It’s The Behavior Pathway, Stupid!

Here’s an important question: Why do agencies have such a hard time creating truly integrated work that resonates with people? It’s because most still think in terms of brands and projects, not in terms of audience behavior and interest. You know I’m right. As much as they try to avoid it, most agencies are guilty of constructing suffocating silos that create narrow thinking. Here’s how it goes:

Agency discipline leaders meet up and talk about working better together and allowing multiple disciplines to become involved from the beginning of the project. Everyone throws in a “Hell yeah!” Then, the need to keep the working groups small and maintain project ROI kicks in, causing the same old digital/traditional silos to emerge. Traditional-side creatives and strategists do their thinking from a traditional media perspective, and throw interactive a bone by including the Facebook logo in the PowerPoint presentation. Just as effectively, the people applied to interactive projects busy themselves trying to create a new world media order and make the assumption that most of the people are online most of the time and are always eager to play interesting check-in games.

Stop it! Stop it right now. The thing is, we’re the only people who even bother to think in terms of media channels. The world at large does not. The people who actually consume media don’t ever utter those words. They’re simply living life with the toys available to them.  They do what pleases them, interact with things they like and generally try to avoid the sinister advances of advertising. That doesn’t mean they’re above brand interaction, it just means we have to offer it to them in a way that doesn’t insult their intelligence. And we have to provide something of real value – I mean value within the marketing itself, not just within the products we sell.

Hyper choicing has created hyper selectivity

America has become a land of many choices for those who would consume. Look on any store shelf or any website, and you’ll see a dozen variations of the same product–maybe more. Surf DirecTV or your cable connection, and you’ll be bombarded with 900 channels. And the web? It’s sheer infinity. Collectively, this is all content choice. And so is marketing.

An ad guy named Howard Gossage once wrote, “The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.” Never has that phrase been truer. Of course, you have to update the sentence to read: “People interact with what interests them. Sometimes, it’s brand engagement.”

To vault from the average, we have to begin to walk in the shoes of the over-communicated populace. They’re largely numb to messaging, so it’s hard to break through their protective walls by shouting at them. The only effective marketing is that which inspires a person to seek a brand interaction or tell someone else. To create those reactions, we need to think about all the places and ways we can interact with people and create interesting engagement. Forget about whether the engagement represents advertising or digital, social media or even brand journalism. Just give people great ways to experience the brand, and the brand will take on life. If the interactions are fun and intelligent, we’ll make friends along the way. And they’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on…

(Note: the final sentence is a direct reference to a classic Faberge shampoo commercial. Know your advertising history, people!)

Wait! Heather Locklear revised this in the 80′s. Man, dig those hair wings!


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