“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is—it is what consumers tell each other it is”, a quote from Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit. The most successful and renowned brands are those that have effectively established and created a unique brand story. A brand story is more than just the company’s history and mission statement. A brand story encompasses everything within the company from the colors on its website and product/service description, to the employees and types of customers. The story goes beyond what the company can even tell. It includes the customer interaction, transaction, and satisfaction, which means that a lot of the brand’s story isn’t even told by the brand itself. Therefore, a brand today is a collection of all the aggregated experiences that a person has with and around the brand.

Brands are successful at conveying their story when we hear them. Examples include Starbucks, Apple, Google, Coca-Cola, etc. These brands didn’t become enormous and established over night; nor was it a smooth, flawless process. The big question is how did these brands go from small startups to the world-renowned, established brands that we’ve grown to love and trust today? It all starts with communication.

Buying a billboard ad, purchasing TV spots, or mass broadcasting web banners and emails are not nearly as effective as they used to be. There are so many companies shouting their message at consumers that it all becomes white noise, blocked, or fast forwarded though. To break through the noise, it is important to remember that people are most receptive when they are treated as an individual, a person with individual needs and desires. People don’t want to be treated as a business objective or part of a sales quota.

Brands today, for the most part, aren’t having conversations with their potential consumer prospects. Advertisers and marketers are, by and large, still stuck in the mindset of spray and pray. Some are using data and insights to refine their messaging and change it up as people navigate their way throughout the customer journey, but for the most part they’re still broadcasting a message to a broad audience and not the individual. The main issue here is that this does not create conversation, a lasting form of engagement with the brand.

By no means are we saying that brands should abandon advertising altogether. Moreover, brands need to capture viewers’ attention and direct them toward an owned media channel. A great way to do this is by carefully placing calls to action where the viewer’s attention is first captured. Here is where text messaging and the related channels can come into play within the marketing mix. Text messaging is a two-way, interactive channel that can be used for both broadcast messaging and storytelling, but also for having a conversation with your individual customers. Regardless of the channel chosen to drive these conversations, the brands that win are those who transform their marketing and advertising into genuine dialogues acting as if they are simply a friend chatting with another. The brands that knock it out of the park can even carry these conversations across multiple channels for consumers without losing the context. Sephora is doing a great job with this using their community boards.

For many marketers, however, text messaging is simply seen as another tool for broadcast messaging. Brands can really benefit from accompanying their TV ads and online advertising with their SMS messaging. By following an online ad with a text message shortly after, a person is much more likely to respond because it is relevant to what they just saw. Studies show that over 90% of text messages are read within the first three minutes, making a response, and ultimately an ongoing channel of communication, much more likely. This is also a great time to ping the consumer with a coupon offer. Studies show that loyalty programs using SMS are 8 times more likely to be redeemed than email. However, email is still the primary channel for marketers when reaching out to people. It is time for for marketers to acknowledge the facts and re-think their strategies.

Cicero shared this insight with us back in 80 B.C., “If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings and speak my words”. The core to any successful story, conversation, or an attempt to persuade someone is understanding. This not a new idea, yet many marketers seem to ignore this understanding in favor of the spray and pray approach.

Text messaging helps with understanding. What many marketers may not realize, is that text messaging services and the mobile phone number can be used to derive incredibly rich data about an individual. With the phone number marketers can learn name, address, email, age, gender, occupation, home ownership, home value, net worth, marital status, number of children, education, social profiles, and in some cases up to 300 hundred additional data points. All this data can be turned into actionable insight. By harnessing these data points, marketers can increase their depth of understanding about their target market, allowing them to be more personable, friendly, and considerate of their customer’s needs and desires. This results in a more receptive and engaged recipient, creating a conversation, and ultimately strengthening the likelihood of delight for both the marketer and the consumer.

Furthermore, text messaging enables a marketer to not just tell a story, but establish an intimate connection with an individual and the medium for an interactive dialogue—a conversation. Consumers can respond and initiate conversation with you, unlike so many other channels. Email can also be an effective tool. But even with the case of email and text messaging, most marketers are trying to story tell, and aren’t necessarily trying to attempt to have a conversation.

We encourage marketers to think beyond the story and consider what it takes to hold a conversation with their customers and prospects.

Michael Becker is Co-founder and Managing Partner at mCordis, a mobile marketing educational & strategic advisory agency.

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