Latest industry views and advice

February 24


What do effective business communications look like in 2022?

At the turn of any new year, there’s often a looming imperative to identify the latest tool or technique that will transform the way a business communicates and markets itself for the coming period; or until the next miracle method comes along.

The ever-more rapid changes happening in PR and marketing communications can create the business equivalent of “FOMO” – the fear of missing out on something that will change everything.

However, there’s another way of looking at this altogether: according to Tom Roach, VP of brand planning at marketing performance company, Jellyfish, “It’s the things that never change that are more powerful for our brands – and we ignore them at our peril”.

These “unchanging fundamentals” are important because they connect to what US advertising luminary, Bill Bernbach called “the unchanging man” and his ambitions (and I think we can assume this incorporates “the unchanging woman” too).

Why brain function matters to communicators

Bear with me, please; as I had to bear with Roach’s scientific interlude during his Marketing Meetup webinar.

But it’s worth understanding something about how our brains are important in the cause of effective business communications.

The brain’s limbic system – Roach explained – governs our decision making and consistent stimulus changes the connections in the brain. And so-called “system one” thinking is the fast, instinctive and automatic response we make versus the more rational and slower “system two” approach.

So, presenting people with a brand to purchase, you want it to offer a short cut to “system one” thinking. In other words, you want your brand to be a “no brainer” for people to achieve their goals or satisfy their wants and needs.

If the science Roach cites is to be believed, then we, as humans, are “feeling creatures that think, not the other way round”.

And, for businesses needing to communicate to buyers, that means:

  • Creating powerful stimuli
  • Evoking emotional reactions
  • Building associations
  • Creating mental networks
  • Targeting consumer goals

And if you’ve bought into the story so far, Roach recommends seven principles of great communication that will benefit any business:

  1. Reach

Getting more customers to buy something from you is more important than having frequent transactions with more regular customers, he claims. The goal is to reach many people who are just “not that into you”. Roach says: “Most people don’t care much about your brand and spend almost no time thinking about it except when making a decision about a purchase.”

  1. Attention

How does one communicate, when running out of chicken? This is now…

  1. Creativity

 The strongest driver of success in advertising is based on “good ideas that are non-obvious, non-trivial combinations”

Take the poster for Black Levi jeans, which is both attention grabbing and memorable.

“Yet, today,” Roach says, “there is so much sameness; reverting to the easy and familiar in marketing communications which is predictable.”

  1. Distinctiveness

The primary task for communications, says Roach, is to build and refresh memory structures so there’s more chance of a brand being recalled.

“If your brand comes to mind first, [people] will think it more likely to do the job.”

But the communication also needs to reflect the company or brand in an authentic way while being consistent; finding fresh ways to communicate the same messages to strengthen brand memories in the brain.

  1. Consistency

The return on investment figure for consistent brands is claimed to be 60% more than inconsistent brands – building on the brand recognition that came before.

  1. Emotion 

Evidence apparently shows that emotional campaigns are more profitable by getting and keeping attention, processing content more deeply, encoding memory and encouraging sharing and word of mouth.

  1. Motivation

Maybe an obvious point, but there has to be something in the brand that is helping someone to achieve something.

“The first job is to be remembered – for anything – as long as it’s relevant to the category,” Roach adds, while “avoiding artificial rules, such as should we try to be funny or not?” and “being out there, making some noise and standing for something”.

Ultimately, by striving to be better at communicating and following some or all of the principles, your business is less likely to “continue to be wallpaper”.


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