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The Role of Pragmatism in Modern-Day Marketing

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Over the past year, real-time marketing efforts have proliferated – especially within social media channels. Branded content is on the rise, as is the number of brands vying for attention during key cultural moments. For marketers this means that capturing consumer attention is a more complex endeavor than it used to be.

As the volume of content increases, it’s likely that a marketer’s audience risks being over-stimulated and desensitized to branded content. As such, smart marketers will want to recalibrate their real-time strategy to focus on relevancy and quality (not just speed). The key for marketers is to get back to the basics – to strike a balance between timeliness, innovation and authenticity, and reground their approaches in consumer research before springing into action.

A few weeks back at SXSW Interactive, Kristina Halvorson (author and content strategist), led a panel that was aptly titled “Go Home Marketing, You Are Drunk.” During her talk, Halvorson urged marketers to reground their approaches in pragmatism, a philosophy that supports a practical approach to solving problems. In the context of marketing, pragmatism means fixing things that “actually are broken” (as Halvorson puts it) before chasing after the next bright shiny object.

A pragmatic marketing strategy begins with the consumer and is grounded in the questions that we at 360i ask ourselves daily: “Why should they [our audience] care?” and “Why should they share?” Marketing ideas based solely on cool-factor or timeliness alone will not be as effective as those which are based on their relevancy to the brand’s audience. (You can read more on this in our previous blog post: “3 Ways Brands Can Balance Right-Time Marketing with Authenticity.”)

Standing out amid a seemingly endless stream of content is a difficult task for any brand. As noted in our prior blog post on earning attention, consumers are interrupted some 80 times a day by texts, alerts and push notifications. How are brands to use social to grab the attention of their core audiences when everything is so distracting?

In her own SXSW talk, Danah Boyd, Principal Researcher at Microsoft and author of “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens,” suggested that marketers take note of platforms like Snapchat that have found a way to break through the cluttered space by approaching social interactions in a new way. Snapchat has achieved this by taking users out of the feed and demanding attention within a specified number of seconds, she said.

Boyd called for similar innovations across all of social media – changes that alter the way users engage beyond the news feed approach to which consumers have become accustomed. “We keep on treating social media like it can be a broadcast mechanism – [but] it won’t be,” predicted Boyd. For example, many of today’s consumers, including teens, crave intimacy. For marketers, the first step is understanding consumer behavior— their wants, their needs and what drives them. It’s not about creating more content, it’s about creating the right content. And to do this, marketers will need to step back and ask the right questions.

Here are some ways in which marketers can infuse pragmatism into their programs:

  • Pragmatism 101: Logic is Your Friend. Instead of pushing out content because it’s “cool” or timely, ground your content strategy and ideas in killer logic. The most successful marketers are solution-oriented, instead of investing their time in solving a problem that doesn’t exist.
  • Stop Guessing & Start Researching. As Halvorson puts it, “the primary message of content marketing is to make content people care about.” Is your target market a group of young women? Consider conducting a focus group and learning more about their relationship with product you’re trying to sell. Dip into Google trends, or run a search on Twitter to see what people are already saying. You can learn more about how 360i uses social data in our recent post, “How to Use Social Data to Make Your Work Better.”
  • Develop New Ways to Demand Attention. Using Snapchat as an example, how can marketers change the game by demanding consumers’ attention in a new way? While authenticity is important, it should be balanced with innovation in order for an idea to be breakthrough.
  • Develop a Dynamic, Flexible Strategy that Can Evolve. Align on where and when it makes sense to play your hand based on the overall strategy, and make sure that the reasoning is sound but dynamic enough to allow for change.

By re-calibrating strategy to one that is grounded in pragmatism, marketers have the opportunity to develop smarter, more relevant solutions that meet existing business objectives. Asking the right questions is a simple yet important first step when it comes to identifying new and better ways to earn attention among consumers amid an increasingly cluttered landscape.

Cover photo via The Elephant of Surprise