Colin Byrne (2 mins including settling down time): Hello, I’m Colin Byrne from the engagement agency, Weber Shandwick and I’m here to talk about how technology has fundamentally changed the visual and verbal rules of engagement. We’re living in a new era of engagement – something we talk a lot about in our agency – an era in which kids can swipe before they can write, mums learn to code in their lunch-break. An era in which social networks have done to marketing what the telescope did to science – showing us every interaction we have, visualising all conversation. The classic comms rulebook has been ripped in two by this new world. So the big question is where do we go from here? What are the new golden rules we need to abide by when we create visual and verbal communication to engage our audiences in this brave new world of comms? I’m joined on stage by four industry leaders and clients of ours who are going to give us some of the answers to those questions. Richard Harper, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, Bhavneet Singh, President and Chief Executive Officer at Pearson English and Heather Mitchell, Head of Global Brand PR and Social Media for Unilever haircare. We’re going to talk you through the ten new rules of engagement that every marketer needs to know to engage today’s audiences.
Colin Byrne: Turning to you first, Richard, tell us more about how the digital revolution has changed everything from a technological perspective?
Richard Harper (10 mins): My purpose is to set the scene for the subsequent speakers who will focus on advertising and branding. I will remark on the general characteristics of life – and the digital life in particular – at the current time. I will note, first of all, on the historical evolution of Social Networks, with the move to the vanilla and the anodyne presentation of self on mass SNS like Facebook and a move towards the more vital, dynamic and intimate networking afforded by messaging apps like WhatsApp. I will then remark on how this evolution is forcing a reconsideration of how ‘users‘ – the digital individual – is understood: there was a time, only a few years ago, where the topography of human connection was thought model-able in useful ways but it is beginning to appear that such models over formalise human connection. These connections are essentially delicate and febrile; changing as the ebb and flow of human friendship itself ebbs and flows. The prompting of ‘you might know this person’ that the old techniques of topography deliver are now viewed as reminders of the sterility of computer prediction. I will then remark on how there is a similar shift required in understanding how people engage with the web and what the character of their tools might have. Whereas search engines and search engine UX have been designed around the idea that a user is an information seeker, today one can see all around one that people use search engines (and browsers too) as vehicles to distract themselves; as ways of using up time of playing with possibilities, gathering not so much information but a vocabulary of imagined possibilities - what they might be, what they might look like, where they might go – all imagined joyfully and distractedly as they wait for a meeting, a bus, a friend in bar. I will then remark that as people articulate their ways through the digital world, averting their interest from sterile Social Networks and seeking more evocative ways of being in touch, seeking also to see how they might be more interesting souls by keeping up to date with Twitter feeds and the latest hash-tagged content, so they want to balance the desire for being unique with a desire to be one of the gang, to be at once themselves but recognisable as a ‘normal dude’; they want themselves to be special yet part of the topography of the commonplace. This conundrum is at the heart of what marketing and advertising needs to focus on as it looks forward to a post social network world of human connection…..
Colin Byrne: Thank you Richard. Clearly, technology is fundamentally changing who we are, how we express ourselves. But what does that mean for marketers? For communications, specifically? Bhavneet, from a Pearson English perspective, what does this mean for the way we now need to communicate verbally with our audiences?
Bhavneet Singh (10 mins):
The key question for companies the world over now is how do we keep the consumer engaged for more than five minutes? From our perspective – as Pearson English, one of the world’s leading English language learning companies - learners have changed; they’re more demanding, they want dynamic content, they respond to interactivity and personalisation. And that’s fundamentally shifted how we engage them and what we actually engage with them on. It’s through technology that providers can most efficiently and effectively meet these demands and provide learning solutions that deliver quality educational experiences while also appealing to a highly demanding customer base.
So what does this mean for the changing rules of engagement? Rule #1 - Personalisation is King Our learners are demanding more entertaining, personalised content and it’s through technology that we have been able to provide that.
At Pearson English we’re working on a number of products which will allow us to move ever closer to entertaining educational content tailored around an individual’s preferences. Picture being taught to sing your favourite English-language song, that’s what we’re targeting.
But this changes the relationships consumers have with a brand. Think of education – our traditional model is of a teacher standing at the front of the classroom lecturing students. We are perhaps one of the sectors undergoing the most radical transformation as we look to fit into and around our consumers’ lives. And that’s meant we’ve had to change our business model. We’re no longer selling individual products; we’re trying to create a customer-for-life by becoming integrated into their lives. Rule #2 – Dialogue, not monologue Our consumers no longer see us as an education company – and we don’t either. We’re a learning company. As an English language learning company, we need to provide curated content that is relevant to consumers and constantly updated. We need to be in a dialogue with our consumers. Voxy is a great example of this; Voxy is a English language learning programme, is based 100% on real-life daily activities and uses a personalised concierge-like approach to help individuals learn English based on content they like. When you think about the two billion people in the world learning English, it’s applications like this that are wholly integrated across web, tablet and mobile devices, that use technology like GPS to send users high-quality relevant curated web content or automatic speech recognition to identify pronunciation weaknesses quickly and accurately, combined with the power of applying big data to personalized learning that are changing the way we learn today. Companies can no longer talk at consumers, we have to listen and learn from them too. Rule #3 – Twitter Has Changed Everything - it’s about tweets not text We expect in the next ten years it will be more important to our learners to be able to express themselves in English in 140 characters than write a CV and cover letter. But that’s not just so they can tweet. Communication itself has changed as a result of Twitter, Facebook and even 24 hour news. Our brains have been rewired to adjust to the constant stream of news and information provided by the internet. Our attention spans are shorter and our communication more short and direct. But for brands, that makes it harder to stand out from the crowd. Companies, to reach consumers effectively, need to meet Rules #1and #2 by creating content that is personalised and reflexive. Rule #4 - Be dynamic, not static Information is no longer static; in this new era of engagement text is a living, breathing thing that changes in real time. We’re living in a world in which headlines on Sky News updated every few seconds, for example Companies need to have – if the term isn’t an oxymoron - inbuilt flexibility to react to global conversations and agenda setting trends. For instance as Pearson English we can anticipate the demand English language learning around the globe by the popularity of certain music acts. We count a large part of our growth in China, Indonesia and Brazil as a product of the success of music groups like Lady Gaga and One Direction.
