I was in my local pub the other evening having a ‘small libation’ with a friend when I was introduced to someone I hadn’t previously met. After the initial introductions he blurted out the question we all ask when we can’t think of anything interesting to say - “so, what do you do?” Why is it we are so obsessed with what people do? I’m relaxing after the working day and work related small talk is the last thing I need. But, because he clearly knows my friend, I gave a courteous, honest but non-descript answer in the hope I could change the subject quickly. So, I said, “business development”.
“Really”, he says, with a look of excitement in his eyes. I knew at that moment he had some opinions he wanted to get off his chest and that my relaxing evening was over. I resisted the urge to ask him what he did, but he didn’t let that stop him. “I’m a digital marketer”, he says. Once again, I resisted the urge to joke that he looked real enough to me!
After he asked the next obvious question, he was then aware that I worked with Mediafleet Ltd, and that we specialised in vehicle graphics. Well, he thought all his Christmases had come at once. I shan’t bore you with a ‘word for word’ account of the next hour or so, but needless to say, he proceeded to tell me why, and I quote, "traditional marketing is going the way of the dodo" and that I’d soon be unemployed.
To be fair to him, it’s not the first time I’ve heard this argument. There is no doubt that since the dawn of the digital age (around 1980 with the ‘Janet’ network!), digital marketing has grown exponentially. And for good reason. I’m 57 years old and have had to work hard to get to grips with this burgeoning technology and its benefits. Millennials don’t have this problem. They grew up ‘online’ and are completely ‘au fait’ with the various platforms and the new language that is employed. When I was growing up if I’d said to someone I’ll ‘facetime’ you later, it would have probably ended up in a scuffle!
Let’s just be clear on ‘digital marketing’. In my view, it is any proposition which utilises a digital device or the internet and encourages a two-way interaction with the consumer – whether that’s in the B2B, B2C and perhaps more importantly the C2C environment. Businesses utilise social media, email marketing, websites, blogs, etc to connect with current and potential customers. This two-way interaction provides the consumer with a ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling – they feel as though they are having a say rather than just being sold to and is the main reason it has become so popular. However, there is a downside to this. Poor marketers are in danger of losing their digital audience by not delivering content that the consumer enjoys. Yes, I said enjoys, because that is what you must do. A friend of mine, who is a very successful marketer, said to me recently that the best way to view digital marketing, and especially social media, is as though you were having a one on one conversation with a friend. If you talk ‘at’ your friend, telling them what you’ve done that day and why with no two-way interaction, they would soon walk off and not want to speak with you again – regarding you as boring. Well the same is true with digital marketing. If you run your digital campaigns in the same way you run your traditional marketing campaigns, you will lose your audience. Be aware that digital platforms provide the mechanism for consumers to ask questions of one another by which they can garner opinion. Millennials have grown up in this environment and it’s the way they make decisions. They use online techniques to research and ask questions, so they can make informed decisions. They do not respond well to traditional marketing or broadcast techniques such as TV, billboards or magazines. Not the case in general with Baby boomers’ or ‘Generation X’.
So, it’s easy to see why my new friend believes that digital marketing is the only way forward and that mobile billboards (vehicle livery) are ineffective in attracting the attention and helping our Generation Y and millennials make buying decisions. But, the equation is far more complex than that.
In the good old days, we all knew marketing revolved around the 4 P’s of price, product, placement and promotion. The advent of new marketing channels has now broadened this landscape and although as a framework the 4 P’s still exists, it’s now more complicated. If you ask a digital marketer about the 4P’s they will probably stare at you as though you’d just grown another head. But the fact is we just can’t ignore the fact that traditional marketing has been successful since the Egyptians started using papyrus leaflet drops!
