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The smartphone is the great equalizer for communicators and marketers

Influencers excel at creatively weaving your brand’s message into content that appeals to their audience – so make that the deliverable. Don’t ask them to say how great your product is

Jeff Charney, Progressive Insurance

 

One of the constant questions in branding is, “How can communications and marketing bring out the best in each other to grow the brands they support?” Well, the answer is right in the palm of your hand. The smartphone. It’s the great equalizer — if it’s used wisely.

You’ve heard the statistics before: people spend an average of five hours per day on their smartphones; the heaviest users check them more than 5,000 times per day, etc. So now, with the recent accessibility of augmented reality as a backdrop, let me tell you a story to illustrate the reality behind the numbers.

This past weekend, my 13-year-old son was schooling me about all the new AR apps he’s already been using. We turned our living room into a virtual pool hall with the Kings of Pool app (he hustled me like Paul Newman). Then he and his friends went outside to play The Machines, a new war game that uses what you see on your phone as a backdrop (think Pokémon Go meets Titanfall). I stayed out of that one for my own safety.

Here’s the reality: kids like my son are in on the ground floor of an exciting new world where the so-called dividing lines between communications and marketing are blurring. Their experiences growing up in this ultra-connected world — learning all the ins and outs of the thousands of social channels on their smartphones from early childhood — put them light years ahead.

The smartphone has disrupted all the channels in the communications/marketing landscape, but the underlying philosophy of these fields — putting the right content in the right context — remains the same. It’s just gotten more complicated.

I’m preaching to the choir here, but you have to be nimble and creative in these spaces, with a specific purpose in mind. It’s not just about counting the number of impressions, swipes, and taps. Those actions are too easy and “frictionless,” and don’t speak to whether you’ve actually got your audience’s attention — which is the real battle we’re fighting. It’s about inspiring purposeful, measurable engagement — and it’s really difficult to crack this code.

My marketing team at Progressive — communicators, strategists, analysts, artists, designers, and technologists — try every day to do this. It’s in their DNA, in part because many of them grew up with this stuff, and the rest, including me, have an inherent curiosity and willingness to explore.

Because there’s so much noise out there, we have to use integrated communications and marketing strategies when we’re telling stories about our company. We know when and where to place these stories to maximize our audience’s attention, how to layer our storytelling across channels — earned media, social, digital, and more — and when to utilize our growing army of influencers, who are savvy enough to have grown mass followings that would make any traditional publication salivate. Doing so gives us a laser focus on the people we want to reach, as opposed to the wide-beam approaches of the past.

Scared yet? You should be if you’re not open to this. So be wide open. Use every weapon in your mind’s arsenal to go deep into the multi-layered, digital world in the palm of your hand, and attack that code until it cracks. Make time for it, and keep exploring — you already have the tools.

And just watch out for my son when you’re playing Kings of Pool.

 

Jeff Charney is CMO of Progressive Insurance. Prior to that, he held the same role at Aflac. Although he’s won numerous awards and made PRWeek’s “Top Marketing Innovators To Watch” list, he’s yet to broker a conversation between “Flo” and the “Duck.” 

 

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