Have you ever been annoyed by a commercial or online ad? Is your response best described as mildly irritated, moderately perturbed, or utterly infuriated? If you’ve ever sworn an oath to avoid a product in retaliation for its exasperating ad, you know what NOT to do to your audience.
So how do you go about attracting, rather than alienating, your target audience?
Meet prospects where they live
Advertising runs the gamut from unremarkable to disruptive, and customer reactions arise from their expectations. Commercials are a traditional part of the television experience, and viewers are more willing to accept the interruption on network TV than on their preferred streaming platform. Why do people react so differently to what is, essentially, the same experience? Online and social media advertising throw entirely different dynamics — and success metrics — into the mix.
The defining factors in a content consumer’s response to an ad are investment and choice, which is why engagement is the primary goal of today’s commercial content. When a customer pays for access to a platform, such as a subscription streaming service, they are less willing to suffer through commercial breaks. And with free access to social media channels, users accept the presence of ad content because they have the option to engage or ignore.
On social media, engagement is interactive, and some innovative brands invite interaction via other creative media. Wendy’s “Super Wendy’s World” campaign dropped the fast-food icon into custom levels across a host of popular video games, including Minecraft, Animal Crossing, and Street Fighter. The character’s multiverse battle against freezers was a hit with gamers, who racked up 9.8 million minutes of collective engagement time.
In the end, “Wendy’s became the first verified restaurant on Twitch and ranked in the top 1% of all streamers on the platform.” With the amount of active engagement required by the player, aka the consumer, video games make for compelling community-building content — and they come complete with an established and invested audience.
Rules of engagement
Traditional commercial content struggles to inspire engagement, and audience engagement is the glue that holds your brand community together. A memorable interaction, in which they are active and responsive participants, will linger in your customer’s mind longer than an old-fashioned commercial.
Audience engagement is a balancing act. Creating interactive content requires understanding the culture of your target audience for each media format and engagement platform. It’s good to follow, and even participate in, social media trends, but co-opting them for commercial purposes reads as an empty bid for attention aimed at making a buck. You see cringe-worthy content on social media every day. Use them as an example of what not to do in your own engagement activity.
Different platforms operate with distinct user dynamics. Twitter’s B2B dynamic is currently in flux, but the platform typically operates on quick, high-level interactions compared to TikTok, which adopts a more casual, activity-centered engagement style. Tumblr is functionally unmarketable by design, and LinkedIn is all business. Each platform presents unique engagement opportunities, but if you can’t grasp the cultural dynamic, you’re not going to get the desired result. To build a successful community around your brand, make an effort to understand your target demographic and their behavior in each distinct social media context.
Company values are a significant selling point in the current marketplace. When a brand claims to hold a value its actions contradict, its community won’t stay cohesive for long. Rest assured, if your brand doesn’t “walk its talk,” word will get out, and your company’s image will suffer.
50% of the Gen Z demographic chooses whether to do business with a company based on the honesty, clarity, and transparency of its brand values. Remember, values create value only when they’re authentic and consistent. In short, put your money where your mouth is, and build your brand community on trust and audience engagement.