Branding by Communication Channels

Last week, I caught a taxi in Tokyo. I was going to the city’s domestic airport. But I don’t have any taxi-driver wisdom to pass on to you. Instead, I want to tell you a story about a journey your branding should be taking.The first thing my colleague and I noticed as we slid into the back seat was, along with the taxi’s usual array of meters, a screen mounted next to the driver. Not an ordinary screen, but a large color plasma screen that, from the very minute we took up position in the back of the taxi, captivated our attention entirely for the full 45-minute drive.It wasn’t so surprising that the taxi driver asked the screen which was the best way to the airport. What was surprising was that the whole trip, second by second, was replicated in 3D version on the screen. The display told us everything we needed to know and provided a running commentary on everything we passed. Consequently, we knew miles before we spotted it that we would soon pass by a McDonald’s. A Mobil gas station was announced to be close by. And the screen communicated information about the design of the airport and explained where our plane would be waiting.Our attention was so riveted by this screen’s indefatigable information supply, that we completely neglected to notice the many brick-and-mortar billboards that we must have passed on the journey. Who knows? Maybe there weren’t any to be seen on the way. Maybe by some cataclysmic coincidence, they’d been dismantled. I doubt that was the case, don’t you? But it may as well have been the case because the screen was replete with every conceivable mini billboard, all passing by our gaze in succession.

Now, what does this have to do with branding? A whole lot! What does this have to do with targeted brand building? Everything!

Just imagine that the car was aware of the people traveling in it. If children made up the majority of passengers, McDonald’s Happy Meals would possibly be featured in the commercials. What if the car were low on fuel? The Mobil advertisement would perhaps make an appropriately timed appearance. What if we were way ahead of time for our flight? Another airline might pick up on the opportunity and offer us a special discount for flying with it earlier rather than sticking with the carrier we’d booked. All this would happen in an intensive 45-minute one-to-one dialogue. Intensive because the passengers would literally form a captive audience with not much choice but to give their unoccupied attention to the screen.

Marketers, do me a favor. Forget all television and print media marketing plans. The days of the strong media plan needing to achieve not much more than securing time and space on all five communication channels – TV, print, outdoor advertising, cinema, and radio – are well and truly over. The competent media plan is becoming ever more subject to the complexities of one-to-one priorities. And not only are individual consumer behavior, circumstances, and needs being profiled and targeted, competent marketing has to keep up with individuals on the move.

I might be online from 7 a.m. until 8 a.m. Then I’ll be using my WAP phone from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. as I commute to the office. While I’m at my desk, I’ll be online via the PC. And on my way to meetings, I’ll be in that taxi with the screen. What a personalized advertising onslaught I’m potentially facing! Meanwhile, if I were describing a day of contact with old media, I’d probably be exposed to billboards, radio, and newspapers.

Think interactive and the media plan that includes this traditional exposure will also include the Internet, the mobile Internet, the GPS monitor in the taxi, and the PDA in my Palm. Each of these channels knows a piece of information about me, my online consumer profile having provided the brand builders using these channels with some really useful intelligence.

So what’s the moral of the story? Every message your brand communicates will need to work within a channel strategy, a strategy that knows minute by minute where to find your brand’s target consumers. Consumers aren’t static, nor are the brand messages that seek them. And your perception of media planning had better not be either.


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