Reach is silver, relevance is gold

As published in MarketingTribune on November 5, 2013. Everybody knows McLuhan’s famous statement ‘The medium is the message’. During the presidential debate between Nixon and Kennedy in the early ’60s, he noticed that the Americans who followed the debate on the radio clearly saw Nixon as the winner, whereas the Americans who saw it on TV rather thought Kennedy was the most convincing speaker. The medium decided how the message came across.
The media (and their reach) were in the middle of the attention all that time. But those days seem to be gone now. Consumers are increasingly indifferent towards media and have a larger grip on the time when and the way in which they use media. Key to them is the message; the medium used for it becomes less and less important. Kevin Spacey, producer of the TV series ‘House of Cards’, immediately launched his series on Netflix. He says its success is the result of the fact that consumers want to be in charge: “Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it.
Whereas reach could once be bought, these days it can only be earned by being relevant. A lot of market research still aims at mapping and understanding reach: what is the reach of brands, what is the effectiveness of various media, how strong is the synergy between media, how many consumers have seen your message and how many remembered anything about it? We now present to you three ways in which market research can help brands gain in relevance:

Start from the consumers’ world

Do you remember the brand behind the slogan ‘Be different’? It is not Apple but Volkswagen. Volkswagen launched the Beetle in the US in the’50s, in a world in which there were plenty of gigantic cars by the makes Cadillac, Buick and Pontiac. Starting from this simple observation, Volkswagen launched a very small car with a surprising shape into the market which allowed consumers to differentiate from the average American. The buyers were not looking for the functional needs of the American consumers to have a smaller car; its relevance was in the emotional need to be different.

Co-create your message with consumers

There probably is no better way to create relevance than by co-creating it with consumers. The Vlaamse Media Maatschappij (VMMa – Flemish Broadcasting Company) asked for the help of consumers to revive its successful TV soap ‘Familie’ (Family). The viewer had a direct impact on the general story, the scripts and the evolution of the characters. It helped the audience identify more with the situations and the actors in the series; the audience became younger but the somewhat older viewers stayed tuned.

Map what consumers can do for your brand

The clothes brand DIESEL became increasingly more aware of the strategic importance of Pinterest as online tool to reinforce the brand and increase its impact and credibility. Because what could be more relevant than fans sharing their brand messages with their peers? By collaborating with more than 1,000 consumers (current followers of the Diesel Pinterest page; Pinterest users but none-Diesel followers; online users who do not have a Pinterest account) they could make their Pinterest pages more relevant for the users. The project entailed a 25% increase in the number of Pinterest followers one month after the adaptations were launched, 55% of the target audience thought the content had become more appealing to share with others and 65% of those interviewed identified more with the brand Diesel.


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