Flipping the Focus

Marcom “goes native” in the age of personalization and proliferating choice

The marketing communications (marcom) industry has had a daunting and seemingly polarized task in recent years: speed up and diversify your messaging while pinpointing your focus to nearly-individualized communication. To do so, marcom has pivoted from a focus on content – what you are saying – to context, or when and where you are saying it. And marcom experts know that this context marketing also places a high premium on authenticity. With so many messages hitting consumers, there has to be a way to differentiate your message. Gone are the days when a good jingle heard by thousands on the radio once a day could guide behavior. Today, we need to see or hear something that feels perfectly aligned with our personal values and desires at the exact moment when it will incite a change in our thinking and actions.

Because marcom professionals are leading the messaging of organizations and businesses, this context marketing requires an “upside down focus,” as Al Wittemen, vice president of client satisfaction at St. John & Partners, puts it: You extend the focus of communication beyond what the client wants to convey to what their customers will truly hear.

“How do you fundamentally, efficiently reach your target customer in a changed world (that of data analytics and technology)?” poses Wittemen. “Our answer is simple: It is basically to inspire clients to do what inspires their customers. It’s a totally upside down focus on the client’s customers, not just the client. It changes the relationship.”

This strategy requires a lot of talking and questioning, a lot of digging deep at all levels and repeatedly asking “why?” This questioning starts within the marcom agencies and leads to strategic planning with clients.

“We all understand we have to build brand equity and sell something, but it’s being able to dig deep and say, ‘hey, this business has gotten a lot more complicated, a lot tougher, a lot of the principles have stayed the same and a lot have changed forever,’” Wittemen says, describing what will determine longevity in the business. “If we were sitting here a couple of years ago, I’d probably be giving you answers and now I’m giving you questions,” he says. “That asking the questions has been one of the fundamental changes – it’s remarkable.”

Read MoreWritten by Meredith T. Matthews

Author: Arbus

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