Today the Wall Street Journal ran an article highlighting the fact that the Kia Soul hatchback won the Automotive Ad of the Year from Nielsen Automotive. In the article, the reporter states, “Compared with typical auto ads, the quirky Kia spot focuses less on the car’s technical details and more on the freedom that driving brings” and that “Kia ad’s success is indicative of a trend toward smaller, often obscure brands taking more chances and getting more recognition from consumers with edgy, unusual advertising.”
Consumers are doing much more than recognizing – they’re expecting to be listened to, and not just in advertising. One of the elements that we talk about a lot with clients today is the customer’s influence on marketing and involvement in PR. Marketers traditionally think that they’re the only ones doing the influencing, but in reality, today’s consumer holds a great deal of influence, as evidenced by debacles such as the “Motrin Moms” issue and more recently, Nestle’s social media mess.
So what do a cute hamster ad, angry mommy bloggers and social-media savvy protesters have in common? A theme not only of engagement but of encouraging involvement. Especially with B2C companies, consumers want to be heard not just after your ad airs or marketing campaign is launched, but before. They want to see their influence reflected in your ad spots, your marketing materials, your messaging and your promotions. Truly connecting with customers means understanding them – you can “engage” with them on Facebook but if you’re not really listening, and assessing their feedback, you won’t understand them. If you don’t understand them, it’s difficult to connect in a way that will inspire desired actions.
Kia recognized what their customers care about and let it influence their messaging – creating an ad that touched them emotionally (freedom) vs. intellectually (the product specs). Advertisers are no strangers to using both sentiments in their campaigns, while marketers often assume that the technical details will elicit the desired emotional response. Marketers could have greater success if they learn to open up a bit and allow customers to participate in the direction of messaging and marketing – even product marketing and development, as Hallmark recently did with their “Birthday Your Way” Greeting Card Contest – not just a contest for promotional purposes, but really, truly allowing consumers to influence and create products.
Marketers who recognize today’s unprecedented opportunity to easily integrate customers’ opinions and desires into the overall marketing strategy – not just a feedback loop – will see greater success. Social media tools make this particularly easy to do, although it’s not just about gathering information, but rather understanding how to use that information to make an emotional connection with your brand and create an ongoing, solid relationship with your customer.