And get this, even in this digital age, traditional marketing spend hasn’t decreased and is still buoyant. Why? Because all generations whether they admit this or not take some comfort from seeing traditional adverts. A couple of years ago Pepsi moved its entire marketing effort away from traditional media to social media and then promptly lost money and dropped to third in the rankings. Why? Because the promotional effort was not as effective – promotion as in one of the 4p’s. Hang on, 4P’s that’s a traditional media reference isn’t it. Answer? No it’s not. Let’s forget this argument about digital versus traditional and just look at what ‘promotion’ really is. Let’s go back to basics and look at the elements of the promotional mix.
Advertising – the communication of the benefits of products and/or services using radio, TV, billboards, mobile billboards (vehicles) as well as internet advertising.
Direct marketing – targeted promotional activity to illicit a response in order to build a rapport. Techniques include telesales, catalogues, vendors as well as the internet and mobile marketing
Personal Selling – an educational and convincing dialogue to get the consumer to buy
Sales Promotions – tools a salesperson can use to entice the consumer to buy...these include discounts, promotions, offers etc.
Publicity – increasing potential consumer awareness of your products and services using media such as magazines, brochures and blogs and online media.
Clearly there is a ‘hand in hand’ approach here where traditional promotion supports digital promotion and vice versa. So, a good argument for maintaining traditional promotion.
When you take it up a gear and start to consider which promotional device to use for a particular problem, then we can see a polarising effect where the two devices each have a role to play.
Let’s say you want to launch a new product or service. Would you rely on digital marketing alone? Probably not as traditional media adds credibility to a product among other benefits. If your product or service was specialised, then you may need a direct sales approach to make an impact. If your credibility in your product or service was in jeopardy you may look to PR to re-establish that credibility utilising offline and online publications. Clearly, there is a promotional tool chest and the clever marketer will use the appropriate tools at the appropriate time for the job in hand.
So where does that leave vehicle graphics?
Vehicle graphics represent a billboard on wheels and provides three essential marketing services;
Visibility – Vehicle advertising is accessible. Consumers see these mobile billboards everyday increasing brand awareness and, if done correctly, deliver differentiating marketing messages as well as useful information.
Credibility - with all the issues surrounding spurious internet information and fake news, vehicle graphics are perceived as a reliable source of information from credible organisations
Targets an audience – for the generations prior to the millennials, it’s probably one of the most effective ways of reaching them together with other traditional media such as TV, radio magazines etc. And even for millennials, they can react to vehicle graphics using digital devices such as the mobile, iPad or eventually, desktop.
The effectiveness of the vehicle graphics is really important. Billboard advertisers know they have a few seconds to grab the attention and deliver the message. The same is true for vehicle graphics. With billboards the advertisers assume you are blasting past in a vehicle – that is the worst-case scenario. With vehicle graphics you must assume that the vehicle is blasting past the pedestrian.
So, what do good vehicle graphics look like?
Firstly, a good vehicle graphics designer must understand the marketing plan of the client. From the above we understand that this promotional media and any marketing message must fit with the overall strategy. Your vehicle graphics supplier must have a serious marketer steering the overall design and meeting the client’s needs at every level and at every meeting.
Remember that brand credibility is probably the biggest gain through vehicle graphics
so make sure the branding is prominent and clear.
Avoid complex educational messages as they will not be understood due to viewing time constraints.
Imagery is a great way to deliver a message but make sure you use high resolution images. Restrict the amount of text used and use clear fonts.
Bold colours and designs will help your vehicle and message stand out.
Use a ‘call to action’ if it’s appropriate. Text response mechanisms are easily remembered and can provide instant access to more complex messages by linking to external media such as website and any online or digital content. We understand from the above that millennials and Generation Y and Z have a clear understanding of this unobtrusive technology.
So, going back to my new friend I met in my local; formats change but the media doesn’t. Big tube TV’s have been replaced with wafer thin displays and FM radio has largely been replaced by DAB. Static billboards are now accompanied by digital billboards and hand painted vehicle livery has been replaced by complex vinyl wraps and even spray on vinyl. Digital media is now commonplace, but it is not a replacement technology; it is just a new tool in the marketer’s tool chest. Used correctly they all have a part to play in delivering your message to your target audience.