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Marketers are shifting toward more of a conversational marketing style. Super Bowl advertising hit a record high in 2020, just before the world shut down. The following year, many brands – including Budweiser, Hyundai and Coca-Cola – understandably sat out the big game. Sales were down for many of the brands, ad production was challenging given stay-at-home orders, and marketers were rightly concerned about general mood of consumers.
But the fact that Coke chose to skip the event again this year signals a bigger shift underway in marketing that goes beyond the pandemic. While the Super Bowl is an opportunity to deliver a mass message across America, that communication remains a one-way street. Marketers simply have many more ways to reach prospects today that facilitate engagement, conversation and a more meaningful connection.
Coke actually devoted one-third of its paid media budget to digital media last year, per Adweek. Digital media makes sense given the many opportunities to converse with target audiences online.
Building a conversation
On social media, brands are chatting back and forth with fans and building communities around their posts. Through website and messaging app chatbots, they are engaging prospects and delivering personalized product recommendations. And they are in constant contact with existing customers via email, delivering deals and offering tips on how to make the most out of their purchases.
“In 2020, buyer and seller conversations moved almost exclusively online. Now, both parties say there’s no going back,” according to the 2021 State of Conversational Marketing report by Drift, in partnerships with Heinz Marketing.
According to the report, 80% of business-to-business professionals surveyed said their company had a conversational marketing solution in place. Among those that did not, 74% wanted to add one.
Improvements in technology are driving this trend, as it has become possible to set up automated interactions with customers that draw on informed data sets about their preferences to deliver tailored suggestions. Machine learning and natural language dialogue has come a long way.
“These tools can be thought of as a new set of ears for marketers,” IBM explains.
Hulu recently tapped IBM’s Watson to hold conversations with weather.com and The Weather Channel app users about their viewing habits. After finding out a bit about their preferences, Watson made show recommendations that fit. That effort ran alongside digital ads as part of a broader campaign for the streaming service.
The customer journey
Marketers can use conversational marketing at all parts of the customer journey, including in post-purchase engagement and loyalty efforts.
For example, HelloFresh has deployed a chatbot named Freddy on Facebook Messenger to offer recipe ideas and meal reminders as well as additional tips around the holidays, a stressful time for many cooks. The company has utilized Freddy in many ways and, as a result, slashed their customer response time from 5 hours to 77 minutes.
Automated solutions free up employees to tackle more complex conversations. By working in tandem, they can engage audiences in more meaningful ways and offer round-the-clock opportunities to connect with brands on their terms.
“The key is to remember that conversational marketing should be designed around the needs of the customer – not the needs of the business,” HubSpot co-founder Dharmesh Shah notes.
With the rising popularity of social apps and digital entertainment, it should be no surprise that marketers are turning their focus to ways that technology can help them connect with their targets in more conversational ways. In doing so, they are fulfilling a time-tested goal in marketing: ensuring that the right message reaches the right person at the right time.
There are now just so many better ways of doing that now than ever before.