Advertisers have always stunned the audiences with their innovative ideas and creative executions. The audiences have been left at tenterhooks as to how these advertisers have been able to enthrall or at least draw their attention amidst the cacophony of media and a host of other factors. If the end result has mesmerized all, then the path to this end result also has not been very easy. Rather the challenges faced by the advertising agencies and its dedicated army men have always been overwhelming. The weird and complex behavior of consumers has always bewildered the advertisers. Topping it is the array of an ever-changing world of media where fragmentation and proliferation of the devices have added to the woos, making consumer behavior all the more complex.
In the earlier days when the business was small, word of mouth was the only means of communication used to spread the message. But as the business territories expanded, so did the need for making people know about its existences also grew up. So in the history of advertising, the print media through papyrus and the wall posters made its first appearance. Gradually the electronic media and the various other avatars of mediums emerged. Now-days the advertisers are flooded with choices and they have a range of options to choose from the old traditional mediums to the newest new the digital mediums- and all in the name of that one letter wonder word- “consumers.” The advertisers need to understand the dynamics of product placement in media. Two strategies define the behavior. Is the whole world waiting to buy the product or is it that the company has to compete with similar companies in the market. If the product is the only one then it already has gained a unique place and the medium of advertising will not make much difference. But yes if it has to compete with other similar firms, then strategies like branding and segmentation and positioning all will come into play; with consumers in mind.
New Media and the changing world of advertising
Advertisers in today’s world are just trying to create that five letter word ‘magic’ that could break the clutter and could reap that perfect ROI. In a bid to do so, the digital media has emerged in a big way. First, it was the Search Engine Optimization, then the Facebook adverts. SEO back in 2000, got traffic from the free, editorial or natural search results on search engines. In a nutshell, it was a lot about using shortcuts to get one’s website to Numero Uno in the search engines as quickly as possible. Facebook on the other hand targets people not merely as consumers but rather sees them as people who might be using it at different moments of his life and for different reasons altogether. He may be a person lazying on a holiday or stuck in a jam on a busy road or even bored by a long business meeting. The vision of the company too stresses on this fact-
“People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.”
Whosoever he is – he may be a potential consumer or just glancing through the page. This means Facebook will either lose as an advertising medium when people stop having a desire to “stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them” or when people decide that there is a better place than Facebook to “stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them”.
Although it is hard to believe that people will lose interest in staying connected with their close ones but the second option is very concerning, as alternative platforms are coming up in a big way. In such a scenario Facebook has to constantly update itself and make it relevant to its users. Consumers change their loyalties and preferences fast and to keep a track of their shifting preferences it becomes all the more imperative to study these alternative platforms also as many consumers although have a digital footprint, might be absent from a particular platform on a regular basis. For example, there are people who prefer to visit a LinkedIn or a twitter or a tumbler account rather than going to Facebook. One of the greatest competition Facebook might face keeping their vision in mind is the What’s App. What’s App has a similar vision of making people staying connected although it is yet to open its gates for earning revenues through advertisements. Once it starts doing so, Facebook has to devise new ways of engaging its consumers and may even lose in the long run.
The advertising timeline
A brief history of advertising timeline can do the rest of the talking
While talking about the advertising mediums the advertisers cannot ignore the Consumers – both existing and the prospective ones-the word itself sends a chill along the spine-ask any marketer or advertiser. Weird, confused, cranky, typical, archetypal, modern, understanding, complex- any number of adjectives falls short while describing the enigma “consumers”. The constant effort of the advertisers to pin down and track the changes in the consumer behavior is only the tip of an iceberg. It is a real challenge for them to build those insights and to create the content with the right message at the right time and in the right context.”
Decoding the Consumer Attention Deficit Syndrome and the use of AI and Machine Learning
Lots of research have been conducted and is still in process to decode the mystery that surrounds such complex behavior. A recent addition is the artificial intelligence and machine learning. The terms like Artificial intelligence and machine learning, although is more inclined towards science oriented, matters its usage has been made all pervasive. Artificial intelligence is the study of how to make machines intelligent or capable of solving problems in a way human beings perform.
And machine learning is a new way of creating those problem-solving systems, where the computers learn to perform through a rigid set of rules without any programming. And this is done by showing then numerous examples until it eventually starts to learn them. One excellent use of such technology can be seen in the use of Google assistant where through speech recognition and natural language understanding it engages people in conversational experience and helps them in getting things done in the real world in real time –from managing meetings to flights.
With a host of digital advertising platforms, artificial intelligence can provide that customized content for the individual consumer, where factors like consumers previous purchase history, culture, tone, design, packaging and colors preferences, and socio-contextual relevance can be considered while designing the message on a real-time basis. More so campaigns and customer interactions can be made more relevant end-to-end—from planning to creative messaging to media targeting to the retail experience.
Recently Google had used its machine learning through its new double-click tool custom algorithm to launch its pixel phone; which helped in tracking the historical data of the surfers and increased the potentiality of serving to the most desirable and relevant audience. The optimization and reach are massive which are well beyond media targeting. Brands like Coca-cola is presently using AI to understand how consumers engage with their products and Walt Disney is using language processing to trigger an audio soundtrack when a story is being read aloud to a child. Although questions like emotional connect, human interactions and empathy factor pose a challenge to artificial intelligence and machine learning, efforts are on to use these more and more while optimizing reach to the consumers.
Paytm implements Machine Learning to understand the consumer demands and expectations. Even before the consumer searches for options for his need in Google, the Google feels the pulse of the consumer and presents before him the desired results. This is what Charumitra Pujari, the company’s chief technology officer says about machine learning application in Paytm.
Ola uses Machine Learning to track traffic, crack through driver habits, improve customer experience and enhance the life of each vehicle they acquired. AI plays a role an instrumental role in analyzing variations in demand and supply, traffic predictions, behavioral profile of a driver and even how it can affect the productivity of the vehicles when there will be variations in weather.
Flipkart uses Machine learning to crack customer’s gender, brand preference, store affinity, price range, the volume of purchases and more. Flipkart tries to predict consumer behavior by tracking present purchases and thus reduce minimum returns and maximize satisfaction. “If a customer keys in a query for running shoes, we show only the category landing pages for the particular brand the customer wants to see, in the price point and styles that (are) preferred, as gauged by previous buying behavior, therefore ensuring a faster, smoother checkout process,” Ram Papatla, the vice president of product management at Flipkart, said recently in an interview with a leading daily.
AI and ML –mere enablers in breaking the glass ceiling
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are mere enablers to know the consumer better, but the toughest challenge still lies in making him purchase the product. Even after having a deeper understanding of the consumer and his purchase behavior, sales don’t pick up. Here in lies the challenge of the advertiser to draw people’s attention towards the desired product and the fact lies that even as newer tools for assessing consumer evolve, the power of storytelling, building of emotional connect and creative executions that form the core of advertising and marketing is here to stay.
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The author is a media educator, media literacy trainer and a freelance author in Kolkata. She has to her credit several articles published in reputed journals and newspapers like Vidura, news mania, Sage etc. She has been invited by IIT Guwahati, IIM Kolkata and MICA (Mudra Institute of Communications) Ahmedabad to present her ideas and concepts.