The rise of HD consumers

Marketers must turn their attention to a new group of consumers that is comfortable with the latest digital technology if they are to avoid their brands being switched to standby.

A new generation of consumers is apparently emerging. With so much interactive media now being used, a set of people being termed “high-definition ready” consumers are forcing marketers to alter their behaviour.

While many are familiar with the idea of HD-ready TVs, new research from insight specialist Experian suggests that the idea of HD can define people as well as products. Just like a TV, the HD-ready consumer is prepared to switch off if a brand’s message doesn’t work for them.

Jim Hodgkins, managing director of Experian Marketing Services, says an HD-ready consumer is not only “the next generation” but anyone who lives a “savvy and modern life, multitasking with the latest digital channels available to them”.

Hodgkins warns that marketers need to better understand the HD-ready consumer as this group lives with its guard up against interruptive media.

He reports: “There is no doubt that the HD-ready consumer is an altogether tougher prospect to engage, motivate and do business with. Moreover, consumers are ready and willing to put those brands that are not targeting them correctly and effectively on standby.”

Experian’s research finds that HD-ready consumers are so busy multitasking that they suffer from continuous partial attention problems, resulting in a desire for “media snacking to match with their media multitasking”. This is making it difficult for advertisers to get their message across and has seen favourability towards marketing falling in the past 15 years.

According to the study, consumers increasingly are resisting “push” communications. Almost 30% of consumers say they now view advertising unfavourably and reveal they have developed an ability to tune in and out of marketing campaigns.

Hodgkins says: “Never before have humans had so many different ways to gain information and interact with people above the ordinary face-to-face methods. This ability to multitask is great for time-starved people, but brands have a major challenge on their hands to gain attention. Brands have to think smarter about how they engage with their customers.”

Given that this applies to all parts of society, Experian says the biggest difficulty for brands is to make sure they “create a highly defined picture of their customers and avoid being switched onto standby”.

It is generally assumed that high earners do not respond to value-led propositions, but this research found that some of the most affluent groups in the UK are among the most likely to visit discount voucher, rewards and comparison websites in search of money-off coupons and the best bargains.

It also reveals that 55% of all consumers claim to “be likely to delay buying something until it’s on special offer”, a figure that rises to 68% for professionals and managers in the UK.

In contrast, people from disadvantaged groups, particularly the ex-social housing community and those living in flats, are the most common social network users rather than the expected wealthy middle classes.

Hodgkins says this diversity among HD-ready consumers means advertisers must think beyond the one-size-fits-all approach. He explains: “It is all about developing a deep understanding of people and their preferences and communicating in a way that is more transparent, engaging and relevant to build an effective and lasting relationship with them.”

The lesson here, he adds, is that people are increasingly resistant to what they see as one-size-fits-all marketing. They will block any communications they do not wish to see and trawl social networks and review sites to create their own impression of a brand and its services, bypassing traditional ads.

While some media owners are trying to develop new ways of operating that encourage multitasking and promote engagement, it’s an ongoing learning process. Broadcasters such as ITV add footage online and trail websites after each episode has finished on traditional TV, but is this enough?

Hodgkins warns that marketers cannot be complacent. He says: “As consumers only have room in their hearts for one or two iconic brands, the rest must work exceptionally hard using targeted marketing data and analytics to attract and retain consumers’ attention.”

Despite media fragmentation, the research suggests that brands should look to integrate all their efforts into a single message for HD-ready consumers. “It is essential that all marketing messages are aligned and have a personal approach, so that they are relevant to the viewer,” Hodgkins adds. “This is important for any medium, be that interactive TV, email, social media, mobile or display. The message from consumers is simple – meet my terms or I will ignore you.”

The research suggests that the easiest way for brands to stay in contact with customers and manage relevant insights is through new technology. This allows marketers to better personalise their services and tailor marketing messages (see Microsoft comment, below). Brands need to rely on customer relationship management tools and back-end segmentation to create more customised communications that aim to “seduce” the customer into finding out more.

Using new technology also means that campaigns can be activated in real time to capitalise on the latest brand developments and generate mass attention. Hodgkins says: “It’s no longer acceptable to take a monochromatic view of consumers. In the same way that TV has become focused on HD, so must marketing, with highly defined, individualised concepts that are high resolution and meet the desired coverage levels.”

Summarising the dangers of ignoring these trends, he says: “You have to aim for the right message to the right person at the right time through the right channel. Get one of these key elements wrong and you risk the HD-ready consumer effectively switching your brand to standby or switching off altogether.”

The frontline

We ask marketers on the frontline whether our ‘Trends’ research matches their experience on the ground

Paul Dickinson
Sales and marketing director, Virgin Atlantic

We have seen the emergence of HD-ready consumers for some time and have moved to integrate all our marketing so that we are talking to as many potential passengers as possible and catching them when flying away is on their minds.

It’s important to us that we don’t just rely on glamorous TV ads or our sister company Virgin Holidays to communicate with our customers. We need to stand out on our own merit and generate as much share of voice as possible.

This includes collecting and segmenting data to support our marketing efforts so that what we do is talk to our customers in direct and relevant ways, which helps to create a good relationship with them and a feeling of wanting to fly Virgin.

We also use our loyalty scheme to ensure that these efforts reach out to frequent customers who tell us why they like us, so that we can go back to them and provide the service they value again and again.

To embrace the HD-ready consumer, we have been re-evaluating how we allocate our marketing spend to ensure that our long-haul flights are considered by the right customers at the right time.

