We frequently read about companies that are failing fast as a result of trying to create the most innovative brand campaigns. It is almost as if company leaders are seeking to fail for the sake of being disruptive. Personally, I don’t seek to fail, but I understand it can be part of a healthy innovation process that enables success. Because we live in a millennial-inspired participation economy, old schemas are often less predictive of future success. As a result, those (successfully) disruptive brands are becoming the most loved and the most sought-after among millennials.
In this new economy, the Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) model is less useful and actionable than it was in an era when brand awareness—largely achieved through traditional advertising to a target audience—seemed to connect increases in awareness to improvement in financial performance.
This AIDA model needs to be replaced by one that is more reflective of a marketing world where consumer co-creators are a lot less like a target audience and a lot more like a partner. In tomorrow-land, brands that create meaning and intrigue and offer an experience will consistently outperform brands that use more tried-and-true traditional marketing models.
Many successful, mature companies tend to have a lot of equity in old schemas, which is a significant piece of why companies often fail when engaging millennials. We’ve seen titans like Kodak disappear and companies like Gillette get caught off guard by startups like Harry’s. (After a good, long head start, Gillette has introduced its own direct-to-consumer, subscription service for razor blades.)
The most successful brands have embraced a fundamental shift in their communication strategies. There is now a greater proliferation of consumer channels compared with the traditional model that focused on shot-gunning an idea through one very targeted channel. Successful brands are now taking a “brand stand”—spreading a single uniting theme across the entire ecosystem of their brand, communicating it through a web of channels that includes both internal and external partners, online and offline environments.
The key is that this new communication model implies both telling and listening. The most engaging brands successfully listen to their consumer partners to answer questions like: what can we learn, what can we share, what can we solve for and, most importantly, how will we respond? They are then using what they are hearing to create insightful and actionable communication engagement.
To come up with innovative ideas and participate in the new model, marketers must ask and answer two key questions:
1. Is an idea within your brand authority? You have more reach within your brand authority than you expect. For example, I should be wearing a FitBit activity tracker provided by my health care insurer, but the company failed to understand their brand authority so Nike stepped up to the plate.
2. Can you afford to make this bet? A percentage of your investment should be on blue ocean ideas—those ideas without a predictable outcome that can either be widely successful or fall short—yet you cannot use traditional ROI metrics when measuring the success of these ideas. You must adapt a bifurcated view of metrics, where traditional metrics are applied to core and emerging opportunities and new and different metrics are applied to blue ocean opportunities.
Your brand must allocate a percent of time and money to each category in order to maximize your innovation pipeline. If your brand is more conservative in approach, you have the option to allocate a smaller amount of resources to blue ocean ideas. If your brand is parched of blue ocean ideas, you invite other, more disruptive brands to take over your market.
Editor’s note: Leah Swartz and Greg Vodicka, a millennial account coordinator and a millennial consultant at FutureCast, respectively, contributed to this post. The original version appeared on psfk.com on Nov. 11, 2014.