My research involves ‘sentiment analysis’, and the more I read up on it, the more I realise that much of the communication and the analysis after that I had followed in the practical world was often a mechanical loop. Majority of the communication strategies go into how we craft our message and where we publish them. It is debatable, but our expenses also focus on these two aspects of communication.
Everybody is excited about the platforms that are available to tell their brand story. Creativity is at its peak, technology is at its ever-evolving best, and digital platforms have opened immense possibilities to storytellers, and listeners like never.
We discuss the communication strategy, establish and adhere to standards we agree upon and publish. We publish the story we want to tell, in the standard language, leveraging the corporate colours and ethics we have chosen, in all possible platforms that are feasible for us. Then we measure the success of such broadcast by observing the ‘Digital Body Language’ (a term coined by Steve Woods, CTO at Nudge for digital actions like visiting a website, clicking a link, revisiting a page etc.)
How much of this process is ‘all about customers’? How much of it is an actual ‘dialogue’ with the customer?
Marketing has become throwing that wide net(work) in the only way we know and eagerly expecting a nice catch. It is indeed very much like fishing. The focus is continuously on for a big haul with minimal efforts.
It is interesting to see the ideas evolve on two sides of the grass. As a marketing communication specialist, I invested all my energy in getting the message right, the language perfect and the aesthetics matching the established standards. As a consumer of that information from among the clutter of information spread out there, I can mostly tell which co they are from by the proportion of the colours and the usage of typefaces – allowing me a faster way to filter them off.
I realised that in the name of ‘communication’ I was only ‘broadcasting’ information all this while. I would broadcast and count on the people who fell for it. I made an interesting analysis on ‘how many people viewed the ad’ almost daily at one point in time. I framed crisp, concise messages and succeeded in delivering it directly to people’s InMail’s. I built hopes on ‘thanks, will look into it’ messages.
Now, when I type such lines as a response to a marketing message – it is my most friendly way of keeping that person from spamming my inbox at least for a few more days.
In short, analysing my ‘Digital Body Language’ has not helped any Brand to get to me. I thought a person was owning an exciting business which he tried pitching to me – I politely declined twice – the third message from his business made me hit the DND button. Olivia O’Leary, in her speech at Trinity, said – ‘I once made the mistake of clicking on a purse I thought was lovely and purses of every kind have been haunting me ever since by following me everywhere I go on the internet.’
We all recite the slogan of communication – you need to understand and cater to your audience – ever so often. Unfortunately, we ‘understand’ our audience as ‘groups’ than ‘individuals who make the decisions’. Having worked in B2B marketing communication for almost a decade now, the thumb rule everywhere had been – your audience is ‘C-level’; your communication must be ‘top-notch’.
But, just as a friend who reviewed the first version of this blog suggested – can we take it slow rather than jump the gun? If we are to have a checklist of what to look for in our communication – acknowledging the existence of customers as ‘humans’ – goes first.
Before they are B2B or B2C, your communication goes B2H ‘Business to Humans’. When you are conscious of your message going to this one individual, it is going to take some backspaces and some new words. Rather than the mechanical outpour of good grammar and great picture, a line of personal touch is going to hit home. Did you know that “I’m loving it” is grammatically wrong? (technically, as it uses a static verb in a progressive tense 😊 I’m sure every single person in copywriting would have come across this)
The consciousness of our customer’s – every customer’s sentiment goes first. While it is very cool to think out of the box and cater to youthful/trendy/catchy lines, you may want to watch out for the hidden hurt – This rule applies to any category of communicator you fall in.
It may sound like – ‘Oh that – of course we will look into – are you kidding?’ sort of a message, but it is different and difficult when we sit and create ‘global’ message in one part of the world. I was in a fix when once for a campaign, our copy had #911 in it – it was our booth number, and this was to be put up in a hoarding in the U.S. You must think of the section of the society you will be talking to – whether they are, or they aren’t your direct customer.
Back in 2008, when Fastrack started their ‘controversial content’ marketing technique, I was shocked as to how an ad could drive me away! I just felt that while the ‘move on’ trend they portrayed maybe cool, the Indian market had not matured for it – just not yet (what I felt in 2008). It was targeted to people in the age group of 20-28, and I was one among their target audience and one who had 3-4 of their products in my wardrobe then. I said goodbye – they probably did not hear or even care. I saw them make it to the headlines with another ‘controversy’ ad which got banned in India in 2011 and just out of curiosity when I asked around in my circle – many of them had ‘moved on’ from Fastrack.
When we hear ‘sentiment analysis’ almost everywhere and when we now have so many tools to do ‘social media sentiment analysis’ – the first step we need to take is to acknowledge. Acknowledge the people we are talking to, acknowledge that they are ‘people’ first – C-level, Executive level or just geographies or metrics, much later.