Customer Engagement Key to Online Success

The Washington Post profiles a new kind of ad-agency that:

“…has nothing invested in any particular solution and nothing to gain by telling its clients to spend more rather than less, its pitch is that it can offer the least-biased, most-cost-effective solutions. The message resonates with companies dissatisfied by the payoff from traditional advertising.”

Their view of the new age of advertising:

“Rather than simply pushing messages on consumers, the trick is to get consumers to pull them.”

Another company profiles, takes a more customer focused approach:

“R/GA turns the traditional process on its head. It starts by analyzing how consumers live and get information and works backward to create messages most appropriate for those channels.”

“Traditional agencies are set up as factories to produce advertising, which is a dying industry,” [RG/A founder Bob] Greenberg told me this week. “We’re in the business of stimulating consumer engagement, which is where things are going.”

This level of thinking seems to be taking hold all over the web, and certainly in publishing. People now understand that they have more choice and flexibility in finding news and information. They no longer have to rely on the dealer brochure or yearly Consumer Reports review when buying a car.

Likewise, they no longer need to rely on a single news source for perspectives on a particular news event. They can more easily get a sense of perspectives from across media channels from big media, to professional bloggers, to individuals, some of whom may be very close to the news source.

It is one thing to read a journalists perspective of a situation, it is another to read an unfiltered account of an event from someone who is living among it.

To the point of the Washington Post article, publishers need to understand the lifestyle, preferences, and needs to their readers (and their non-readers) in order to set strategy for growth.

As many social anthropologists understand, studying these things goes deeper than surveys. What people tell you they need and prefer are often different from how they actually act.

But overall, a deep sense of empathy is needed in order for the publishing industry to make a successful transition into new media. Stature alone no longer means that an agenda can be set for your audience.

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