Putting Communication Front And Center

Don’t let technology get in the way of your message.  To avoid doing so, you need to take control of your internet strategy!

Why?  To ensure that new technologies enhance customer experiences – not distract. 

Key to that is making certain the focal point of executing strategy is the customer.  Somewhere in the digital world that vision has become blurred, and while addressing the customer’s needs, wants, attitudes and motivations should be the primary objective, too many companies have become mesmerized by the siren of the latest technological wizardry, and the perceived need to match the competition’s online activity for fear of being left behind. 

That, unfortunately, can divert attention from where it has always belonged – on the customer.  Looking at the historical relationship between media and technology can help understand why this deserves our attention.  It took years, even decades, for previous new-media inventors to understand how audiences could use their new technology.  After inventing the phonograph, Thomas Edison believed its primary application was dictating business letters.  Alexander Graham Bell viewed the telephone as a news and entertainment medium with subscribers dialing in for access.  Following the invention of wireless communication, it took almost 20 years for David Sarnoff, founder of NBC, to conceive the radio.

For a new-media technology to engage its audience, it must find its “voice.”  For the printing press it was the book which took more than 50 years to develop; for radio it was moving beyond broadcasting vaudeville acts and creating a new form of narrative drama, the soap opera.  We have witnessed the internet’s infatuation with push technology, avatars, multiplayer games, RSS feeds, the blogosphere, social networking and various forms of video.  This parade of technologies tells us the internet’s growing pains are not any different than those of predecessor media.

See Your Message from Your Customer’s Perspective

To be effective marketers, and to avoid spending huge amounts of money in the wrong places, we have to change the focus from technology to communicating meaningful customer benefits.  Like the internet, previous media were “world changing” technologies of their time.  However, their ultimate success did not come from the technologies themselves, but as a result of the underlying psychology that made the book, recorded music, the phone call and, yes, the soap opera become indispensable to consumers.

From a marketing perspective, interactive technology has an unmatched ability to place relevant information in front of a targeted consumer.  In evaluating this, however, we need to understand that exposure alone does not necessarily make the internet an effective communications tool.  A fundamental truth about all advertising, whether it appears in print, broadcast or the internet, is that it must elicit audience awareness and involvement, as well as accomplish message communication that influences attitudes and causes desired behavior – like buying your product or service.

Make Your Message the End Goal

Answering the question “What can the technology deliver?” will not lead to the development of communication platforms or advertising formats that are in sync with how the consumer thinks.  In fact recent studies show that animation, if not used correctly, may not increase user involvement in a commercial, may reduce processing of the content, may suppress potential recall and may be associated with negative attitudes toward the ad.  And it can cost a lot!

So we must insist that questions about the internet be asked from the consumer’s perspective — changing the emphasis from technology to communication: What do we know about how people process information that tells us how we can use this new technology most effectively?  With the answer to this question, we can help the internet find its narrative voice, giving it communication capabilities equal to or greater than those of other media. 

This not only will increase the internet’s targeted direct-response capability, but it can become an effective brand-advertising medium by delivering messages that help differentiate your product or service in meaningful ways based on established psychological principles.

Develop an Emotionally Rich Experience

But at the end of the day, it’s not about the technology; it’s all about the consumer and communicating values and emotion – an active ingredient in all effective communication.  Whether you have a large budget or a modest one, remembering that simple fact will help you make the right decisions in the evolving world of interactive technology.  And that same lesson can be applied to whatever medium is most effective for you.

Posted by Barbara Hoganson  March 2nd, 2009

2 Responses to “Putting Communication Front And Center”

  1. Peter Says:

    Is this blog anyway linked to Harden and Associates? Or is it a parent company?

  2. John Harden Says:

    Hi Peter:

    Successful Business is the blog for Harden & Associates, Inc. (www.hardeninc.com). Are you ready to contribute!?

    Have a great day!


Leave a Reply