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Power Essays 2020: Big ideas are no longer big enough, by Digitas’ Mario Soufia

By Mario Soufia Head of Strategy, Digitas.

We have welcomed the digital era with open arms for the opportunities it seemingly provides, so why haven’t the world and our respective industries become easier to navigate? We spend 10 hours a day looking at screens, yet it’s tough to hold anyone’s attention for more than a few seconds.

On average, brands have to manage 23 different channels at once, which causes them to resort to reach and retargeting technologies to try to catch consumers’ eyes. These initiatives are sometimes successful, but most of the time they are not. We have now reached the era of distraction advertising, in which users are practically developing amnesia across interactions. And too often brand actions don’t match their professed values.

We know that people want, even demand, a different relationship with brands: “Meaning over distraction.”

Seventy per cent of us say we expect contextualised engagements based on previous interactions, and 63 per cent believe brands should recognise us across touchpoints. This means that we need actions, not ads. This calls for connected ideas— because big ideas are no longer big enough. The idea of signature moments assumes that consumers stay “wowed” each time they repeat the experience. It assumes that the idea is unique, and that competitors can’t copy it. It assumes that the market stays static. We’re all fighting for the micro-moments of digital behaviour, yet we’ve neglected the pivotal moments in our consumers’ daily lives.

Consider the biggest brands in the world. They operate with the mindset that consumers crave relationships in which brands view them as individuals, and behave accordingly by targeting them in more transparent, personal ways than ever before.

Big ideas, big stunts and big activations are great but, no matter how you look at it, they generalise. They generalise that all consumers are the same – that they’re all ready, and that they’ll all have an identical relationship with our brand. But we know better. We know how to capture the nuance and variation of the consumer-brand dynamic. We know that there are 19 different consumer- brand relationship archetypes that represent the consumer’s voice. And we know how to use this information to get results.

The digital social world moves rapidly, and we’ve all had to create our own ways of meeting consumers acting now and in the moment—at the “speed of social”. But this comes at what cost? We’ve left less than 10 per cent of our focus and attention for the long-haul planning, which is how we create deep-rooted relationships that can be passed on to the next generation of consumers.

This is beyond data usage, data infrastructure and a single customer viewpoint – it’s time to connect all of our activities under a unified strategic platform that allows us to digest, understand, move, and grow consumers beyond the next sale.

Agencies need to rebuild their communication model in order to apply a user experience framework based on individual consumer truth. Communication to out-of-market, in-market, and current brand consumers must be connected to convert an impression to a lifetime of advocacy. To do this, we must adopt an approach with consumer-centric values and commitments at its heart.

We have to keep reminding ourselves of the consumer and their daily pivotal moments as we push through our daily time-consuming efforts to generate business. Take a look at Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon: Bezos is famous for leaving an empty chair at the conference table and letting people know it’s occupied by “the most important person in the room” – the consumer. And, of course, Amazon continues to rank in the top 10 for the Temkin Experience Rating.

Demographic targeting, interests targeting, psychographics targeting, socio-economic targeting, and even behavioural targeting – these days are over, or at least should be. It’s time to put the consumer in the driving seat of our communication, cater to their wants and needs, and let the digital capabilities of our modern world co-pilot us home.

No, it’s not easy. Yes, it is complex. It will take time, and you will need resources. But if we don’t make the transition now, then when? We’re here, and we’re ready. Are you?