Success Depends on How Well You Know the Competition

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It may be arguable but fair to say that most businesses are either intimidated by or carelessly underestimate the competition. In most cases, it would likely be advisable to be a little more of the one and a little less of the other. Taking on a well-established market leader is cause for serious evaluation, particularly one who is attentive to potential market entrants.  Even the best run businesses, while careful to not open a wide door of opportunity for new competitors, often leave the door cracked open to some or all parts of their market segments. While intimidating, opportunity rarely presents an easy target. Fear is often overcome by fully understanding the dynamics of the challenge or challenger. As Walt Disney said, “I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.”

Studying successful competitors’ operations gives important insight as to what is working and what is not. For a market interloper, learning from your target’s successes and failures eases the up-hill, new entry path. Resolve to make your own mistakes and not repeat the ones the competition has already paid for. Analyze what makes them the leader and copy their actions. Cloning an already effective strategy is not only flattering to the originator but advantageous to the newcomer. Don’t be afraid to learn and earn from the heavy lifting already accomplished. As Tony Robbins said, “The surest way to achieve success is to model someone who is already successful.”

Evaluating a competitor requires attention to the strategies and tactics of operations over time. Fully understanding the path to success will enhance one’s perspective and avoid the cost of underestimating the scope of the challenges that lie ahead. Mark Chussil, an adjunct instructor at the University of Portland and the founder of consulting firm Advanced Competitive Strategies, says “It’s tempting to say, ‘Obviously, these people are doing a lousy job, or they wouldn’t be in trouble.’ It’s also a little dangerous. You can say, ‘I would never make those mistakes.’ But we should remember that a lot of companies have gone bankrupt — not just small ones, but big ones. They weren’t being run by idiots, and they weren’t being run by people who wanted to fail.”  Successful intervention requires comprehensive knowledge about the product, the competition and the respective markets. Success dictates attention to all or none.

“Don’t bite off more than you can chew” is a time-worn sage and good advice when taking on an established market player. Existing players have the advantage of history, capital and market position. Identify underserved niche markets and focus on excelling with those segments. Resolve to identify those aspects of serving customers that the competition is unable or unwilling to perform. Be willing to be underestimated and seen as a non-threatening nuisance. Nibble away at the vulnerable edges of the beast until they are weakened and injured. Focus on capturing market subcategories and expand inward to the market core.  However, a challenger should remember that while it’s easy to identify and move against competitors’ shortcomings, you risk becoming a target through the process. “A lot of companies think their objective is to kill the competition, that it’s the path to profitability,” Chussil says. “That is not the objective. Your objective is to succeed.”

Filling a need not filled is the goal. Providing a solution to consumers not satisfied by existing marketers provides opportunity to new market entrants. Even the most astute businesses leave a door cracked open to new competitors, either out of complacency or failure to identify lucrative, unfulfilled market segments. Learn as much as possible about these untapped opportunities and reap the rewards.

For more on how you can seize the benefits of untapped markets, contact the experienced strategists at Junction Creative Solutions.

Build Consumer Trust and Confidence with Authentic Content

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“The old adage that content is king has gone by the wayside, because everything is content,” said Daniel K. Lobring, vice president of marketing communications at rEvolution. “Competition for mindshare means that brands and others who deploy content marketing have to be smarter.” The days of pulling in consumers with mindless product platitudes may be over. Content marketing is revolutionizing the way brands are connecting with customers through two-way conversations in social media channels. As the conversations unfold, consumers are questioning the validity and authenticity of the messages. Technology is creating an audience that is experienced and increasingly tech savvy, smarter and much more likely to challenge the honesty of the message. They are beginning to judge brands solely on the authenticity of their content.

Content marketing got its start to dominance as traditional advertising began to lose favor with consumers. Over saturation of feature and benefits messaging and the unabridged proliferation of pitch and persuade advertising produced increasingly exhausted consumers. They were skeptical and tuning out in record numbers. An emerging digital revolution is providing an opportunity for marketers to reach infinite numbers of potential customers more easily, quickly and economically than ever before. A recent survey reveals that 84 percent of customers prefer and trust online reviews of personal influencers when making a purchase decision.

As the popularity of content grows, its continued success is becoming dependent upon it not falling victim to the same pitfalls manifested upon traditional advertising. Content marketing is approaching a point of oversaturation as advertisers pursue a policy of more is more by sacrificing quality of message to quantity of messaging. Consumer experience and understanding of content marketing tactics is leading to a lack of trust and eroding confidence in brands. Those companies that fail to make authenticity the cornerstone of their content offerings risk serious, long-term damage to the brand’s reputation.

