The New Brand Building in the Era of Engagement

Building Brands - Future of Marketing

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Posted: March 3, 2015 | Engagement Marketing

At our core, marketers are storytellers. We love to tell stories that evoke emotion and pull at heartstrings. As I have shared my vision of the next era of marketing, I’ve talked about how marketing is changing. But, in this post let’s start with how it’s not changing when it comes to building a brand. Then, we can turn to how we, as marketers, will need to change to build our brands in the next era of marketing.

Storytelling Is Timeless

In the era of engagement marketing, the essence of what makes you and me marketers won’t change. No matter how much digital, social, mobile we have in the world around us, Marketing will always need well-told evocative stories, and the ability to communicate to your audience’s needs, wants, and emotions.

Think about Skype’s “Stay Together” campaign: It demonstrated how people are using technology to develop deep, emotional relationships across great distances. It was a shift from talking about their product and features to talking about the emotional benefits of using their product. In one story, two young girls, each born with one arm, connect from across the world to learn from one another’s experiences. They teach each other valuable lessons about self confidence, and share those iconic teenage-girl moments, like swapping hair and makeup tips. The two girls don’t just keep in touch—Skype allows them to become best friends, even while living on separate continents. The campaign is global and spans multiple channels, but it’s also personal and emotional. It connects with the audience.

These kinds of campaigns—big narratives that span a wide range of experiences and stories—will still have a key place in the future of marketing, because we can all connect with them.

Your Story As A Starting Place

What will change about this type of storytelling in the era of engagement marketing, is that marketers will not use these stories to talk “at” their audience–in cinematic fashion, but rather as a way to initiate a conversation and elicit a response that they can listen to. They will need to create this type of storytelling over time–not just at a single moment, but rather a conversation and narrative that builds to create engagement. Customers will also create these stories with us, by engaging on or across social media, and other channels to share and tell stories.

The story becomes part of a larger journey that a customer takes, and how the customer responds will help the marketer determine how best to talk with them.

Technology Helps Stories

This all means that a big change in the future will be the role of technology in storytelling. Technology augments who we are as marketers—where our core love of storytelling is enhanced by the ability to make the interaction last longer than a single point in time. Technology helps marketers engage with their audience, over time and in a personalized way. It’s the only way to do it at scale. And, it’s the only way to meet the customer everywhere they are—as opposed to just pushing a cool story at them through a single channel like TV. Marketers themselves recognize the power of technology to impact their success in the future—as demonstrated in the results from the recent survey conducted by the Economic Intelligence Unit on behalf of Marketo:

More than 80% of marketers will rely on technology to engage customers in conversations and build advocacy and trust with customers.

Furthermore, when you look at where marketers plan on spending budgeting dollars in the next three to five years, the picture becomes even clearer. Departments are budgeting to meet the customer everywhere they are–tying multiple places together in a dialogue.

More than one-third will increase their budgets for social marketing, and roughly 30% will invest more in mobile marketing.

Marketers Must Learn How to Do It

In the survey conducted by the Economic Intelligence Unit on behalf of Marketo, we found that marketers were feeling a high degree of urgency to develop this new muscle and capability in their organizations.

When CMOs and other marketing leaders were asked what skills were the top areas they needed to develop:

  • The #1 answer, at 40%, was “digital engagement”
  • The #2 answer, tied at 40%, was marketing operations and technology
  • 27% indicated customer experience and engagement

Building Ambitious Purpose and a Dialogue

In an earlier post, I talked about how marketers will be responsible for the customer experience, but we haven’t yet talked about what that will look like. Customers are hyperconnected. They are also overloaded. I’ve seen studies that show that each of us are bombarded with nearly 3000 messages a day. Customers are looking for more relevant connections and ever greater meaning in their lives. Simply put, the bar is now even higher for marketers to get through.

This evolution means we need to think bigger; we need to tap into ideas that inspire customers and help them find meaning in the world around them. We have to develop our “ambitious purpose”. This is what we have always tried to do as marketers. We just need to do it bigger now.

And, we need to do it in very different ways. We need to effectively harness the tools that customers are using—meet them everywhere they are, on a sustained basis over time. If I think 90 seconds of a YouTube video, television commercial, digital ad, or entertaining social post is going to build my brand and real engagement, I probably will be sorely disappointed. Customers are now the keepers of our brand in this new digital world, and we need to build it with them. That requires a new and unique set of skills, namely the ability to harness new technology platforms and use them to engage customers.

What’s old is new—very new. But, if we keep the core of what is true to marketing and embrace the need for new skills and capabilities in this new era of engagement marketing, our potential for growth and real brand connection is unbounded.

What do you think? Has the rise in digital technology changed the stories marketers tell and the way we tell them? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments.

Sanjay served as Marketo's CMO for nearly five years, leading the marketing department through its worldwide expansion and IPO. He joined Marketo from Crowd Factory, where as CEO he was responsible for the strategic direction and vision of the company. Sanjay holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in strategy and marketing from the Kellogg School of Management.

Read Sanjay's Blogs

How will you take what makes you a great marketer today, and transform to be a great #marketer of the future?

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