OK, You Have My Attention—For 300 Milliseconds

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Listen up. Your consumers are speaking to you.
Listen up. Your consumers are speaking to you.

Marketing is a game of milliseconds. Think of it. You're a consumer. You click on a link or tap an app. How long will you stick around for it to load before you roll your eyes and X out in either annoyance or indifference?

According to Brad Rencher, Adobe's SVP and general manager of digital marketing, brands have about 300 milliseconds to reach digital consumers or, in the parlance of Forrester's Forum for Marketing Leaders going down right now in LA, the “perpetually connected consumer” is liable to tune out and move on.

“Every click, swipe, tap, and tag a consumer makes is an action, and in marketing, for every action in digital, we're required to deliver an experience,” Rencher said. “How much time do I have as a marketer to deliver that experience? It's all about that last millisecond.”

Here's the road map: listen, predict, assemble, deliver.

Let's start off with listening. As Rencher pointed out, this isn't marketing's first time at the analytics rodeo. Analytics within the marketing and digital world is more than a decade old by now, and it's becoming increasingly mobile and social in nature. People in the marketing industry literally cannot stop talking about Big Data. But Big Data isn't just asking IT to run queries for you.

“That does nothing for you if you're marketing in milliseconds,” Rencher said. “You need data in place to make real-time marketing decisions, and that includes all kinds of data—behavioral data, third-party data, CRM data.”

Take Rencher. He lives in Salt Lake City, but he's constantly traveling back and forth between Utah and Adobe's headquarters in San Joe, California. At least once a week a Delta airplane becomes his de facto mobile office. And that's where predictions, assembly, and delivery come in. Delta needs to understand Rencher—his consumption and travel habits, his usual routes, his loyalty status, the way he likes to check in—and then deliver a seamless, relevant, real-time experience accordingly across a variety of digital channels.

“We've been focused on data and predictions, but [assembly and delivery] are challenges we're just getting our arms around,” Rencher said.

And if you can get your arms around that, you'll be giving your consumers a big, fat hug at the same time, while driving brand lift and hopefully, ultimately, some nice business results.

Of course, that's only possible if brands can manage to kill their internal silos.

“We as a technology industry need to step up and take some responsibility for this,” Rencher said. It's easier said than done, though. Just by dint of becoming good at something—say you become your organization's go-to expert on Adobe analytics—almost by definition you'll inexorably start to be relegated to a silo. You might become the “analytics guy” or the “social guy”—but that's not the way forward. The watchword is internal integration. Don't be shy.

One brand that isn't shy is youth-driven audio gear brand SkullCandy, which has a “great story to tell, but with limited resources” and a relatively small staff, said Nate Morley, the brand's VP of global marketing & creative.

SkullCandy, which uses the Adobe suite, relies heavily on its highly visible brand ambassadors, including rapper Wale and the NBA's Kevin Durant, who leverage their personal social media channels—millions of followers each—to spread the authentic word about the brand. And it works.

Take the integrated social campaign for its newest product, The Crusher, a pair of headphones Morley described as “two powered sub-woofers strapped to your head,” which launched about two weeks ago. The push was done exclusively online, including targeted pre-roll on relevant websites like ESPN.com, NBA.com and Hulu, and the results speak for themselves. SkullCandy has seen an increase of 85% in its daily Web visitors—with eight out of 10 of those visitors being first-timers to the site.

“We have an awareness challenge, but if we can make people aware of the brand, they will like it and that's born out in the results,” Morley said.

So that's it folks. Your consumer is perpetually digitally connected. This is how they want to engage with brands, so get cracking—but don't go overboard. Just because consumers are perpetually connected, doesn't mean they want brand stalkers. According to Forrester, 36% of U.S. adults don't like to be contacted frequently by a brand online.

So tread lightly and tread smartly.

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