And that leads us onto our final rule of verbal engagement. Rule #5 - Join the global conversation This may surprise you but we don’t see the internet, social media and the digital revolution leading to English becoming the one global language. There are huge parts of the internet which are in Mandarin and Spanish – it’s just as English-speakers we aren’t exposed to them. But English is where the most significant conversations are happening. The issues which transcend national borders are almost exclusively discussed and debated in English. Our world is becoming a global village. The inability to speak English acts like a glass fence around this village, allowing people to see benefits and freedoms within but leaving them unable to access them. For those individuals or companies looking to be truly global citizens, the ability to speak, read, listen and write in English is their passport
Colin Byrne: Thank you Bhavneet. So clearly, we need to be sparking very different verbal dialogues with our audiences than we did, even five years ago. But what about from a visual perspective? Heather, tell us a bit about how the changes to the technological landscape changes how we need to be engaging visually with different audiences.
Heather Mitchell (10 mins): Thank you Colin. Actually, many of those five rules apply equally to the visual space – what we do visually has to be bite-size and digestible, it has to be dynamic, it has to feel personal, it has to convey a global visual language - but there are some others I’d like to talk you through as well
- Think Content in Context. Visual content has always been about content in context (e.g. the placement of a video on the right site for the target audience) but technology is enabling marketers to be much smarter about how we target people at precise moments along the audience journey e.g. Beacon technology, for example. Now we can pinpoint people when we know they’re standing in front of a particular display in a shop or sitting on a park bench. We can have those truly personalised dialogues by pinpointing where we’re having those conversations and by talking to people in real time. So we need to think smarter about where and when we push visual content to them. Heather to talk about the Toni and Guy London Fashion Week ‘Command Centre’ that allowed them to have more meaningful conversations with their audiences in real time. -Use Predictive visuals. Brands are now starting to use big data to show the visuals and tell the visual stories that are most likely to drive engagement (Netflix House of Cards example). This is different to simply knowing which content people are most likely to click on. It’s about combining data sets (like how people are feeling at a particular time of day with how people respond to particular messages)to show the visual content that is most likely to tip them to act. Heather to talk about Mindshare’s Trueview technology for All Things Hair and Dove Sketches. See link for further details:http://www.google.co.uk/think/case-studies/dove-real-beauty-sketches.html ) -Cover the whole consumer journey. A piece of visual content no longer just functions as a piece of engagement to raise awareness of a brand or build a connection with it. With clickable technology, it’s now a floating point of sale as well, so content needs to work harder and smarter to not only engage people but engage them enough to want to click and buy something. This point Bhavneet talked about around giving people something bitesize that they can they scale up and delve into. That requires different expertise in content creation as well as a more strategic approach to planning how that content will engage and drive a change in behaviour. This is something Unilever have been looking at. For example the Dove shop is a good example of this - Make it malleable. Make something that is malleable, something that can be changed by your audience that’s our content golden rule number four. If there’s something in the content that’s easy to imitate or that can be personalised, then people will naturally gravitate towards it and be more inclined to share or talk about it with others. Heather to talk about All Things Hair and the comments boards on the videos which mean we can respond to consumers needs ie. creating afro hair videos. - Make it rewarding. If something rewards us emotionally or creatively, we’re immediately more engaged and more likely to make a mental note of the content. We also feel more inclined to want to return the gesture to the brand. They’ve rewarded us, we want to reward them back. We’re also more inclined to pass that happy feeling onto others. If content doesn’t reward the audience, they won’t engage with it. Increasingly, that’s about not just being entertaining but being useful. Rewarding them by giving them something that solves a problem in their life or makes them understand themselves better or enhances their social status in some way. Technology allows us to do this now in new ways. Heather to talk about the Dove Sketches example or Simple Crm programme
Colin Byrne (3 mins): Thank you Heather. So our speakers have shared our ten new rules of verbal and visual engagement – here they are in full - and I’d like to leave you with three things to think about:
1. In this brave new world, we have to be strategically and creatively brave, something we live and breathe at Weber Shandwick. We have to create a new kind of content, content that is not only more direct than it has ever been before, but more interactive – content that people can truly make their own. That requires bravery on the part of marketers, to relinquish full control and let people tell us what they want that brand to look and feel like.
2. We have to speak to the globally-aware individual, not the local tribe– that’s a fundamental shift from the Industrial Age mindset. People don’t fit into neat boxes, geographical regions, tribes anymore. They’re borderless and so too is our communication.
3. And we have to do that in a way that’s highly meaningful. Now with predictive data, with other technological developments, we’re able to be far more meaningful than we’ve ever been before though, because we can give people what they want before they’ve even realised they want it and we can reward them, in new ways, for their engagement.
Communications has a new kind of currency in this brave new world. It has a whole new language. Never before have we been able to do so much with communication. For all of these reasons, I believe there has never been a more exciting time to do what we do.
I’d like to thank all of our speakers for providing us with such stimulating food for thought today and welcome any questions from the floor.
Colin Byrne (10 mins): lead and direct questions from the floor
Claire culshaw weber shandwick
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