Some say that sales was the first real profession. I don’t think that’s true. I believe that it was advertising. After all, you can’t sell people something if they don’t know you have it, even if it’s something they really need.
As civilization evolved, so did the methods of advertising. The man on the corner loudly broadcasting that his apples were the finest of the season gave way to signs and slogans, which in turn gave way to advertisements that adapted to the various technologies of the age.
Throughout all of this adaption and evolution, there is one thing that never changed about advertising: it requires a conversation.
Invitation Vs. Conversation
For most of its existence, the conversation that advertising initiated was heavily one-sided. Salesmen would boast about their products in the hopes that it would entice people to buy.
Much like a fisherman casting a net into the sea in hopes of a catch, advertisers would cast out their pitches and hope that they would catch someone’s attention enough to generate a conversation with them. Early advertising was really an invitation rather than a conversation.
Digital advertising technology now enables us to reach customers on a whole new level. The capabilities that automation, targeting and, most importantly, data, empower us with turn advertising into a two-way street.
It’s a good thing, too, because today’s customers are empowered by the same technology that allows advertisers to reach them. Research shows that people, especially younger generations, are willing to provide more information about themselves, but they do so because they expect more valuable interaction with brands.
This interaction is crucial for the success of digital advertising moving forward. Customers now realize that they can and should be a part of the process.
They don’t want to be talked at, they want to be engaged with. They want their favorite brands to be like friends.
On Social Media, Customer Experience Is Key
Marketers can create positive customer experiences in a variety of ways, the most obvious of which is having a social media presence that is more than just an outlet for announcements.
People who follow a brand on social media aren’t doing so just to receive updates; that’s what newsletters are for. They’re doing it to feel like part of the brand’s community, understand the brand’s values and actually empower the brand to understand theirs.
In order to foster that feeling, marketers need to respond to customers’ desires. This can be done in traditional ways, such as providing social followers with exclusive deals and coupons, or in more creative ways such as posting content that can be liked and shared about not only the product but also about the brand’s mission and values.
Another critical element is responding to negative experiences. If you respond quickly and effectively to someone posting about a negative experience, you can turn them from a vocal critic into a brand advocate.
Digital Ads Must Be Relevant
Social media is a large part of the modern consumer’s online brand experience, but another area that is arguably more significant is their experience with digital advertisements.
Customers expect to receive ads that are relevant to them. This goes beyond products or services they might enjoy.
It’s time we think of advertising as that next dialogue in the conversation with the customer. That might mean we deliver an “ad” that is actually not trying to sell a product but sell an emotional bond.
What about delivering content that each individual customer finds engaging? That requires the right use of customer knowledge (data) and creative content.
Advertisers need to listen to their customers and deliver the right content to the right people, letting them know that they are part of the conversation.
A great example of this is Red Bull. The creative content that it generates, such as putting together commercials of extreme sporting competitions it sponsors, is content that resonates with its target audience.
Red Bull knows this because it listens to its customers, using intent data to determine what kind of content people who like its brand enjoy.
The company can then use targeting tools to deliver the right ads to the right users, making the customers feel that they’re not just liking the brand, but the lifestyle that the brand is endorsing. This promotes a feeling of interaction and community that allows customers to feel as though they’re part of a larger culture, not simply a brand’s following.
Digital advertising has incredible capabilities for brands, but it’s more crucial than ever to be putting the customer at the center of the conversation.
Now that people have the platforms and capabilities to tune out what they don’t like, advertisers have to use the tools at their disposals to keep the conversation a two-way street. By doing so, they will inspire brand trust, customer loyalty and a great experience for all involved.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.