By Anton Mussche – Co-Founder Stampix
I’ve been a professional sailer most of my career. Although sailing open ocean waters may seem a far cry from the world of marketing, it has taught me one important thing: to discern how trends are forming, see where the world is going next and navigate successfully. Forming a vision of the future or navigating as you will, is what I love to do most. For the last two years I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with a bunch of talented people. We’ve created a company that combines photography and marketing, 2 passions that run deep into my veins. We’ve adapted the classic advertising business model to the photo-printing market and it has been an illuminating experience. Based on our own launch as a consumer brand and hundreds of conversations with marketing executives of leading global brands I can see where we’re going next.
The ad agency with no ads
I recently bumped into an ad agency called Giant Spoon, which was named Breakout Agency of the Year 2018 by AdWeek magazine and this inspired me to write this post. For clients like Uber, GE, Warner Bross… the agency created fun, immersive brand experiences through flawless storytelling. For their client HBO, they made a meticulous replica of Sweetwater, the town inside series Westworld, which became the most discussed TV show thanks to the activation and garnered 1.9 billion social impressions. Giant Spoon explains their business model this way: “We are an advertising agency that aspires to never make an ad.” Isn’t that at least remarkable? An agency that doesn’t make ads was named ad agency of the year! This little news story points to a significant trend for all of us.
Let’s make marketing human again
We are entering the post-advertising, post-truth/trust era. For many businesses, it’s already here. For as long as we can remember, advertising was the best way to get the word out about our products and services but today, consumers are increasingly unreachable. Even if they see your ad, they probably don’t believe it. In this new era, we must find new, more human-centered approaches to sharing our tales. Here’s why:
• Ad blockers : last year, The NY Times reported that 11% of global internet users employed ad-blocking software – a startling 30% increase from the previous year.
• Ad fraude : only 53% of web traffic is human and 1.7 billion fake accounts were removed by Facebook in 2018
• Brand safety: “As long as prominent media headlines call out fake news and offensive content, pressure will continue to mount on content publishers and platforms to address brand safety concerns—and provide effective solutions” – ADWEEK
• Giant Spoon’s activations don’t interrupt anybody. Trough creative concepts they appear organically in the streets and neighbourhoods already filled with their ideal customers.
• People wait in line — some times for hours — to experience a branded event or to buy the latest new iPhone.
• Influencer and content marketing: you’re reading this article and I hope it will inspire you to do business with us.
• User generated content (UGC) creates authenticity and builds trust.
Among the public, there are more and more signs that people want to consume media that doesn’t consume them. David Sax wrote in the New York Times about the rising popularity of all things analog. Sales of real printed books are up for the third straight year. Also up are sales of vinyl records, paper notebooks and instant-film cameras. “In a world of endless email chains, group chats, pop-up messages or endlessly tweaked documents and images”, writes Sax, “the walled garden of analog saves both time and inspires creativity.”
Marketing will have to help people belong, believe, and find meaning. It will have to be on the customer’s terms and we will depend entirely on our customers for marketing success.
The era of human-centered marketing has arrived. Not all your marketing campaigns are going to be as epic as re-creating a Westworld set, but in this example let us see characteristics that will be the hallmarks of the new marketing era.
1. Never intercept, never interrupt.
2. Create authentic, meaningful experiences native to the customer’s culture and values.
3. Deliver something remarkable so the customers spread the word for you.
From skip this ad… to check this ad!
We all know the feeling: that urge to close your eyes and ears, put down our phone during the interruption of a YouTube ad, and the relieve when the Skip this ad-sign appears. My 10-year old nephew who lives in NYC knows exactly how to deal with this. He has a backup video playing so he can switch during the ad and doesn’t need to bother.
At Stampix, our young community of moms and millenials actually inform each other whenever a new brand campaign is launched. Instead of skipping them, their heartbeat goes up as they are clicking our ads. We recently changed our tagline to “Making Ads Welcome” – a clear statement implying that we’re bound to put the customer first. We also noticed a shift in mindset from some of the brands that we work with, e.g. at Orange the Marketing Manager preferred not to have the Orange logo on the frontside of the retro-prints, since this might be perceived as intrusive by some customers. The results speak for itself: more engagement, more happiness, and overal better campaign results.
These results only fuel my strong beliefs for this human centred approach and I hope you as a marketer can navigate your brand values safely and find your way to the blue ocean.