We are living in the era of multi-screens and information overload, and as media fragmentation increases, it will be even more difficult for brands to reach their consumers. With challenges come many opportunities and this calls for experimentation. Although there is no sure-fire way to do this effectively, in my opinion, here is what brands should be doing in 2020 and beyond to connect with their consumers.
1. Have a definitive brand purpose
Brands need to transition from a mere functional approach to a more purpose-led one. Brands that have a purpose at the heart of their operations will stand out in a sea of sameness. Although this has been said enough times, it is still extremely important because a significant number of brands have not been able to do this successfully in Pakistan so far. The purpose needs to be intrinsically linked to the brand’s image. Having a purpose is all the more important because consumers are more demanding; they want organisations to prove how their efforts are impacting the society they live in, be it by supporting a cause or taking a stand – and achieving results which go beyond profit margins. (Ironically, knowing that a company cares about something other than their own profits is the incentive that consumers need to add to the company’s profit margins). More specifically, young people below the age of 25 (who account for almost 52% of Pakistan’s population) support brands that stand for a cause that is close to their hearts, and this is not a fad, not even in Pakistan. Young people, despite their cynicism and tendency to be overly opinionated and critical at times, respond positively to a cause that impacts their society positively. By standing for a purpose, brands should be able to bring about an impactful change.
2. Be direct and personal
Although the target audience of most brands is made up of women from SEC A to C (a fairly large demographic), we mostly hone in on the roughly three to four million or so women between 18 and 30 from SECs A and B for our digital interaction. As brands, this is done because these women are trendsetters and opinion leaders. They are the early adopters and their behaviour and brand choices influence that of other women; therefore, when brands engage with digital, they need to do it in a personalised way so that they feel special. What is important to remember, however, is that a mobile or tablet screen is a personal space; your interaction with the user should therefore be ‘personal’ in nature, and perhaps even allow you to make eye contact with them if possible; the user should feel as if someone is talking to them on a personal level. Ultimately, in this day and age this is what convinces people to be loyal to a brand; this approach is far more effective than basic adaptations of TV advertising.
3. Adapt your communication according to the touchpoint
It is important to remember that screens today are very different from what they were 10 years ago. Why is it then that so many brands are still producing content in horizontal format on Facebook? It’s like forcing your audience to change the direction of their phone, and most of the time people lose interest in your communication. Don’t make things difficult for them. Ultimately, each video or other content you upload must be platform-specific (be it Instagram, TikTok or Snapchat) in terms of content and technical requirements. Also, keep video duration in mind when you create content; editing a TVC will not cut it anymore – every asset for each platform must be created as an individual entity.
The challenge is that in Pakistan, the number of prominent shopping websites and platforms is relatively low as are digital transactions. Hopefully, these challenges will be overcome as new entrants come into play and e-commerce trade grows. As for customer service, people should be able to access a brand 24/7. Call centres are expensive and laborious platforms; a reason why most brands which have call centres are operational only during working hours. Yet, brands need to be responsive to their consumers even during off-hours to answer basic consumer queries and redirect them to the right people in case they cannot handle them.
4. Work closely with social media giants
With more and more focus on digital, it’s time that brands start working closely with companies such as Google, Facebook and YouTube to provide customised solutions for better brand communication planning. Speaking to them directly helps brands to understand what each platform can offer for their brand needs, and thus aids in developing effective strategies. All these digital giants have teams in place for the Pakistan market who not only assist you in creating better content but also help you in optimising your money for better reach. Often, you end up spending more than you initially planned but then you get better results also, so it is a win-win for both parties.
5. Choose your influencers wisely
One thing that astounds me, even today, is the fact that so many companies are still unable to differentiate between credible influencers and those with fake followers. Influencer marketing is the new thing this decade but that does not mean everyone can be an influencer. Because with influence comes responsibility. The purpose of an influencer is to build a ‘tribe’ for your brand – to find people who share your vision – and this is where purpose (as mentioned earlier) is extremely important. There are so many individuals who call themselves an influencer because of a huge following, and yet, their posts are unable to attract more than 200 to 300 likes. That is just one way of gauging their authenticity; there are other metrics to gauge engagement. That is why it is important for brand managers and/or digital media managers to check whether these influencers they use are credible enough to associate their brand with; due diligence and research is critical. However, there are some good influencers who are producing good content and are credible when it comes to endorsements. We need to promote more of such people, so that others may learn how to create their niche and do it right. However, if we want this medium to flourish, there is a real need for ethics and regulations for influencer marketing in Pakistan, and this includes protecting the rights of both the parties. This is even more important as the future of brand storytelling lies with them.
6.Harness the power of technology
Although there are multiple ways to do this, two are extremely important in our local context: e-commerce and customer service. From an e-commerce perspective, your brand should ideally have its own e-commerce platform (depending on the industry you operate in) in addition to having a presence on a significant number of e-retailers. The challenge is that in Pakistan, the number of prominent shopping websites and platforms is relatively low as are digital transactions. Hopefully, these challenges will be overcome as new entrants come into play and e-commerce trade grows. As for customer service, people should be able to access a brand 24/7. Call centres are expensive and laborious platforms; a reason why most brands which have call centres are operational only during working hours. Yet, brands need to be responsive to their consumers even during off-hours to answer basic consumer queries and redirect them to the right people in case they cannot handle them. Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are the new age ways of staying available 24/7.
7.Don’t forget the Big Idea
None of the ways I mentioned above will work if you do not have an integrated approach that connects all your communication. Single-minded messaging remains the Holy Grail for marketers because different audiences see different forms of communication from a single brand, and more often than not these audiences become confused when the messages they see on different platforms are different. (For example, they see one message on traditional media and something completely different in an online adapt). All the communication, even when customised according to the media used, must be consistent. And this brings us to the importance of the ‘Big Idea’. It must be strong enough to be adapted over multiple mediums and platforms equally effectively.
Humayun Farooq is Marketing Director, Health, RB Pakistan.