Survey Gives 3 Marketing Lessons (Hint: Tell Stories)

The boundaries separating advertising, PR, and digital are more than blurred — they’re gone. Today, the most effective approaches take the best, most successful elements from each area of marketing and combine them into something that’s far greater than the sum of its results-focused parts. It’s the gist of integrated marketing.

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The top tactics are triple threats, blending the control of advertising with the credibility of PR and the measurability of digital.

That philosophy is being reinforced on a number of fronts. Most recently, an Opinion Research Corporation survey sponsored by ARAnet measured consumer response to five different types of online advertising. For the second year, the survey found that the type of online ad that consumers most likely read and act upon is one that has traditionally fallen under the public-relations domain — articles that include brand information.

The most successful online ad type is one that utilizes a PR-centric approach? It’s not that much of a surprise: Public relations practitioners have seen the benefit of content-rich messaging for a long time, and have relied on it to engage with consumers on a number of fronts, from traditional newspaper and magazine articles to emails to blog posts. And now it’s becoming apparent that consumers seek this same type of information in their ads. Article-based advertising incorporates client brand information into informative content on high-profile news and information sites.

In the ORC study, respondents rated their likelihood to read and act upon five types of online advertising: banner ads, pop-up ads, email offers, articles that include brand information, and sponsored search engine links. Respondents said they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to read and respond to:

  • Articles that include brand information: 53 percent compared to 51 percent a year ago
  • Email offers: 51 percent compared to 47 percent last year
  • Sponsored search engine links: 40 percent compared to 39 percent last year
  • Banner ads: 28 percent compared to 25 percent last year
  • Pop-up ads: 19 percent compared to 13 percent last year

You can apply three important lessons from this data, which encompass the “marketing melting pot” trend:

1. Content is king — especially in digital. The survey adds a data point to the voices of marketing pros and bloggers who are saying that many online ad methods aren’t cutting it anymore. The data tells us that the most sought-after marketing audiences (the young and high-income consumers) want more. They want content, and also more context. Compared to banner ads or other options, these consumers respond better when they can read an informative article, evaluate it, and then decide to click through for more information.

2. Build brand storytelling into every tactic. The survey found a correlation between article-based ads and search: 57 percent of adults said they initiate web searches “very frequently” or “somewhat frequently” for products and services they read about in online articles. Younger and high-income people are even more likely than the rest of the population to conduct a search after reading online articles. These long-form articles are an excellent method of not only boosting search, but also of telling your brand story. It’s also possible to integrate brand-focused messaging into nearly every tactic, online and off, as consumers engage more deeply with messages that feature rich, impactful content.

3. Update your measurement. These integrated tactics require an integrated measurement system. Counting clicks alone doesn’t cut it anymore. In addition to traditional ad and digital metrics, you’ll also need to rely on or develop softer methods of measuring impact on your brand, and gauging customer engagement via social media.

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