Effective content is original, conversational in tone and punctuated with humor and personal antidotes. Pitches of a brand’s name and product features and benefits should be avoided. Overt prose of self-promotion will be seen as the messenger having an ulterior motive. Avoid gimmicks and questionable claims and above all, don’t fake it. When asked about the success of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah said, “The secret is authenticity. The reason people fail is because they’re pretending to be something they’re not.”

Geoff Beattie, Cohn Global Practice Leader of Corporate Affairs believes, “A brand that has values and morals and stands by them no matter what while honestly divulging its practices (flaws and all). In fact, the thing people most wanted was open and honest communications about products and services. And that finding was consistent around the world.”

The Eroding Trust & Confidence in Social Media Marketing

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The recent crisis for Facebook in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica revelation is reigniting a troubling issue among users and advertisers of a vast array of social media outlets. Already experiencing a decline in trust from consumers, marketers are beginning to hesitate implementing expanded social media campaigns. For Facebook, the current debacle promises to increase the numbers of users who are fleeing the media giant. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, well under half of Americans (41%) now trust Facebook to obey U.S. privacy laws and adequately protect personal data from misuse. Facing possible monetary penalties and new government regulations over the data misuse, perhaps the most damaging outcome of the affair between social media outlets and personal data abuses is the response the relationship has spawned among some very large advertisers.

Mozilla Corporation, Commerzbank, Germany’s second largest bank, and Pep Boys, a major automotive retailer announced they were suspending their advertising campaigns on social networks. Pep Boys CMO Danielle Porto Mohn explained, “We are concerned about the issues surrounding Facebook and have decided to suspend all media on the platform until the facts are out and corrective actions have been taken.”

For a number of years, researchers have been reporting a steady decline in consumer trust of online social media outlets as they increasingly turn to social platforms for product and service information. Consumers are expressing doubts about the credibility of information and an increasing lack of social media discourse. “This notion of media being the Fourth Estate, we’ve come to believe, is eroding,” Edelman Chicago Chief Operating Officer Kevin L. Cook told an Omaha campus group. “We’re also in an age where technology allows us to completely manipulate our news feeds and tailor what we read to only what we want, only to what suits our sensibilities.”

Distrust of social media is the most prevalent among millennials, the largest segment of the consumer spectrum. The trend to distrust is shared across the landscape of media outlets and may suggest that the bloom of the social media industry is fading as advertisers and users appear to be tiring of the proliferation of fake news and the questionable accuracy of published information in general.

In response to this erosion of confidence, marketers must refocus attention to a strategy of attracting and protecting consumer confidence by insisting on an elevated standard of media accountability. Emphasis should be placed on the quality of the messaging and less on the quantity of the messages spread across and in concert with multiple marketing channels. Consumer trust and confidence in the brand must be an important element of the campaign’s measurement of success. Such confidence and trust must be earned, not purchased.

“Research by professors Joseph Turow, Michael Hennessy and Nora Draper found that marketers were incorrect in assuming that a majority of Americans give out information about themselves as a trade-off for benefits they receive.” Only 21 percent of respondents agreed that getting discounts, free services or better services for collecting online information is a fair trade-off. Users may have glossed over social media platforms’ privacy policies in the past but never more. A recent Deloitte study found 93 percent of consumers believe they should be able to request that a company permanently delete their personal data.

Marketers cannot afford to lose the trust of consumers. It’s hard enough to capture the attention of consumers. Implementing measures that account for the protection of data and financial information is critical to evolving your business.

New Data Handling Regulations from Across the Pond May Affect U.S. Businesses

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On May 25, 2018, a significant new set of regulations go into effect across Europe and around the world that will greatly impact virtually any business that has an internet presence. The time for compliance is approaching very quickly but 60 percent of all businesses affected are not ready to be in compliance.  This number is concerning given that violations of new regulations carry huge fines that could cripple businesses of all sizes.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was initiated to give consumers in Europe greater control over their personal data. GDPR impacts any business that has customers located within Europe and affects all businesses regardless of physical location, company size, or scope of business. While the emphasis first appears to be on European organizations, the regulations apply to businesses anywhere in the world that process the personal data of European Union (EU) residents. In today’s vast global internet world without borders, those not affected make up a very short list.

