In an age where digital dominates, have we lost the human touch?
Technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate. But in an increasingly fragmented media landscape and an industry dominated by ‘devices’, ‘channels’, ‘data’, ‘analysis’ and ‘measurement’, how can marketers ensure sure that the messages they’re putting out there aren’t neglecting the most crucial ingredient for success: the human touch.
By human touch, I’m referring to a genuine human connection with the people you’re trying to engage with. This is where the role of content, and creative ideas rooted in real insight, come into their own. It’s also why I think that they will increasingly claim a higher spot on the marketing agendas of those brands who are ahead of the curve in creating consistent and meaningful brand experiences for their customers, resulting in lasting relationships.
At Foxtrot Papa, we tell our clients that ‘great’ content is content that stirs an emotion in the viewer, which, in turn, triggers some sort of response. That response could be a simple shift in perception, or it could trigger a specific action, but either way, at some level the piece of content has made an emotional connection with the viewer. How? Through storytelling. From Shakespeare plays and Hemingway, through to addictive TV series (Game of Thrones anyone?), the power of good storytelling is clear.
As humans, we can’t help but become emotionally drawn in. We resonate with the plot, or the characters in some way. We sympathise, empathise, we’re driven to hate some characters and fall in love with others. We invest our time and energy in pursuing the story to see how it unfolds. What will become of our heroes and villains? We care and it’s all because of an emotional connection. The same is true of all good marketing content.
But in a fragmented media landscape, how can brands ensure that they’re creating the right emotional connection with their audiences at the right time? And how can they ensure that emotional connection isn’t forgotten completely when artificial intelligence and the Alexas of this world have a growing presence?
The answer lies, firstly, in a true understanding of the customer journey and, secondly, in an increasing focus on the creative execution of content and your message.
Brands need to be aware of exactly where their customers are along their journey and more specifically, what they need at each stage. Having this knowledge and understanding means that they can create content that will authentically respond to a real human need at that moment, and the story told here can tap into a real emotional state. Doing this repeatedly throughout the customer journey in sequential narratives – a concept referred to by speaker James Patterson of The Trade Desk, UK – plays to the advantage of content over traditional advertising: it allows brands to be useful to people even when they aren’t looking to buy – the emphasis is on helping, rather than selling, and building a lasting relationship.
Whether you’re using elaborate production design and grand camera movements or creating content with an iPhone, the story and technique need to work seamlessly together within a strong creative concept to provoke an emotional connection. How do you want your customer to perceive your content? Put it this way, if Siri was to read your video script, chances are your audience would switch off, yet the message – the story – would be the same. A strong creative concept is the vehicle for your story, executed to stir the relevant emotions.
The human element must remain at the heart of any marketing strategy aiming to help a brand thrive in the fragmented, omnichannel world. Brands and agencies have worked diligently in the last decade to connect individual customers to the many devices they use each day, but the ones who will create the most meaningful experiences are those who create consistent, genuine emotional connections throughout the customer journey, using content with powerful storytelling rooted in insight.