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The Futurist: The quest for content

We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in,” Craig Davis, former CCO at J. Walter Thompson, said. I heard this at a presentation in late 2015 and it’s still top-of-mind for me today.

It’s a simple sentence, but it continually strikes at the core of how the science of marketing has changed. I observe with great interest how my eldest child consumes advertising (she’s 10 by the way). Nothing grinds her more than YouTube pre-rolls. “Skip, skip, skip, come on skip!” are uttered frequently within five seconds. In fact, she’s quite annoyed by the fact these “kinds of things” are part of daddy’s job. But, at the same time, she can sit for an hour and watch “Little Kelly” playing Minecraft on YouTube because, of course, she’s into that.

For me, that’s the rub. That’s where the secret lies. Our brands need to be what our fans are into. Gone are the days of pushing messages onto a dormant audience. The golden panacea for today’s marketers is messaging that resonates, stirs emotions and is widely shared. We push to become content creators as opposed to advertisers. Of course, the business objectives remain.

Ultimately in most businesses, the marketing department is required to deliver communication and messaging that sells products. It’s especially true in automotive, where the balance between brand and tactical communication is a delicate one. At Audi Singapore, we have taken a strong view on the benefits of content generation, especially content that has a local and Singaporean flavour. I’m quite excited about our next project.

During the last quarter of 2017 and into January of 2018, we ran a brand campaign. But unlike previous brand campaigns for Audi in Singapore, this one was very different. There’s also no specific call to action and no hard sell. Our goal was to spread the word and educate Singaporeans about Audi. Our research shows that when it comes to unprompted awareness, Audi lags behind our two main competitors, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Given how much our industry is changing, it seemed like a good time to invest in such a campaign.

The automotive industry is going through a seismic change. New mobility concepts have disrupted traditional thinking. Electrification and autonomous driving are gaining momentum. And don’t forget that artificial intelligence has plugged in. For sure, it’s an exciting time, but also a little concerning, I guess. We want to focus on storytelling, engagement and interaction. We want to tell the story of the brand becoming more digital, but not in the normal way. It would be very easy to get lost in the technology of it all. So we decided the best way to appeal to our broad Singaporean audience is to let Singaporeans tell it.

Sharing is what sat at the heart of our campaign. While we will never be able to move away from the daily business of selling cars, the way we sell them, the services we provide and the community we foster will separate us from our competitors. Of course, we had some YouTube pre-rolls planned for the brand campaign. I guess the ultimate test for me is if my daughter will want to “skip, skip, skip”.

The writer is Rudi Venter, general  manager of marketing, Audi Singapore. The article first appeared in Marketing’s The Futurist print edition.