Article 3 of the GDPR says that if your organization collects personal data or behavioral information from someone in an EU country, your company is subject to the requirements of the GDPR. Businesses will need to be much clearer about the information they hold on people and give them more control over how it disseminated and managed. Compliance is likely to be easier for heavily-regulated business-to-business sectors such as banking and insurance, but retailers and companies that deal directly with consumers need to be particularly aware of the new regulatory environment.

Many business entities outside Europe who failed to thoroughly understand the implications of the looming regulations are suddenly waking up to their new reality. Robert Bond, a partner at London law firm Bristows, says, “Already this morning, there have been three overnight calls from the U.S., saying we don’t have anything in place but we’ve realized this applies to us, do you have a quick fix solution?  I think there’s an awful lot of businesses out there, particularly outside the EU, that have suddenly realized the extra territorial nature (of GDPR) and that’s come as quite a shock. They are assuming it’s a tick the box exercise, which of course it isn’t.”

U.S. based hospitality, travel, software services and e-commerce companies will certainly have to consider their online marketing practices and determine the risk of non-compliance as well as any other U.S. companies that have identified a market in an EU country. GDPR requires organizations to identify a security strategy and adopt adequate administrative and technical measures to protect EU citizens’ personal data.

Given the existing costs associated with irresponsible handling of consumer’s personal data, few organizations can afford complacency about cybersecurity. While the heavy fines for non-compliance to GDPR compounds the penalties for cybersecurity ignorance, the new regulations offer an additional incentive and opportunity for companies to implement policies that may help them avoid a future data breach and the significant calamity to normal business operations that results.

Reaching the Powerful Women’s Demographic Lives or Dies in Campaign Execution

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The knowledge that women wield the most influence over the household spending decisions is nothing new. For decades women have been credited with controlling the purse strings at a greater degree than their male counterparts. But as traditional societal male/female roles continue to evolve, the only difference for marketers is the realization that the numbers are getting bigger. Across the globe, women are controlling nearly $20 trillion in annual consumer spending. That number is likely to grow to $28 trillion in the next five years. Women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined; verification that female consumers now drive the world’s economy. Over the next decade women will control two-thirds of all consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history.

Today more than 79 percent of women self-identify as the primary household shopper, making 70 percent of all the travel decisions and 90 percent of all the healthcare purchases. Nearly 60 percent frequent social networking sites and are the most likely consumers to use digital purchasing tools. The overwhelming majority (92 percent) pass along information about deals they have experienced online. Talk about influencer marketing!

Commanding as this economic segment is, most companies continue to struggle to effectively tap into the potential opportunity, and despite the remarkable strides women have made in market power and social position they continue to feel undervalued in the marketplace. “Success in reaching this powerful demographic often lives or dies in the marketing execution, and getting it wrong can be serious business. Mistakes and gaffes can go public, or viral, all too easily, alienating the very people a campaign was designed to attract.” David Levithan, says “Pink is female – but why? Are girls any more pink than boys? Are boys any more blue than girls? It’s something that has been sold to us, mostly so other things can be sold to us.” If there was ever a time where simply using pink to attract the attention of women was a viable strategy, that time has passed.

Gender is often a blind spot, both within company campaigns and within the make-up of company marketing teams. The old adage, it takes one to know one is sage advice. Gender diversify your marketing team if you want to make a meaningful connection with your target audience. If not, your approach to attracting female consumers may come off as patronizing and passive.

Remember, no one-gender market sector does a complete marketing segment make. Women now occupy, in significant numbers, every social and economic level of society. Today women are embracing the differences in their identities and exploring more progressive interests. Marketers need to identify products and services that answer the multitude of female consumer needs and interest if they are to successfully develop a winning marketing strategy. The messaging needs to align in content and tone with the diversity of the market segment.

For information on how Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) can help you formulate a winning women’s market strategy, contact our experts at 678.686.1125.

The Importance of Tracking Social Media ROI

The concern of marketers about the effectiveness and real value of all the money and energy spent on advertising has been going on for centuries. The earliest of purveyors of commerce wrung their hands over what portion of advertising spend was being unheard. Little in the way of easy and accurate measurement existed and the most predominate metrics were based on speculation that advertising effectiveness was clearly tied to business outcomes. With new advances in technology and the myriad of burgeoning marketing channels, the warm fuzzy feeling that advertising is working and producing a return on our investment remains elusive.

