Picture: 123RF/rawpixel
Picture: 123RF/rawpixel

Today’s shifting media landscape is swamped in opinion and content overload, and offers little direction to consumers looking for more information to help them differentiate between brands and products.

Key questions brand custodians should ask, says Antonio Petra, FCB and Hellocomputer Joburg’s group executive of strategy, data and insight, are how to navigate this new environment and how to cut through content overload to engage people in a meaningful way.

Petra believes the answer partly lies in developing better upfront in-house research and testing capabilities, and fully understanding what analytics are saying. This discipline is often ignored by brands in a rush to reach their market. He says more attention needs to be paid to the wider environment brands operate in. "It’s not just tracking the brand, but breaking down the products and services you offer and tracking the perception around those. For instance, not just researching ‘bank brand’, but ‘bank brand + ATM’ or ‘bank brand + credit card’."

Petra says brands should design their own key performance indicators and not rely on generic equations. "Understanding the actual and specific role you want social media to play in your brand performance and then looking for the user behaviour that supports that role is essentially what you need to define. It’s much harder to do, but will provide a much better return on investment."

Antonio Petra. Picture: Supplied
Antonio Petra. Picture: Supplied

While content creation seems to be the lifeblood of a brand’s ability to penetrate the market, Petra thinks brands can survive without it. "The idea that every brand should be a content producer is an obfuscation of what they should be doing in order to grow, which is to identify ways to cut through the clutter with as wide a reach as possible, to communicate functional benefits and create emotional connections. Unique content is a way of doing this, but it is not essential."

Content, he says, also competes against the clutter of the new media universe and not just with competitor output, but with Netflix and the best of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok. Petra says if brands get their content mix wrong, perception can be hard and sometimes costly to fix.

"You’ll appear tone-deaf and won’t resonate with customer needs. And if you don’t understand the functional needs of the consumer, you may not be highlighting the correct benefits or reason to believe and buy your product, and this has an impact on bottom-line potential."

Perplexed brand managers also ask what type of content style finds real resonance with consumers. Petra says it’s back to better upfront research.

"The victim in this scenario is content integrity. Traditional filters, both human and machine, cannot accommodate the volume of content, so we start to see negative and fake information slipping through."

While brands need to understand the importance of a well-planned and well-researched social media strategy, Petra says brand managers shouldn’t become too obsessed.

"You can never be too interested in what the consumer thinks about your brand. But at the same time, delivering to consumers’ needs too obsessively can stifle innovation. In addition, overly focusing on social media can take your eye off other key brand touchpoints."

Petra believes the Covid-19 pandemic has given brands new opportunities to develop content. "The reality is that people are draining the content pool quickly, so traditional sources of online entertainment, like Netflix, have almost been exhausted. The lockdown has also had a severe impact on the production of content. What we’re seeing now is people exploring new forms of content they normally would not."

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