For a good half-century, companies had well-defined ways of communicating with consumers, B2B customers, employees and shareholders. For marketing, there were television, radio and print advertising. Employees got newsletters. Investors received quarterly reports.
But the digital era has exploded the number of alternatives for marketing and internal communications, which now include email, blogs and an alphabet soup of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. What’s more, every utterance can be put out there in real time. It’s now possible to pepper business constituencies with messages continuously.
This has created tremendous opportunity but also a new problem: Companies now can—and do—over-communicate. They overwhelm target audiences with a plethora of messages. At the same time, they risk seeing crucial communications get lost in the clutter. A growing number of C-suites are not only aware of this danger but also are doing something about it.
“One of the single biggest fears we have is to overextend our welcome,” says Ram Krishnan, who was CMO of Frito-Lay before a recent promotion charged him with handling all of PepsiCo’s business with Walmart. “Digital enables one-on-one real-time conversation, but consumers don’t want to talk with you every waking minute of every waking hour. The last thing you want is for people to opt out of your brand because you interrupt their lives. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it.”
In fact, commanding the new techniques and integrating them into an overall philosophy of marketing and communications may be the most important thing business leaders can do with
digital technology these days.
The proliferation and power of digital channels alone dictate that C-suite executives adopt a revolutionary new form of strategic communications rather than regard new media as merely evolutionary. And making judicious use of the new capabilities is a crucial part of succeeding with them.
When it comes to consumers, the threat of over-communicating with them “keeps me awake every night,” confesses Raja Rajamannar, CMO of MasterCard. So the financial-services brand takes a three-pronged approach to ensuring that MasterCard doesn’t realize his worst fears.
First, Rajamannar says, every piece of communication by the brand “has to be about the consumer and what is most interesting or relevant for them—something that touches their passions—otherwise we get lost in the background noise.”
Second, he notes, MasterCard takes advantage of the precise targeting that is made possible by social media to “really only push content to [consumers] that matters to them and resonates with them.” Third, MasterCard’s philosophy is to communicate economically as well as continuously, given that every day creates the opportunity to make fresh marketing outlays to demonstrate the brand’s relevance to some new development in culture or the news. “How do you stay top of mind?” Rajamannar asks. “You have to do it continuously and constantly, staying relevant while also economic.”