Studies indicate that 46 percent of business to business (B2B) marketers are unsure that any social media channels are producing positive impacts on the bottom line. An answer to the question is critical given that 2017 was the first year that digital marketing outpaced TV ad spend. Today’s technology allows for easy identity of marketing efforts right down to the individual consumer. We can customize our message and aim it at a specific individual or small market segment and measure accurately the message’s operational impact utilizing the same intelligent, extremely cost effective digital techniques.

So why do 60% of marketers see ‘measuring ROI’ and linking social media activities to business outcomes as one of the top three social media marketing challenges in the coming year? The reason may be simple rather than complex. Like everything else, it boils down to strategy. What are your key performance indicators (KPIs)? Is it revenue, promoting brand awareness, website visitation, number of followers, customer service metrics or direct sales to efforts? The most difficult aspect of calculating social media ROI may be that there is no common denominator to measuring dollar value.

Social media goals must be aligned to business objectives if the campaign is to be meaningful and the goals must be quantified. Establish analytical tools to track performance. Virtually everything is quantifiable but for those that are not, Oliver Blanchard, author of “Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization,” explains that non-financial outcomes can “tell the story by capturing changes in human behavior.”

Successfully calculating and tracking ROI provides for more time and resources to be focused on what’s working and will help identify those that are not. Jay Baer says bluntly, “Here’s the deal. If you want to measure social media ROI, stop wasting your time doing software demos and attending webinars. Just figure out what you want to track, where you can track it, think about both current customers and new customers, and go do it.”

With 70% of the U.S. population having a profile on at least one social networking site and the average Internet user maintaining 7.6 different social media accounts, the opportunity to connect with consumers through digital media channels is huge. Social media spend is likely to continue to grow at an accelerated pace with marketing spend on social media predicted to double over the next five years. Calculating social media ROI effectively will provide valuable insight into the success of your campaigns.

Research also indicates that 22 percent of organizations utilize outside expertise to develop and assess social media efforts. To learn how Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) can partner with you to engage a successful social media marketing campaign, call 678.686.1125.

Capturing the Attention of Consumers through Influencer Marketing

In the days before digital technology and the myriad of social media outlets, one of marketers’ most effective pathways to brand recognition and acceptance was through word of mouth advertising. Consumers have always sought the opinions and advice of those within a social community before deciding to spend money on a product or service that was new, untested or unproven. Seeking recommendations from family and friends has always been at the top of the list when it comes to influencing a purchasing decision. Consumers are looking for assurance that a purchase will be a good and rewarding experience and consistently turn to those individual influencers or trusted media outlets for a “seal of approval.” With the growing impact of social media on our lives, today anyone can be an influencer.

Influencer marketing has become a very popular and effective way for advertisers to connect with a target audience. Studies reveal that consumers are becoming annoyed and complacent with traditional online advertising, with 26 percent of desktop and 15 percent of mobile users employing ad blocker software to avoid advertisements altogether. The age-old question, “Is anyone listening to the message?” is being answered. No.

With 92 percent of consumers trusting recommendations from individuals before making purchase decisions, influencer marketing is becoming a proven and economical method to connect a brand to target markets. “According to a case study by Nielsen Catalina Solutions and TapInfluence, influencer content generates return on investment (ROI) that is 11 times greater than traditional digital campaigns.” According to recent research, nearly 70 percent of marketers believe that influencer marketing efforts are positively impacting their ability to reach each target audience.

This success is dependent on an influencer being able to reach large segments of social media users with original content that builds consumer trust. Authenticity is a key factor in building this trust and confidence. Original and creative content keeps followers, who are looking for trusted product information and reviews, actively engaged. With 88 percent of consumers trusting online peer reviews over traditional advertising, influencer marketing is a necessary and important channel for businesses seeking to connect with targeted consumers.

“Content is king in today’s digital ecosystem,” says Julie Gareleck, Founder and CEO of Junction Creative Solutions. “An effective and creative content strategy adds significant value to your marketing campaigns. Our content and marketing strategists have the expertise necessary to develop successful marketing campaigns that build influence and establish trust with consumers.” For more about how you can positively impact your ability to deliver an effective message to your target audience, contact the marketing experts at Junction Creative Solutions at 678.686.1125.

