One of the big trends of 2016 was ‘marketing in the moment’. People were talking about the need to use data and technology to target people at specific moments of need, but very few were talking about content. By definition, a ’micro-moment’ is specific to an individual’s needs and situation, so unless the content is tailored to match it does not matter how smart the targeting might be, the ad will likely be ignored.
However, I think that the whole ‘marketing in the moment’ movement is totally missing the point about the purpose of marketing. To me, marketing is about developing demand for your brand before they recognize a need for it, as opposed to selling which is about activating that demand once someone recognizes they have a need. The two practices are complementary, and practicing one without the other will likely to be far less effective than when the two are combined.
Most examples of marketing in the moment appear to fall squarely on the activation side of the equation. Take the example of Red Roof Inn which capitalized on last-minute demand for a hotel room following flight cancellations. Or Mondelez in China who target people at work with ads for different brands at different times of day: belVita Biscuits in the morning as a breakfast replacement, or Oreo in the afternoon as a pick me up treat. Or Narellan Pools whose agency figured out that after two sequential days with above-average temperatures, people were more likely to respond positively to ads for swimming pools.
I would argue that in the cases of Red Roof Inn and Oreo, they are likely capitalizing on the immediate need because the equity of both brands is relatively well-established. People respond instinctively to the right offer made at the right time based on pre-existing brand associations built by prior experience and marketing. Without those associations Red Roof Inn might have been rejected as too cheap to be a safe place to stay, or Oreo rejected as an odd foreign brand. The job of marketing is to prepare your brand to be chosen at all the moments when people might consider it and marketing does this by establishing motivating ideas, impressions and feelings about the brand ahead of time not just at the moment of decision.
In the case of Narellan Pools you could argue that many people reached in the moment might never have heard of the brand and therefore the practice is both marketing and selling rolled into one. This might be true, but to convert someone to buy a brand they have never heard of before requires a really compelling sell. and that is a lot to ask of a digital ad impression which likely will get a few seconds of attention at best. The ads for Narellan Pools were not actually making the sale, but instead generating leads that could later be turned into a sale.
In all these cases the need is fairly specific and common across the potential audience, making it easier to use a common set of content to activate the sale. However, delivering the right content still matters. In the case of Oreo Thins in China it is reported that changing the creative to highlight the thin nature of cookie increased conversions threefold.
Technology and big data will continue to empower brands to reach people at the right time to make a sale but marketers would do well to persuade their colleagues that without pre-existing demand and the right content, ‘marketing in the moment’ is likely to be ineffective. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts.
Written by Nigel Hollis,Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst at Kantar Millward Brown.