Think about it. As consumers, we live in a three-dimensional world where messages come to us in time sequences largely governed by our digital devices and the skill of marketers trying to reach us.
Writing recently in Advertising Age, Garett Sloane noted that “marketers are trying to understand when their messages reach consumers on different devices throughout the day, identifying users accurately as they switch screens.”
So, these multiple platforms may actually be helping to deconstruct media initiatives, and one could reasonably argue that there are message subsets, just as there are audience subsets.
To use the terminology of Audience Intent, IMC 612, these audience subsets can be called cohorts because they are groups having something in common, usually age, income or culture.
Well, messages, too, can be categorized into cohorts. For example, one type of message is the urgent one: the message that you have to read because your mobile device just prompted you of its arrival in your inbox. Another is the message coming from a site you visit often, such as when Amazon presents products similar to those you have just purchased. A third could be suggested article links that your digital news concierge, trolling your online metrics, suggests for you. In large part, the second and the third examples unpack in consumer-controlled time segments.
However, marketers cannot afford to wait patiently for a message to be processed in a linear progression of time when it suits the consumer. Rather, the advertiser wants the information to reach the audience cohort in a multi-directional movement across time, and in time to influence the consumer decision-making process, all topics we talk about in IMC 612.
As Sloan explains, “sequential messaging, also known as sequential targeting, often requires cross-device capabilities to accurately reach the same consumer across screens when they visit different digital properties.”
These marketing tactics are often on display during webinars and meetings of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). Retailers of fast food outlets have added social media experts to their in-house communications’ teams. Typically, these professionals are themselves in the millennial generational cohort, so they are used to conveying messages via live streaming and digital apps.
However, traditional media components, used for decades in integrated marketing and communication, co-exist with newer techniques of message dissemination. For example, product collateral, outdoor advertisements, and conventional radio and television persist, though on modern platforms.
This combination of technology and tradition allows the message to be pushed out to different audience cohorts on different platforms and at different moments of time. Once conveyed, the sequential message continues a life of its own.
Early theories of information dissemination thought that messages went in only one direction from the sender to the receiver. Over time, messages were viewed as circular, since the receiver-audience replied directly or indirectly to the marketing initiative.
Today, audience feedback is a blog entry on a social media channel of an individual consumer or a burst of tweets in a stream of reactions to a concept or product. The sheer volume of this consumer reactive traffic shows us that we do indeed live in a three-dimensional world.
Kathleen DeMarco teaches IMC 612, Audience Intent.