A brands Digital Strategy needs to be rooted in the 'Master Narrative'


The emphasis for a brand or company to build a ‘master narrative’ has never been so significant in strategic communications planning. Maybe in the age of rampant proliferation of digital across advertising and marketing communications, this sounds very ‘analogue’ and old fashioned. Perhaps it is!

I am not a millennial and was born and came of age in a time which was pre-digital when people remembered telephone numbers and ‘face to face’ communication was the norm. When I started my career media relations and having a story for a journalist and strategic planning were the core skills of the communications trade. Today the conversation all brand development agencies in London or Dubai go through are very different and more complex.

The global social media advertising market size was about US$26.4 billion in 2016 and accounts for 13% of the total Digital Advertising market. With a cumulated amount of US$22.8 billion, the US, China and Europe cover 86% of the global Social Media Advertising market. These are huge figures on which publicity and marketing campaigns are based.

A brand strategist must consider the content and the delivery when comes to their strategic planning for marketing and communications. Yes, digital and social media is important but how much is enough? 

Some of the questions that need to be answered include; What is the cross-functional marketing balance and how much budget should be invested in the digital side of the marketing mix? How much money should be spent to have a meaningful impact which can then be converted into revenue? Alternatively how much is being spent to bring the message to screen zombies who have no interest in the product and the service?  

Technology has increased our knowledge enormously, but at the same time, it has failed to give coherence to our experience. Currently, there are more than 1.6 billion social network users worldwide with more than 64 percent of internet users accessing social media services online.  

The competition to get the ‘eyes on the brand’ is not only coming from your competitors it is also coming from shortening attention spans of your audiences. (Just what do 1,000 views on a Facebook post mean!) Digital behaviour, the addiction to apps and games, the lack of empathy for a story which comes from these mediated platforms are all harmful and damaging factors. 

In his latest book, "Irresistible' reviewed in the New York Times, social psychologist, Associate Professor of Marketing at New York University's Stern School of Business and author Adam Alter says that our technology is designed to be addictive and that the gratification it provides is similar to that of other addictive behaviours such as drug abuse or gambling. So much so that many tech barons in California, including Steve Jobs, don’t let their children near iPads and send them to technology free schools. 

He elaborates on his findings in this NPR podcast: 'Irresistible' By Design: It's No Accident You Can't Stop Looking At The Screen”.  Alter goes into detail discussing how over the last ten years the impact of social media has been to reduce our average attention span to eight seconds - a goldfish has a memory of nine seconds! 

Eight seconds is not much to get a branded story to a consumer and hope to get a purchasing decision. Maybe it's controversial, but I believe that focusing on a ‘master narrative’, and a solid marketing mix are the most critical strategic areas for brand development and communications. 

This is the rub. In 2017, the irony is that it is the very digital platforms which are essential to a marketing strategy, may also be the undoing of the message and the meaning of branded stories. According to statistics provided by Statista, social networking is one of the most popular ways for online users to spend their time, enabling them to stay in contact with friends and families as well as catching up with news and other content. This digital proliferation creates a competitive market for our attention which is the very thing that brands and companies want us to do. 

 (Now I will share this on social media, with Facebook boosts and all the rest ……)