The New Rules of Engagement

There is no doubt that technology is playing an increasingly important role in the way brands are targeting consumers. While UK consumers used to be satisfied by a creative or abstract TV ad, an increasingly marketing-savvy audience now expects more. The race is on to come up with more innovative and engaging campaigns in a bid to excite audiences and add real value to their lives.

The focus for marketing in the UK is shifting, with a greater priority on providing an experience that consumers can engage with – as opposed to showcasing campaigns via traditional advertising on TV or billboards, and leaving people feeling as though they’re constantly being targeted with a sales pitch. 

The relationship between brands and consumers is changing, and I personally hope this means that customers will receive more fun, interesting and relevant content on their TVs, mobiles, PCs and tablets. Brands will therefore need to ensure they are creating flexible and smart content that both gives and receives information and adapts in real-time to become more relevant and appropriate.
Essentially, the more information we have about a consumer, the better we can understand and engage with them. In an ideal world, we would want a 360-degree view of the target audience with real-time insights. This would ensure we deliver a consistent and quality experience that drives more sales.

Social media

As this change between brands and consumers takes place, the line between the virtual and real worlds is becoming increasingly blurred. Brands are harnessing the power of social media as a marketing tool, and looking for other methods to engage customers in the digital world.

This is again in a bid to better understand a consumer’s needs and engage directly on their chosen platform – be it Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or any other. In my experience, this not only allows us to get to know our customers directly, it also helps them to get to know each other, exchange ideas and help the decision-making process for a brand.

With smartphones and tablets increasingly dominating consumers’ time and attention, there is a real opportunity for brands to reach a wide range of consumers directly – engaging with them on a popular platform in a way that perfectly suits today’s digital age. In other words, brands should be looking to capitalize on new marketing opportunities by leveraging the devices most consumers are now carrying around in their pockets.

Gamers are one particular part of this audience, where the opportunity to engage with interactive or community-based marketing is especially great. Gamers today are not just young guys who are really into computers – they are a mass audience of people who are playing on mobiles, tablets or online. These are people we call ‘tech seekers’ – not necessarily ‘geeks’ or fast adopters but people who use technology to get more value from their life. These are smartphone and tablet users who are looking for brands that engage, rather than intrude, via their mobile device, and offer something in exchange for their attention.

For example, we recently launched a new car, the Nissan Juke Nismo, within a mobile/tablet app before its launch in the real world, giving users the opportunity to test drive the car in a mobile driving game Asphalt 7 Heat, before the car hit showrooms across Europe.

In this instance, our decision to launch via an app was due to the nature of the car. As the first in a new motorsport-derived line, and including a number of tech and gaming inspired features (e.g. connecting to smartphones), it is a car that should appeal to gamers and social media users. And this approach worked – since the car was launched in December, we have seen more than 2m downloads.

Similarly, following the success of the GT Academy, created by Nissan and Sony – which takes the very best drivers from the gaming world and puts them on the real-world race track – we had some great feedback from gamers. Naturally, they found the opportunity to take their skills into the real world, or at least to watch their friends or fellow gamers do so, to be a far more fun and exciting experience than simply being marketed to.

Changing trends
I anticipate that innovation of this kind in brand marketing will become more and more popular, and that marketers will continue to break down the traditional barriers between brands and consumers, and along with that, between the real and virtual worlds. This interactive approach will give brands more insight into feedback from consumers, allowing them to adapt quickly to changing trends. 

The power of social media and gaming brings a new edge for brands, as it lets consumers actively engage and participate in the conversation. Gamers and social media users are generally well connected, technology-savvy people who are always on the lookout for the next digital innovations – so any brand that can engage with them in a meaningful way is going to be at an advantage, and ensure consumers feel less like they are just a target for sales.
Gareth Dunsmore is marketing communications general manager for Nissan in Europe

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