But before we start – do you fancy a Coca-Cola?
What are we talking about when we talk about the digital revolution?
To give you an introduction, let’s look at the Coca-Cola and Mentos case. Around 2005, two guys started making videos in which they put the famous chewy candies in bottles of the world’s most famous soft drink, creating spectacular foam fountains. They had a lot of fun doing it and the videos were met with great enthusiasm around the world. It went so far that they even attracted the attention of the two companies involved.
Mentos marketing immediately understood the positive benefits it could derive from this situation, while Coca-Cola did not go down on these Mentos at all and decided to sue the two young men for damage to their image. But she soon got her point. The outdated way of thinking was outweighed by the large number of interactions this video continued to record: it was shared, commented, parodied, re-enacted …
What a bad figure would Coca-Cola have done in front of such a large and enthusiastic audience? If she had decided to put an end to the fun – a brand whose motto is “Enjoy!”. It would have been perceived as a betrayal of one’s own understanding of the values of relationships, socialization and a positive attitude towards life that Coca-Cola has been preaching in its commercials for decades.
The reverse of the process
Why is this event so important?
Because it represents a clear reversal of the poles in the communication process. For the first time, the brands went through a communication process that was generated by those who, until a few seconds ago, would have defined their eager marketing people as their “target group”.
Up until that year, brands tended to see communication as an arrow they shot to hit a specific audience (and thus the target). The audience in this process actually had almost a passive function: they could only decipher the message and decide whether or not to accept it. That’s it. On the other hand – just think about it – there were no specific physical places to interact with a brand before the era of social networks.
The digital era: When the target hits the shooter
The case of Coca-Cola and Mentos clearly shows this turning point: For the first time in the history of (almost) simultaneous communication, the target shot the arrow at the shooter. And what an arrow! Here we have it, the germ of the digital era, very different from the time before.
Nowadays audiences can also create communication by using a brand for their own purposes or, sometimes, in the truest sense of the word the recipient of his message. It became clearer to the brands from day to day that it was no longer possible to completely control the process of spreading the message. And often the new creative consumers themselves are able to stimulate the attention of the media and the public to the same extent, if not more because their content on the digital channels receives so many views because it is received with greater sympathy.
They give the impression (but often it is not so) that they are more unadulterated, more authentic and less sophisticated than those of the brands. The audience loves this content because it does not suspect the intention to sell or to convince. Over the years, the brands have learned to regain a certain degree of control, but at the same time, they had to get used to the idea that communication channels no longer run in one direction. Today brands know that the flow of communication can at best be activated, directed, addressed and managed. And there is only one way to do this: Descend from your throne and communicate on an equal footing with your own audience on social networks.
But what specific changes in communication now?
As soon as we understand the context in which we are moving, we also understand more easily the different practical approaches that derive from this scenario. Let’s look at a pragmatic example of the special features of a message that is suitable for one of the digital networks par excellence: for Facebook.
Compared to a campaign designed for print, Facebook is more open and accessible to its counterpart. By interacting through comments, reactions and sharing the people not only help us to understand whether the message is liked, they even become part of it: their actions can and must be understood as a unit with them emanating from the sender of the message. Massimo Guastini, Creative Director of Cookies and former President of the Art Director Club Italiano writes in this context: “ The starting point of advertising communication is no longer What do I say about this product, but What do I let people say about this product “.
So the recommendation is not to take in the audience’s reactions in a passive way, but to think up and write the message in such a way that one imagines – as far as possible – how the people interact with it become. It’s like a game of chess: I can’t predict the opponent’s moves with absolute certainty, but when I play a game, I have to do my best to win.
Facebook recommends (but does not force it anymore) to use text sparingly in an image for the posts we want to advertise: The words should not take up more than 20% of the space of the entire area of the published graphic. So it is better if we limit ourselves to the pair of titles and graphics. It becomes clear that you have to develop a great skill to get things to the point, even more than when designing a printed page.
It is perhaps the most tangible sign of the digital revolution, but it often goes unrecognized: Compared to the medium of print, Facebook offers us the opportunity to write a text outside of the content . You know what is meant, don’t you? The lines that accompany the proposed image or link and put it into context. This facility, which we can define as metatextual because it allows information about how the actual content is to be read, can be used in several ways:
1. Present the post.
2. The people with a call to action explicitly invite you to interact. For example, by asking them questions or asking them to speak up.
3. Provide contextual elements or supporting data in a similar way as we would on a traditional advertising site.
4. Pick up the pun, for example, by making a comment that adds to the irony of the actual post. This can be helpful, for example, to make sure that the irony does not get lost and that the text is mistakenly taken literally, which could lead to misunderstandings that cause problems on the site.
• High degree of empathy
Ultimately, we must never forget that our goal is to entertain and interest the people who receive our content. If possible, by encouraging positive conversations about our services or products. The already quoted Massimo Guastini writes in this context: “The epic fail is not the only danger for today’s copywriter: the indifference is much worse”.
What does that mean? If I want to communicate with an audience, to create a real dialogue, then I have to be able to assess what moves the people: for example, their feelings about a certain topic, what wishes, doubts and worries they have, what makes them laugh and which, on the other hand, evokes other feelings, such as indignation.
In other words, it means that I have to understand how to be empathic and creating messages because there is a risk of going totally unnoticed and failing to create any kind of conversation. I have to combine information with emotion in a coherent and respectful way towards the audience I want to interact with.
Communication on paper and digital communication: this connection is possible
And at the end of this article, one more important point: In the early years of the so-called digital age we sometimes witnessed somewhat clumsy and clumsy attempts to communicate messages on paper – such as printed pages, leaflets or flyers – to be adapted to digital channels such as Facebook or Twitter. Now, this process seems to have been reversed.
More and more advertising messages that have been created on the basis of certain characteristics in order to function as well as possible in digital networks are also showing their effect in printed form. If we think about it, empathy, conciseness and the ability to stimulate conversation are not only applicable to digital channels and are extremely useful guides for creating any kind of message aimed at an audience. Let’s end the article with a smile: Remember when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt announced their split?
The simple campaign, which is certainly inexpensive to implement, attracted worldwide attention and proved that being able to cross digital and analogue if you have the ability to develop really relevant messages that are geared towards the people they are intended for.