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Have brands lost their charm?

Advertising today is a stimulating and captivating marketplace, posing immense opportunities and challenges for brands to engage and connect with consumers meaningfully.

The digitisation of channels, networks, content and devices has led to endless possibilities of how people consume media, broadening the Market-Media-Consumer matrix.

An already exhausted and over-exposed consumer is now using media at his/her own terms. No longer a recipient, rather, a strong participant for creating and sharing media, the consumer is choosing what, when, how, where and more importantly he or she wants to interact with a brand or accept its message.

However, this media complexity has disrupted the ability to charm the consumer, thereby spawning a strong need for communications planning.

Communications planning combines the art and science to make a brand visible in a commoditised market. It integrates media, mediums and messages to drive the best possible business results for the brand. It creates a necessary building block for a brand to make informed choices – right from product development to marketing communications.

A communications planner is driven by a fundamental foresight – deliver meaningful brand experiences that create competitive advantage for the brand in a market. Grounded in a sound consumer-insight strategy, a communications planner’s task is to drive collaborations, create unique partnerships between all partners to come together and practice this together for best results.

Communications planners (as they are popularly known) therefore is always on a quest to find what makes a consumer tick; what does a brand stand for and what ultimately determines consumer’s purchase decision to develop an integrated brand experience.

They must be intimately familiar with the various media, marketing and consumer research/ tools; business issues and objectives, its distinguishing factors in the market, where the gaps lie, and more importantly consumer needs, interests and concerns, their purchase behavior about when and where the consumer is most receptive to the brand message and what emotions do these messages evoke.

Leveraging these insights, communications planners then develop integrated strategies that guide:

– The Context (identifies moments, situations and environments)

– The Content (communication/ creative/ ideas)

– The Contact (touch points)

This is to create a message most relevant and memorable in the marketplace.

Communications planning is not just about how much budget should be moved into digital versus traditional channels; it’s an in-depth understanding of the use, effect and interplay of media on consumers and how they respond to it, to achieve business goals.

The action plan defines and distinguishes the role each contact point will play to complement the brand’s communication strategy. It must be media-neutral, capable of running across TVCs, cinemas, print, out-of-home or digital and actionable for all communications partners – be it creative agencies, media agencies, digital and even PR agencies.

A competent communications planner clarifies strategic appropriateness of marketing and media channels, and creates differentiated advantages for the brand to secure a winning place in the consumer’s heart to trigger a response.

The key is to go beyond the tactical media/marketing plan and develop an experiential strategy that amplifies the brand idea and its related message – strategy that is related to actual brand barriers, ideas powered by appropriate insights and unique business goals.

Media is a reservoir of conversations and only a capable communications planner can reverse the pyramid by understanding where the consumers are, what they want and when, who they are sharing with and how. A successful communications plan evolves from a partnership with consumers, not clients. It is a path towards building a long-term relationship with a customer and winning their loyalty.

The writer is Swapna Nayak, regional communications planning director of IPG Mediabrands.

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