Hartmut Seeger
International advertising director, Volkswagen

There has definitely been a change in advertising over the years and Volkswagen has been changing its advertising methods over the past 50 years to embrace this. We have to change with the times and try and match our advertising efforts with the lifestyles of our consumers, though this is not as easy as some would suggest.

The automotive industry is lucky in that people are always interested in cars, but this is compounded by the effects of the recession. It means we have to try and convert people into not thinking of our vehicles as a luxury, but more a part of their everyday lives. The only way we can do this is to try and reach out across all media, which we have been doing to great effect over recent years.

What is challenging is trying to capture and segment data in such tough times. People are fearful of appearing out of their depth, so it’s questionable that people will actually sit up and listen when you try and communicate to them. What tends to fill the HD gap at the moment is virals or community sites, which really get people talking – so it’s innovation in these areas that need working on.

Gregg Albright
Vice-president of global accounts consumer and online, Microsoft Advertising

Brands need to be more proactive at reaching out to their consumers and helping create additional value through an array of capabilities, tools, and services on the digital palette.

Microsoft and Publicis Groupe are exploring ways to enhance engagement, performance and return on investment in the digital marketing and advertising space.

The work coming out of this collaboration aims to help advertisers get the best ROI for their brand ads through knowing how to optimise content, ensuring it performs at the best level and reaches out to the right audience. Our other work will optimise ad placements in response to near real time viewing trends to report the actual audiences that are delivered and help to measure the success of campaigns.

Brands are under pressure to become more in tune with their customers’ ways of thinking and I am confident this is fast becoming more and more possible, as technology continues to advance.

Tom Merkli
Head of custom ad products, Custom Solutions International, Yahoo!

Providing a personally relevant Web for our customers – be they consumers or advertisers – is the backbone of Yahoo!’s global business strategy. It’s not a surprise the online industry is leading the way in highly targeted advertising: By the pure nature of the online business and the various online targeting and measurement tools available, marketers can much more easily track the ROI of their online advertising budgets.

However, just having a better resolution, a “HD view” on a customer is not enough. Experian’s HD:UK report shows consumers are becoming increasingly less favourable in their views of advertising, meaning that marketers need to deliver their message at the precise moment the consumer is likely to be most receptive to it. And that’s where technologies like Behavioural Targeting (BT) come into play.

BT allows a marketer to only display ads when the observed online behaviour of a user indicates they are in the purchase cycle for the product or service offered. In most cases this is a far better segmentation approach than the traditional classifications such as an artificial age definition for example. Why would you shut the door on a consumer willing to buy a product just because he is over the targeted age range? The next step then is to overlay additional, offline data to re-identify a consumer for up- or cross-selling or to find similar looking consumers to the already converted ones. It is important to note that all of this data is anonymous.

Today, even measuring offline sales impact based on ads shown online is possible. This means that marketers not only face increasingly complex consumers as the HD:UK report highlighted, they also have far more sophisticated tools at hand to help them market their messages more effectively. The key is now to use the “HD remote control” in the right way; the channels are all already there.

Eric McCashey,
Senior marketing manager – creative solutions at Adobe

During the past couple of years it has become increasingly important for marketers across all industries to be able to adapt their campaigns in order to engage an audience and create customer loyalty. You must have a communication channel that enables you to hold a meaningful dialogue to build any relationship with today’s consumer, as opposed to previously having just spoken at your customer or prospect.

Whilst I agree that insight into the ‘High Definition society’ is valuable, I believe that the true key to delivering relevant messages that make a brand stand out is through engagement. In order to engage your customer you must address four elements – involvement, interaction, intimacy and influence. This way you effectively combat the ‘offer game’ by creating brand loyalty.

A good example of this is Universal Pictures’ campaign to promote The Fast and the Furious film earlier this year. A movie website ultimately needs to drive ticket sales. However, Universal Pictures understood that to do this it had to effectively engage its audience through multiple touch points. The campaign re-purposed content across multiple platforms and delivered a targeted online experience.

The result was a multi-faceted campaign that used video, motion graphics and 3-D to deliver an online experience that interested both existing and new fans. The result was a fun and engaging rich-media website that offered online games, downloads, social networking, rich-media advertisements, a downloadable desktop widget and a custom iPhone website.
Understanding your audience enables you to create an immersive experience that will attract and retained customer interest and ultimately, brand loyalty.

Top tips for reaching HD-ready consumers

1. Use intelligent insight-driven decisions

Look at your customers in a new light; understand what drives customer value, what they expect and what is important to them. Know what new behaviours and events drive customer defection and avoid these pitfalls. Understand your data and ensure it is relevant, good quality and up to date. Use it to create better, more intelligent customer insight.

2. Target offers and promotions carefully

Understand customer needs and channel preferences. Weave together different online and offline messages to build targeted personal experiences.

3. Adapt your channel mix

Review your marketing channel mix and assess which channels drive the value and ROI that the business now seeks. Focus on measurability, targeting and customer management on a one-to-one basis. Use this to support above-the-line media. Channel integration is key and those who integrate digital channels and offline marketing channels, such as call centres, direct mail and customer statements are in a strong position.

4. Nurture and engage with existing customers

Plan ahead and revise your customer journey capabilities. Make sure that expenditure on customer experience programmes survives as they will play a key role in managing customer interactions and brand perceptions. Share data and decisions so that timely offers can be generated for customers at every point of contact with the brand.

5. Adapt your content and messages

What and how you market to your customers will need greater attention; figure out what proposition and story you have to tell about your products and services in a way that is adapted to HD-ready customers’ state of mind.

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