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Nov 04 2015

What Many Brands Don’t Understand About the Internet


By Rajdeep Endow

"Let me get on the internet and see an ad," says no consumer ever. In 2014, not a single for-profit brand figured in the Google top 10 most searched items because of their advertising.

Many brands don't understand that people don't go on the internet to look for advertising. Sample this:

You have some time to kill in between your meetings. You check your mobile. There's a Whatsapp message from your friend which says, "Check out this hilarious video", with a link. You click on the link. Get on to YouTube. You wait for your video to load. And you get a message "Your video will play after this ad". You open another tab on your browser, do some random browsing, wait for the ad to end so you can get back to watching what you intended to watch in the first place.

Pre-rolls ads, as they are called, are bad in themselves. They annoy the life out of me. However, as someone in the business of helping brands tell their stories to their customers, what annoys me even more are the assumptions behind the decision to put that pre-roll ad in the first place.

"Let's just put our ad where someone is bound to see it. Even if it means that it interrupts whatever that person wanted to see. And just to show them that we understand that we are being a royal pain, we will tell them how long they have to endure our ad."

Internet for Brands

We go on the net perhaps because we need information, or entertainment, or inspiration, to have fun, or sometimes, at the end of a very long day at home or work, when we have some me-time and just want to see what's going on in the lives of others.

So brands that don't want to acknowledge the needs that people have on this medium end up spending a lot of money buying media, creating ads, paying agencies and then having very little to show for it. Then they blame the medium, the agency, and occasionally the consumers.

We need to put an end to this silliness.

But it's not easy. It takes courage to break away from accepted wisdom, and use our own common sense, however uncommon a direction that may take us towards.

In an article earlier this year, my colleague Kim Douglas, who leads SapientNitro's business in Singapore and Hong Kong asked, "Where have all the brave brands gone?"

"Brands and agencies that are committed to finding ways to enter their consumers' always-on worlds have a special sort of bravery. They see in new technologies and media a call to step away from the familiarity of "trusted" messaging and media strategies, and to start experimenting with new, non-traditional marketing initiatives that thrive in the digital environment.", Kim says.


So how does one make oneself relevant if one is not to think of shoving ads down the browser of unwilling customers? The best way out is to understand what consumers are looking for and give it to them.

Our lives are complicated. We want to simplify it. Solve our day-to-day problems. Where do I find a plumber at 11 in the night? How do I stop my kid from not spitting in his food? What do I gift my friends on their tenth wedding anniversary?

As I go about finding the answers, I am not interested in some brand's story. The only story I am consistently interested in is the story of me, the one that I am "constantly writing, rewriting, editing and conspiring about." It's the one story that I am constantly tuned into all the time.

In these different need states we roam around the internet. We use the net to search and consume content. Constantly. Looking for inspiration, answers, information, entertainment, and sometimes something to buy. Sometimes something to identify with. Something that makes us care.

Most brands aren't present or relevant in this search. They don't spend the time and effort to understand this. Because they are mostly interested in showing their ads, and selling their products. And they don't succeed.

In order to create relevance and find a place in people's lives in this medium, brands first have to learn to be selfless. And put customers at the center, ahead of the themselves. And then create whole experiences that can be consumed in bite-sized chunks, anytime, anywhere, on any device, in every need state. By being present in people's worlds they can inspire, inform and entertain and help people compare, learn, and transact.

It is by being present that they will be relevant. And change how people view them. And just like the friend we end up confiding in because she was always there, brands can earn the trust and confidence of their customers by being there. Learn about them and help them make life choices. And consumption ones.

So if you want to use the internet to be relevant to people, ask yourself what people are interested in, regardless of how relevant it is to your brand.


Originally published on www.adageindia.in

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About Sapient

Sapient, part of the Publicis Groupe, is a global services company that helps clients transform in the areas of business, marketing, and technology. The company operates three divisions that enable clients to gain a competitive advantage and succeed in an increasingly digital world. SapientRazorfish, Sapient Global Markets, and Sapient Government Services fuse insight, creativity, and technology to drive innovation and to help clients navigate complex business problems. Our approach is the subject of case studies used by MBA programs at Harvard and Yale. The company has operations in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. For more information, visit http://www.publicis.sapient.com.