Technology is Not Just-For-Profit Anymore

With charitable giving expected to grow by 3.8 percent, 2018 should be a promising year for the nonprofit sector. Marketing and fundraising are critical for organizations hoping to take advantage of this potential growth by leveraging technology to reach goals. Just as important are solutions and technology that connect all constituents (donors, volunteers, and advocates) and keep them engaged in a shared mission. A logical conduit is an organization’s website.

A dynamic website extends far beyond helping people find a nonprofit group online. It serves as an interactive tool used to:

  • Educate the public on issues surrounding the cause or charity;
  • Drive brand awareness and affinity;
  • Attract volunteers and community support;
  • Engage corporations with partner programs;
  • Advertise fundraising events;
  • Recruit program participants or users of the provided services;
  • And increase donations and improve donor relations.

To increase engagement with all groups who access a common website, navigation and content must be well planned and executed. Information should be easy to find. Messages should be tailored for different audiences. For example, potential volunteers will require different information than a local business owner interested in sponsoring an event. Separate entry portals can be created for program participants and Board members, adding an additional level of privacy and security.

Social media integration expands the website’s reach exponentially with the number of social network users expected to grow to 2.44 billion worldwide in 2018, according to Statista. Communicating the mission of a charity to potential donors in a way that elicits a desired response can be difficult for even a seasoned fundraising professional. Technology helps deliver complex messages more clearly by consolidating them into shareable quotes and links placed within the website. Other digital solutions such as videos and live podcasts can also be effective in reaching new supporters.

Making a donation to a cause should be easy and convenient. Charitable givers represent each generational age group and should be accommodated equally. More than a fifth of Millennials have never written a check and more than half of Gen Xs and Baby Boomers prefer to give solely through an organization’s website. Credit card processing systems streamline this process making it possible for people to give more and give remotely.

As technology rapidly evolves, nonprofit organizations face the challenge of keeping pace in order to meet Board expectations and fulfill missions. “We are eager to work with nonprofit groups,” comments Julie Gareleck, CEO and Managing Partner for Junction Creative Solutions. “We created a distinct line of service to satisfy the needs of the nonprofit sector, driving down costs and streamlining processes, so they can continue to influence social change.”

If your organization is looking for innovative solutions to improve engagement, increase giving opportunities, and engage members, contact us to learn more about our packaged solution at info@junction-creative.com.

The Systems Behind the Growth of eCommerce are Evolving

Years ago, much of the Tech industry’s efforts focused on developing packaged software for business applications purchased by copy, or multiple license copies, and installed on organizations’ in-house computer systems. The process of upgrading to newer versions and updating in-house systems proved to be a disruptive process, fraught with frequent costs associated with the purchase of newer versions, and inconvenient installation down-times that generated unwelcome barriers to a company’s ability to be agile and responsive to constantly changing competitive environments. Today much of the interest and capital investment in the software industry is occurring in Software as a Service.

Software as a Service (SaaS), a software delivery model purchased through a license arrangement and accessed by the user through the web based internet cloud, promised to resolve many of the complexities of on-premise applications. Today the SaaS delivery model is the preferred method for office and messaging software, management software, virtualization, infrastructure, platform and desktop software.

Gartner projects the SaaS market will grow 19% this year following a 20% increase in 2017. New and Mature software firms are reinventing and disrupting the industry. The move to cloud-based SaaS subscription software has made software more affordable and accessible, but many of the challenges of customer usability remain.  A recent survey of over 500 business and IT executives by TrackVia revealed that a lack of customization, mobility functionality, limited integration and compatibility was having a negative effect on the growth of businesses across the spectrum of commerce.

A new generation of SaaS application platforms is taking aim at the enterprise software paradigm by promising to simplify and speed up application creation, configuration, integration and deployment for enterprise software. These new low-code platforms are predicted to grow from $3 billion today to $15 billion by 2020 according to the technology analyst firm, Forrester Research. The traditional enterprise software market is struggling to keep up with businesses’ growing demand for faster, more agile and mobile solutions.

The greatest challenge is with slow application development and deployment, too little customization, and difficult integrations with other applications. According to recent research, current software solutions still don’t address businesses’ top priorities or pain points. In fact, today’s slow and inflexible enterprise software often hold businesses back by forcing companies to change operations and processes, which negatively affects enterprise agility and growth.

