The Importance of Alternative Brand Contact Planning in Contemporary Marketing

Mr Tomi Ogunlesi MBA
August 9, 2011 — 2,948 views  
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Someone recently remarked that present day consumers have literally become cockroaches...you spray them with the ‘new and improved' formula yet and again but they just keep developing a resistance. In a sense, it is a similar analogy with the way consumers have evolved over time.

Clearly, one critical challenge as far as brand communication in these contemporary age is concerned lies in that as both brand owners and advertising agencies (here in Nigeria and world-over), we all are competing fiercely to impact on target audiences who, whether we realize the fact or remain oblivious to it, have become jaded by conventional/traditional advertising and brand communications.

In reality, today's consumer/target has become simultaneously time-starved and trust-starved, and has sub-consciously erected some kind of defence (which appears to be increasingly fortified) against commercial ‘onslaughts'. The consequence of the foregoing is that the expectations clients have of their communication partners or advertising agencies is to develop campaigns that break through the clutter in the process of creating branded impact on consumers/targets.

Agencies, almost stereotypically, in turn rely heavily on their creative teams for the conceptualization of highly ‘creative' messages that have the propensity to bust these clutters. The following are some of the communication challenges that currently present in brand marketing;

Increases in Clutter levels are being accentuated. Consumers consequently are erecting and intensifying attention barriers and selective awareness. Clients are therefore demanding brand communication solutions that transcend the traditional and expected.

Creative teams are therefore expected to produce more arresting and ‘out-of-the-box' (a term that now clearly appears to have been effectively over-flogged of recent!) message concepts and executions which will be able to break through clutter barriers to have measurable impact on consumer buying behavior.

Given the foregoing, where does strategic account planning come to play in all of these? The following pertinent questions must therefore be put to strategic planners (and also clients and brand owners, of course!);

If consumers are putting up and fortifying their defences against daily commercial onslaught(which they may deem to be exploitative in favor of marketers/brands), is it wise to rely solely on the creativity of the expected advertising message and hope to break through the cluster barriers? Shouldn't we be investing in creative strategic thinking ever before the so-called creative process commences?

Should we not therefore be disrupting norms with a view to creating unconventional and unexpected points of engagement and brand contact that are however in total tandem and synergy with the creative/above-the-line concept and execution across all media?

The foregoing posers call for a refreshed approach to our entire brand communication planning framework, with more focus on points of contact, rather than reliance on the ‘creativity' of the actual advertising message alone, towards breaking through the clutter, such that the point of contact itself aptly represents and successfully demonstrates creative strategic thinking that will achieve the desired impact through it's unconventional and unexpected status.

Now, the alternative brand contact has been identified to be that point of planned interface with the brand that is experienced by the consumer as unexpected and unconventional - Note the key words herein. The alternative brand contact is in itself media-neutral. What this translates into is that it is not the medium that defines the alternative brand contact as being unexpected or unconventional, as we frequently are wont to think in the industry. I do agree that there persists a strong tendency to compartmentalize alternative media into some below-the-line intervention category, but practically, it is the consumer's experience of the point of contact as being unconventional or different that positions it as ‘alternative'.

Just to point out again here, we should bear in mind the fact that unexpected or unconventional brand contact planning is very likely to be constrained when planners have a bias towards one particular type of medium, as well as the typical traditional media commission-based remuneration system. As a matter of fact, a senior agency practitioner in Europe put it this way "No Agency working on commission can function meaningfully and deliver unique results on a media-neutral platform"

Alternative brand contact planning is therefore a planning process that aims at developing unconventional brand contact strategies that break through barriers imposed by commercial clutter to achieve branded impact on targets. Essentially, an alternative brand contact can appear in any form, in any potential communication space and is defined by the consumer experience or take-out, and not necessarily by media type.
 
Tomi Ogunlesi, a professional member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK) is an MBA scholar at Lagos Business School (LBS)

Mr Tomi Ogunlesi MBA

Bates Cosse

A consummate marketing communication professional with experience spanning diverse brand categories ranging between corporate, FMCG, financial services and aviation, among others. A member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM, UK) He is also an alumnus of both Vega, the Brand communications school and the Wits Business School Product Strategy & Brand Management Programme. He is currently a brand strategist at Bates Lagos, where he works as Brand Manager responsible for Segment and Product marketing for a leading African Financial services brand. He is also presently an MBA candidate at the Lagos Business School.