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Breaking through the clutter is no longer enough

Earlier this week, I was reading an interview with an agency executive who was stating the need for brands today to “cut through the clutter and keep consumers engaged.” Candidly, I couldn’t agree more. The trick, however, is not to forget the second half of the equation. And too often brands and their agencies do.

Chiat Day’s Lee Clow once said, “our job is to get you noticed.” And he’s right there too. He also said, “an ad should be an appetizer, not the buffet.” Right again. Today’s modern marketing requires much more than top-of-mind awareness and “breakthrough creative” to get yourself into the consideration set. Don’t get me wrong, those are still important, however, they alone won’t get the job done. You need some type of activation, engagement or coaching to pull people in and retain them.

Both Soul Cycle and Orange Theory Fitness are good examples of brands who do this right. Built largely with little to no traditional advertising, both have become big success stories. Ellen Latham, who at the age of 54 began Orange Theory Fitness, has used a customer experience model to build a billion-dollar brand in just over 8 years. Soul Cycle uses a similar model by leveraging their studios as a destination for their community. Their marketing tactics are more of a rewards program where company executives go from market to market hosting member events and training sessions. These events give customers the chance to interact with those who started and drive the company.

This type of marketing communication can be more labor intensive, but it will increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to recruit and retain customers. And with the right concept, it can be done online and built to scale. Just look at Peloton, who took the idea of a personal coach and experience, created a community and scaled. From there, they used their very loyal member base and leveraged word of mouth to bring in new recruits.

Now of course not everyone is a fitness brand that physically has coaches–any type of brand can execute this. Sleep Number, for example, uses their stores and on-the-floor employees to provide a true brand experience. My wife and I liked our experience so much, we bought one. On the spot. They also have a rewards programs where you earn points for merchandise by watching videos and learning more about why a good night sleep is important. Hint – if you watch about 10-12 videos, you can get you a new $80 pillow.

It’s tempting when creating and executing communications plans to move onto the next thing. After all, we are all time starved these days and activation tactics do tend to be more time intensive. But resist. Take the time to build out your engagement strategies and tactics. They will increase your recruitment and retention numbers and that will make it well worth the resources invested.

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