Tired of Getting Burned Out? Yeah. Us too.

Burnout is a media concept.

It’s what happens when consumers get so sick of seeing an advertiser’s TV commercial, print ad or shelf talker they start to tune it out, or, worse, they respond with what can only be described as primal, visceral rage.  If you’ve ever seen that “Saved By Zero” campaign Toyota used to air then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  If not, click the link, crank your speakers, and I’ll see you back here in ten minutes.  Enjoy.

Products get purchased once.  Marketing is heavily focused on that pre-purchase decision.  That’s really annoying.  It also means we, as advertisers, are spending our time and money on the people who don’t love us (yet).  If that seems counterintuitive, consider this: 90% of consumers trust recommendations from their friends.  65% say those friend recommendations make them highly or somewhat more likely to purchase a product.

The fact is, people tend to recommend brands they love.  The objective of marketing isn’t just to drive awareness, it needs to drive advocacy.  Brands need to devote energy to converting people who like them into people who love them.

So, in an age where advocacy drives business results, how do we turn “marketing” into a sustainable endeavor?  Can we design touchpoints that, instead of flaming out, encourage multiple engagements – accruing value instead of losing it?  We can.  Not by designing “campaigns” but by focusing on “engagement systems.”

[click to enlarge] The modern marketing funnel relies on the power of advocacy to generate true brand buzz and purchase intent.  90% of people trust reco’s from their friends. ‘Nough said.

The modern marketing funnel relies on the power of advocacy to generate true brand buzz and purchase intent. 90% of people trust reco’s from their friends. ‘Nough said. (click to enlarge)

Creating Touchpoints that Don’t Burn Out

The key difference is value.  The only value offered by most traditional communications is either entertainment or information.  The amount of information that can be packed into a 30 second spot, a print ad or radio spot is pretty negligible (and quickly absorbed by the consumer).  The amount of entertainment value is potentially quite substantial, but subject to diminishing returns (i.e. burnout).  I love Rocky III, but there’s just only so many times I can watch it as the Saturday Afternoon Movie before it loses its luster.  Hard to believe, but true.

Digital deployments are dynamic.  They can pull data from their users, and they can manipulate and refresh the information they send back.  They never have to lose their novelty.  They can always be updated.

Good examples of what I mean include: Nike+, the iPhone, Eco:drive, World of Warcraft, Pokémon, Kindle, and Webkins.  In each example, the marketing is built right in.  Users become part of a larger system that deepens their engagement with the product and the Brand.  The product becomes the key entry point in a social system that extends the engagement with the brand, and drives interest beyond the point of purchase.

Sony’s E-Reader may beat the Kindle on paper, but Kindle is supported by the Amazon system.  That means not only their e-store, but the adjoining social structure as well.  If you want to lend books to your friends, you’d better encourage them to buy a Kindle.  You can find similar parallels to any of the other products I named above.

Even web properties like Living Social, Facebook, or Twitter can be considered systems.  Each adds value to consumers through an extended social brand engagement vs. the traditional marking communications model.  But because of that extended brand engagement they have the potential to be much more effective.

Must all Systems Be “Baked Into the Product?”

In the above examples, the product is central to the use of the system.  But what if a marketer is trying to sell a product that already exists?  Or the category doesn’t lend itself to a social structure?

There is value to deepening a consumer’s relationship with a Brand.  Nike is a pioneer in the space with their experimentation in mobile.  Nike Goal offers Italian soccer (football?) fans a new perspective on their favorite sport, offering access to the stats, scores, and boots of the Italian Serie A league.  NikeWomen Training Club and Nike Football+ Master Control each provide lasting value by helping consumers get the most out of their workouts – what a great way to extend the equity of the brand who put out that breathtaking  “Break To Build” spot.

Cosmetics’ manufacturer Bobbi Brown designed their website to foster a connection between the brand and the consumer.  Instead of visiting the site only to browse and purchase products, users can connect in real time and receive makeup advice from professional artists.  This deepens the engagement for the consumer and builds a relationship built on trust, not on commerce.

The Bobbi Brown site offers makeup tips and the ability to connect to a makeup artist in real time.

The Bobbi Brown site offers makeup tips and the ability to connect to a makeup artist in real time.

We’ve been experimenting with deployments that hold their value for consumers.  Our Fanbase application creates a conduit between musicians and fans.  Unless the artist is a bore and the user loses interest, the application will never wear out.  For the Colorado State Tobacco Education Prevention Program we built a platform for conversation.  As long as teens have issues they want to talk about, the platform will never wear out.  They may find better places to discuss their issues, but the inherent value of the site will never diminish.

Digital media lets marketers broaden their interactions with their users — which is great news.  Consumers are simply tired of getting burned out.

Image Credit: homestarrunner.com