The space before the brand: fertile ground for marketing

expedia campaign by deleteAudiences demand more from the media and advertising that surrounds and interrupts them.

Let’s simplify things. We are trying to sell people stuff. A hard sell, a knock on the door isn’t going to work, unless people have made a decision based on need and are ready to transact.

A high impact emotive pitch via TV and print is not enough. It’s about forming a relationship and beyond this ‘going steady’. Where your audience selects you above all others, keeps coming back, seeks you out, engages with you and talks about you to their friends.

How do we achieve this?

Well as a digital practitioner for the last 12 years – I’ve learnt my craft building digital campaigns and platforms for a number of leading global brands – learning from and with them in equal measure.

Above-the-line advertising without doubt has impact and exists in channels where our audiences are in great numbers. But for me it is that seductive and fleeting glance across the room – creating desire, without the follow through.

It’s what happens next and where, that drives the relationship further. Desire must be maintained. Digital channels – both on site and in social – are the place where this relationship can develop and flourish.

At Delete we’ve coined a phrase – ‘the space before the brand’. For me this is the fertile ground for marketing, by creating a campaign or piece of interactive media that engages the audience before the hard sell. It’s an opportunity to invite your customer into a more neutral space, to explore the values and culture of your brand, often through a campaign but equally as a main site destination.

It can be as simple as building out a more visual, content rich layer on your eCommerce site through to a complete campaign framework that moves beyond your product range in to making your brand relevant to a person’s life.

What characterises this ‘space’?

There must be a value exchange either as information, rewards, entertainment or experience.

This space also allows the brand to move beyond any rigid brand guidelines. It can break with convention and show a more accessible side to what you do. It also allows you to embrace popular cultural zeitgeists.

A great benefit of this extension is connecting with newer and wider audiences, and overcoming past preconceptions.

Some people call this content marketing – but I believe it’s more than content – it’s cultural marketing. Culture is more than brand values, pictures or copy – it’s a less defined and more emotive place. Greater than the sum of it’s parts and if done right a very evocative and effective medium.

It all starts with us building a culture for a brand whether this exists naturally or not. Assessing existing content, values, brand guidelines to develop a creative cultural positioning which we can build on and grow. This culture surrounds the brand and gives it definition and relevance. Generating inspiration and ultimately motivation to move further along the funnel to purchase.

Brands, through their agencies, create and maintain desire. And while digital has certainly changed over the last twelve years, what has been consistent is it’s ability to move beyond a one-way exchange.

The audience is involved and invited to participate, developing connections with the user’s own interests and building trust and loyalty, through a relevant experience that sits in front of the transaction.

Working with Expedia recently we have built an interactive application that sits within Metro newspapers’ Digital Editions. Presenting the user with valuable content in the form of City Guides ‘Through a Different Lens’ (pictured). It’s an inspiration layer and culture around travel – giving the audience a chance to explore. This builds a relationship – where you no longer have to push your product, instead the consumer comes to you. It’s a softer way into a relationship but hopefully a more rewarding and longer lasting one.

It’s a brand saying “this for you – if you like it come back, tell your friends – no obligations.”

It’s a giving relationship that brands have to be confident and committed to. It takes time to establish and build out your cultural values into viable and engaging content – but a path well worth considering in this age of earned media and social recommendation.

The value in considering a more cultural approach to marketing and investing in the ‘space before the brand’ builds a framework for a longer lasting relationship with your customers.

We are after all cultural animals and we thrive in good relationships.

Damon Mangos is Creative Director of Delete.