Will Digital Advertising Force Traditional Advertising to Find its New, True Mission?


The value of traditional advertising is under heavy siege. The maturation of the Internet, with its focus on banner ads and click-through rates, plus the trend towards personalization and companies’ use of social media as discounting and couponing platforms all but finished the job.

But there’s one role that traditional advertising should focus on: Leading the charge for social and environmental issues. Why? Well, 55% of consumers will pay extra for products and services from companies committed to creating a positive impact on social and environmental issues. And this desire is growing year after year. Over 50% of consumers say they have purchased a product within the last year that featured sustainability in its messaging—and consciously checked for it. And according to Watermark’s 2014 Customer Experience ROI Study, when companies combine a commitment to positive social and environmental issues with a great overall consumer experience, they get an average stock return that is 77% higher than the market average. That shows the real potential of this new connection with consumers.

Traditional Advertising’s Strengths
Traditional advertising can be uniquely qualified to meet these consumer interests because they understand how to drive one message deep into the market. They can tie it to product packaging, store merchandising and deliver it across multiple mediums, including digital. While this approach flies in the face of personalization, it is exactly what is needed if a company is going to take a stand on social or environmental issues. These call for consistency and clarity of message; one unified message that speaks to a company’s beliefs and values; one message with which consumers will connect.

Clearly there’s an upside to getting in step with this change in consumer behavior—and a caution. Companies must take a public stance, such as Starbucks’ new policy on providing employees with college tuition to close the earning gap. That works well; not all their well-intended efforts–such as their desire to promote discussions on race–have. There is a clear ROI on adopting policies aligned with your target market’s attitudes and beliefs. But companies need to be tuned into their audience BEFORE they launch an initiative. And isn’t that how it should always be anyway?

You can learn more in my new book, Big Social Mobile, How Digital Initiatives can Reshape the Enterprise and Drive Business Results.



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