Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why focusing on reach is harming you to get to your goal; becoming relevant!

In 1997, the old days, even before the internet bubble burst (yes I was on the scene already) I once, being a serious telecommunication consultant, had to write my input for a greenpaper on telecommunication and media for the OPTA. To give a north star I just wrote down some simple statements. One of them was

“Not reach but relevance will be key”.

And now, more then ten years down the road I think it is time to restate that prediction a little bit as in “Not reach but relevance IS the key”. What I mean obviously is that “reach” as in GRP or CPM or any other measure of short attention/contact is not a sole indicator of the effect of your communication anymore. The difference between the prediction in 1997 and today is that in my point of view we already passed the stage where it is effective to build your media strategy around aiming at as much reach as possible. But still I am amazed how most of the advertising budget most of the publishers claiming to be "crossmedia publishers" and most of the media agencies are still taking as a centre piece of their strategies.. ‘to gain as much ‘reach’ for a brand/product as is possible’.

Here’s why that is a counterproductive strategy for your brand to say the least..:

Before customers got voices, and media where still about sending and calling out as loud as you can, you could not see the bottom of the iceberg. So all the time, we just said to each other, see how great we are doing. See how many people we have reached with our message….. And see what it did to the awareness of our brand. And see how sales have increased by 10 percent. The campaign is a huge success…

But that really is just the tip of the iceberg…

The piece in the water is the amount of NEGATIVE effect/affect you get when you focus on getting as much reach as you can. The top of the iceberg is where a small amount of customers, who might just be thinking about buying your kind of product or service, or maybe they where not, but got persuaded by the coolness of your campaign and the clever repetition of your media plan and gave attention to your product or brand.

But....The bottom of the iceberg represents the cost of irritating the rest of your public with irrelevant messages. And if you make up that balance, it is a negative one!

And still, how many times a day do we get advertising messages that are completely irrelevant to us. Mostly we do not get irritated anymore, we just ignore the messages completely often never even realizing there was a message at all. (Well, maybe it has some effect, if you believe in the strength of subliminal messaging...) But the costs remain the same, either be it plain waste, or irritation. Your message is completely irrelevant to the people you want to ‘reach’. It never touched any core of their existence, never resonated on any string.

So, basically you did not do well at all! It’s a painful message if you are still out there building media campaigns to get as much reach as you can (and I know most of you are still doing this….). The problem with this approach is, you are sailing under another sky then the one we live in today.

Getting relevant is a completely different act. It means
1. Adding true value through meaningful touchpoints in the lives of people.
2. Being context-aware One context isn’t the other, so something can be meaningful in one context, of no value in another and completely off-beat in another context. Be aware of being context-aware.
3. Helping out your customers, with getting their lives better organized, more meaningful, more fun, more inspiring, more true.
4. Authenticity and openness Be true. Recently I was trying to pull of a stunt in one of the big ranting blogs in the Netherlands ( And obviously the public right away saw the acting, and most of the negative comments on my ‘performance’ where about it NOT being authentic (.. I admit, it wasn’t ;-)
5. Being just in time JIT is a term used in the vending business, meaning that goods are delivered not a moment to early and not a moment too late. This very much accounts for your context-aware communication. Be prepared to communicate on different levels with different persons in your public. Someone might be just exploring your product or service. While another is on the step of actually buying it. The first needs to be able to ‘play around’ while the next one needs a lot of confirmation if he or she is making the right choice. Those are 'different messages at 'different times' in the dialogue you have with your customers.
6. Time is personal not chronological. Coming from the last remark in the previous point.. People are at different personal "time' levels in a dialogue. All taking place in parallel. Steering all of these parallel dimensions is one of the arts of getting relevant.

I can name a few others, and I will in following posts when I get back on how to get a better grasp at these key indicators. But there is one main attitude change that needs to happen:

START LISTENING (and stop shouting… because you really are looking more ridiculously unaware every day)