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Influencing the Influencer

As more and more marketers graduate from marketing en masse to identifying their most critical segments and then carefully crafting and targeting messages towards them, the need for big brand ideas that can span both becomes ever more critical. 

Why? Because there's likely to be more than one key consumer segment to communicate with -- whose wants, needs and copy points all differ -- and you'll still need a unifying idea big enough to resonate across them all.

But it is reasonable to think you can satisfy them all with one idea? Let's say your agency has arrived at what they think is a big idea for your brand. The challenge is stress testing not only whether it will resonate on TV with the mass media portion of your spend but also whether it has the smack and appeal within your smaller interactive target segments to help "influence the influencers."

Chances are, if the idea resonates with your influencer, it should make you just a little bit nervous inside-- and probably won't score as well in your mass television centric test. Concurrently, if it's too broad an idea but it scores well in testing, it probably won't have the impact you might need to get through to the key influencer.

Call them mavens, influencers, "concierges of cool," whatever; the fact is, for these key "somes" to influence your "many," it is imperative that your creative messages resonate at the most surgical levels-- with those who make it their mission to spread the word. 

How do you get there?
Before creatives begin sharpening their messages to the few, there's much work to be done by marketers and researchers.

For marketers, it's a matter of being brave enough to walk away from your least profitable customer segments and embrace those segments of "somes" that hold the biggest promise for growth.

Once these key segments have been identified, it's imperative that research understand their wants and needs. For agency researchers, that means moving beyond classic media consumer segmentation models and moving up a level-- towards more behavioral and experiential segmentation that provides creatives and media planners with the lifestyle wants and needs that drive better planning insights. 

This is not easy work. It requires a lot of change-- both at the agency and marketer levels. 

Creatively, we desperately need this more targeted thinking at the front end so that we can get busy delivering the kind of customized messages and contextual creative that our media colleagues have been busy building systems to deliver on the backend.

As a creative community, we have much catching up to do to truly take advantage of what behavioral targeting and optimization experts like TACODA, Revenue Science, [x+1] and others are already capable of doing with the right creative. They're ready to help us influence the influencer now-- because they know how to reach them. But we, in turn, must be ready to generate more contextual creative assets that are designed for the few-- who in turn have the currency to influence the many. 

In this effort, we are woefully behind.

Optimization is our friend.
We creatives hate making changes. After all, we have been trained to approach our craft as a narrative of carefully strung together words and images -- like pearls -- adding one at a time. This is why we shudder when we hear about scientific approaches and methodologies for online creative performance.

We believe that no algorithm is going to make the consumer feel. Think, maybe, but not feel.

Yet we've also got to recognize that, despite our passion for our own ideas, we're not always right, and there is much that optimizing our creative in market can do to impact marketer results.

And this notion challenges our very self-understanding as "creatives."

That's why, hard as some creative boutiques try to seduce you with their understanding of "cool," there's no one who creatively has a lock on the mojo necessary to influence the influencer every time. Not Crispin. Not Mother. Not Naked.

What we do have is an opportunity to see fragmentation as just another means of aggregating audiences in new ways.

With the sophisticated tools and methods our media colleagues have already built, it's time we started influencing some of our own to change the way we define creative development and what a big brand idea really is.

Alan Schulman is chief creative cfficer for Brand New World. .

Alan Schulman currently serves as National Director of Digital Marketing & Creative Content for Deloitte Digtial - a division of Deloitte Consulting, LLP.  A member of Deloitte Digital's Senior Leadership Team, Alan is responsible for...

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