has to change in the new “non interruptive, where the consumer always chooses world”. The True View ad unit on YouTube is the right direction–it gives us a choice to view (or not). I believe that video advertising has to move into the consumer choice model if brands wants consumers to engage.
Maybe less is more? I think I read seth Gordon once say, make a campaign that is remarkable. That is, make it worthy of a remark. A genuine and honest approach will go further than forced/pushed content.
Ori Pomerantz says
I don’t want to think about brands. For me as a customer, the main value of brands is that I don’t need to think about what to buy. I’m busy enough thinking about important thing in my life. What kind of bread I buy is NOT one of them.
If you want me to think about your brand, tell me something worthwhile. Otherwise, either I’ll mentally filter you out, or you’ll manage to get enough of my attention to get me annoyed. Neither is good for your business.
I’m going to use myself as an example in sharing my thoughts. As a Marketer I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest just because…honestly, I suppose I should be. Instagram however, I use, I check it several times a day and I’ve actually started patronizing two small businesses that I follow. One as a direct result of Instagram posts spiked_bakery , the cupcakes are so tempting the names are very clever, the descriptions make me just want to try them all and the perspectives on the photos are so spot on. The other is a food truck, the photos suck the posts aren’t original or clever and they repost and reuse the same photos constantly. There have actually been several instances where it ‘s obvious they took a screen capture and reposted without cropping it properly so that you can still see bits of the icons from the original post so…Why do I follow them? I’ve had the food before, I love it and because it’s a food truck that moves I follow them on Instagram so I know where they’re gonna be on a given day. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the strategy has to be complete. There’s no magic bullet. Consumer behavior is very complex and half the time consumers can’t even begin to give you they ‘why they do what they do’. If Instagram does become more facebookey and users don’t like it they will be on to the next thing that makes them feel like their “community” is theirs again. Will we as marketers continue to chase the next thing? I’ll tell you, I just can’t keep up and I’m not sure how much I want to.
One of my favorite silly examples of ‘please engage with our brand’ is the airlines asking if I’d like to post my trips to Facebook or other social media. It seems like only 10 mins ago they were advising we shouldn’t put our addresses on luggage tags as bad people will know where you live and that you are away. Now they are suggesting we make it easier…engage with us on social and the bad people don’t even need to leave their keyboard!
David Hood says
Another great cartoon / point from Tom.
Marketers and allied professionals keep referring to ‘the Brand’ as some animal; some sentient being. I am a Marketer and am cautious about this, as we sometimes sound a tad detached!
We want the customer or consumer to ‘be loyal’ yet show no loyalty; likewise, we want them to ‘engage with the brand’, yet the brand usually represents just a cold, calculated corporate entity that embodies not a sentient soul. I do hate when we keep referring to ‘the Brand’ as having some human qualities…
George Austin says
This post came at the right time. I’m having a discussion right now with a client about this subject.
The client wants to just provide information as though once the prospect sees it, they’ll be overwhelmed and compelled (by magic,no doubt) to want their service. Of course, they have the majority of other brands on their side. Yet, does a majority doing the wrong thing somehow make it acceptable?
I agree with the statement of Ori, we must tell the prospect something appealing to THEM – not the brand. Do I walk around all day thinking I need a variable annuity based on the S$P 500 with stock and bond options? Of course not! But, I do walk around concerned about where I can put my money that it will be safe and grow so I’m not a pauper in 10 years. Start by solving my pain and I’ll follow your brand anywhere.
Instagram is about great photographs. I will zip right by you if you don’t catch my eye. Not every social media account works for every brand. A picture tells a thousand words–can you tell yours & still have a great photograph. Your first sentence is dead on: Consumers don’t spend as much time thinking about brands as marketers think they do. I’m getting ready to remodel my bathroom so I’m looking for images that inspire me and then I’ll check to see what the product is. Pinterest probably better for this than Instagram.
This is a great example of why B2B marketing is so much more fun than B2C marketing (in which everyone with an opinion and a title is an expert – ouch, did I really say that? Yes, I did). In B2B marketing we actually ASK the desired customer questions about what they need and where they look for what they need. The goal is to be visible when and where the customer looks when they need your product or service. Social media advertising is being brandied about as if it were the de facto solution for how to communicate. Nope. Years ago industry rags were often the (only) answer. Not so today where websites and blogs carry a lot of weight. Communication has become more complex but the fundamental truth is still that if you want to reach a specific professional demographic you need to find out where they look for solutions. And, of course, be aware that where people look for solutions changes as their knowledge and use of communication channels changes. It’s all very interesting and keeps us on our game!
Joanna Rustin says
Excellent point. Think like a consumer. Don’t talk like a marketer. BTW, par 4 “I’ve been thinking” not “I’be.”
Karen makes a good point about customer centricity.
Different customers engage differently with ‘their’brands.
IMHO, Engagement is as much a function of the target segment’s psychographics as are brand values. The engagement ‘platform’ is therefore a two step decision: i) the emotional platform; and ii) the communication [media] platform.
Naa'ila Dinath says
Although most brands miss the mark. There are a few brands that just know how to make consumers want to engage with it. I guess it all depends on the moment that the brand is part of something; such as the Superbowl Oreo tweet. As a marketer, I feel that it is about connecting with the consumer through relate’able moments on selective platforms rather than jumping onto every new social advertising band wagon in the hopes that consumers will “engage” with your brand.
Petra Oltersdorf-Hupke says
This is just excellent. Not everything that technically is feasible is a good idea. Also in B2C you can “engage” with customers if they want. BUT: it needs to be meaningful to them not for the marketing person, department, agency or product manager. Thanks for sharing this!
Personally Instagram is my favourite platform because i feel as a consumer i can be a little more discreet. I say this as a marketer myself… i would hate me if i was in my target audience!! I am really interested to see the direction that Instagram take in terms of advertising because i feel they have perfected Facebook advertising as a buyer.
The ads I like to engage with are ones that ask a question I can answer and submit as part of their ad, which then changes based on my answer. Example: It’s an ad for Clorox bleach and the question in the ad is: How many times a week do YOU do laundry? [ ] 1 [ ] 2 [ ] 3 [ ] None, my Mom does it for me.
Chris Bartell says
I think brands need should focus on inspiring customers with the promise of transformation. If you can’t change the lives of the customer, what’s the point! Most brands can’t even explain who they are, either! (Which is why focus specifically on this at http://www.discoveryourwho.com)
People engage with brands when it suits them. Not ‘just for the sake of it’, and not out of love.
People consume content, generally passively, so brands need to realise this and design content to make it sharable, rather than engaging. When someone shares great brand content with their friends, the brand isn’t part of that conversation.