“While this migration to the ‘cloud’ in the form of SaaS addressed some of the distribution and financing hurdles associated with enterprise software, it failed to fully address the more fundamental end-user challenges,” says Julie Gareleck, CEO of Junction Creative Solutions (Junction). While eCommerce is expected to reach $4 trillion by 2020, the systems behind eCommerce are evolving as users demand the ability to transact in real-time with their customers.

Junction recognized the need to provide Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions to its clients. “As online purchase behavior shifts, it’s critical to understand the purchase path. Junction invested in developing a Custom SaaS Platform that its clients are able to customize and white label as their own system,” said Gareleck. “Benefits for our clients include a cost-effective approach to an otherwise costly platform and improved time to market. Our experienced team of developers and designers is able to roll out custom solutions in 3-5 months as opposed to lengthy development cycles of 12-18 months.”

Having a partner who understand trends in technology and who has the capability and agility to modify a system to meet customer demand is critical to developing a successful SaaS strategic engagement. The fatal mistake that many entrepreneurs make is assuming that once the site is live, the work is done. The reality is that the process takes consistent, ongoing effort to ensure that the technology works as the client’s business scales.

For more information on how the Junction team is experienced and adept at building and fully implementing smart and customizable digital platforms, call 678.686.1125.

Wasting the Opportunity to Connect the Brand with the Consumer

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the only trouble is, I don’t know which half,” said John Wanamaker, the turn of the 20th century American merchant, proponent of advertising and pioneer in marketing. More than a century later his words still ring true in the minds of every marketer who privately wonder whether the now huge sums of capital invested in advertising drive purchasers or profit to their organization. Certainly if he were alive today, Mr. Wanamaker would be dismayed that his estimation of half wasted advertising dollars would, in fact, be woefully understated.

A study by Ehrenberg Bass suggests that around 86% of all ads are either ignored completely or, if noticed, unconnected to the brand sponsoring the message. The data predicts that almost nine out of ten ads are, literally, a waste of money. It has to be shocking news to those who create, produce and pay for the entertaining and much touted advertising campaigns that can cost millions of dollars to air during major sporting events. Even though a 30 second spot on the 2018 Super Bowl Game commanded a cool $5 million, it has been found that 64 percent of viewers were unable to connect the most memorable ad to the brand. Communicus, the consultancy responsible for the data, indicated they also found that less than 20 percent of Super Bowl ads had any impact on consumer brand selection.

Jerry Thomas, author of “Advertising Effectiveness” a White Paper published by Decision Analyst, said, “In our experience, only about half of all commercials actually work; that is, have any positive effects on consumers’ purchasing behavior or brand choice. Moreover, a small share of ads actually appears to have negative effects on sales.” Clearly, little has changed since John Wanamaker first uttered his doubts about the effectiveness of his advertising efforts. So, why is so little being realized from such major investments of time, talent and dollars?

“Too many companies create advertising and marketing material that passes the target consumer by because it literally does not look like it comes from the brand. Constantly changing creative, overly clever executions, arrogant agencies trying to stamp their signature across the work – everything adds up to ensure that most advertising is a constantly changing carousel of confusion that is usually ignored by the customer,“ says Professor and Marketing Week author Mark Ritson.

Entertaining, well produced television advertising has been around for as long as the medium itself. For those old enough to remember television without color and surround sound, “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, Oh what a relief it is” brings back memories of the little character with the funny tablet hat, if not the promised relief. Declarations like “Where’s the Beef” and a hundred-member strong, world chorus singing praises of peace and harmony from the hill top are some examples of timeless brand advertisements elevated to iconic status among their creators and sponsors. Can you connect these ads to their brands?

We live and operate our businesses in a new, consumer run world where social media dominates the conveyance of messages. Entertainment is not enough anymore and sporty jingles and comedic skits no longer work. It is a time for story-telling and a time when consumers expect brands to demonstrate social consciousness and not just spout product or service features and benefits. It’s about having a shared conversation about consumers’ values and how they connect to the brand. Brands must project themselves as socially responsible. However, crude and disrespectful attempts to tie advertising to popular social actions can backfire.

Pepsi’s recent attempt to increase soda sales by co-opting a popular social justice movement resulted in embarrassment and failure, and equating the importance of selling trucks with the historic message of an iconic figure resulted in this year’s biggest Super Bowl advertising debacle. Perhaps the best way to market a brand through a cause is via event sponsorship.

In this dynamic, multi-channel world of advertising, connecting with customers is more about the quality of the brand’s message and the conversation, not about changing the world.