Picture: 123RF/tassev
Picture: 123RF/tassev

Time, or a serious lack of it, is emerging as the new key pain point for customers, and brands need to find new ways of reaching them amid the increasing chaos of high-volume messaging.

Refilwe Maluleke, newly appointed chief strategy officer at TBWA\SA, tells the FM that probably the greatest challenge for most customers is that things seem to change faster everywhere and that this often leads to frustration and disappointment.

"No matter how efficient we manage to make some things, we’re still not completely happy with any industry because we have been taught to expect better," she says.

Heather Casey, Investec’s head of brand, concurs. "Clients are time-sensitive and receive a barrage of messaging across the board. If you want to reach your audiences and clients, you need to make sure you reach them in times that are good for them, when they can engage with your messaging and content."

Both believe strategic thinking is changing rapidly in accurately reaching and defining audience.

Refilwe Maluleke
Refilwe Maluleke

Maluleke says: "There is a clear shift towards thinking informed and inspired by the audience, with more available information about what people do and why they do it. That, combined with the increase in ways to reach those customers, means that we’re developing sharper tactics to influence their behaviours.

"We’re also much more interested in the right audience for the task, making every rand work harder as demonstrable effectiveness of marketing spend is increasingly important."

Casey says that with the use of data, brands should have a much clearer understanding of who they are trying to reach.

"The basics of defining audiences don’t really change. You want to generate demand and a desire for your brand in the hearts and minds of your target market. So, knowing who you’re trying to reach is critical.

"Strategic thinking has evolved in that the data and research tools we have available are more sophisticated. The definition of the audiences you are reaching is clearer and you can be more deliberate about engaging with those audiences in the spaces and places that are most suitable for the messaging you are trying to communicate."

A constant conundrum facing strategists is how to evaluate and make choices when it comes to media platforms, given the wide choice.

Maluleke says her approach is "to multiply the effect of a system of channels that maximises the impact of the communication". Evaluation, she says, is the critical function "of what will serve the objectives within the budget and that inspires creative exploration of how to relay the message".

Casey says thoughtful and tactical evaluation is important. "For brand engagement, media platforms need to ensure brand visibility and that you are in all the channels that all audiences engage with. You want to create reach and awareness in an impactful way that ultimately captures all audiences across the board. Brands need to gain as much reach to generate as much awareness as possible."

Ultimately it all comes down to how brand and marketing success is measured. It’s a dilemma that has faced marketers over the years and continues to do so.

Heather Casey
Heather Casey

Maluleke says: "This is probably one of the areas of brand building that seems to have not evolved much, except for better performance measures that are possible in digital. Linking marketing and campaign effectiveness still relies greatly on retrospective measures that include recommendations, appeal and overall equity.

"Investing in new ways to measure marketing is challenging when customers are increasingly fragmented. One of the most interesting ways to measure marketing success is through piloting new ways; finding smaller systems in more discreet markets to trial ways to cut through the clutter."

Casey has a blunter assessment: "Success for brands is when clients engage, trust and know your brand."

Both agree that constant scoping of the competitor landscape is critical.

Maluleke says: "Our cultural audience is incredibly fragmented — from the overlaps in industries to the pressure of consumer spend available. The competitor is whoever has the attention of your user and shapes their view on the world. We’re finding that brands are getting better at building distinction for themselves — difference isn’t the aim, but rather distinctiveness of your brand.

"Brands should ensure that we focus on our own strategic positioning, our strengths and our points of differentiation … We also need to ensure we know who our competitors are, who is in the wings, who is wanting to move in, but at the same time remain authentic and faithful to our core positioning, owning it with boldness."

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