Image via Balenciaga Instagram
Scrolling through your Instagram feed one night, you’re confronted with one the images from Balenciaga’s beautifully creepy SS18 “family portrait” campaign. You smile, you pause, your finger hovers. The post is promoted (you don’t actually follow Balenciaga), but you love the campaign and the product. In fact, it speaks to you on a weirdly personal level. You feel a new connection to the brand. BUT you don’t click. You don’t like, you don’t follow, you don’t share. You’re distracted by the next post and you keep on scrolling. Months later, you find yourself with some spare time one evening. An impulse reaches a synapse in your brain and the association you built moves you to head to Balenciaga’s website. You drop a cool 1.8K on a pulled trench from the Resort collection.
Meaningful Messages and the Evils of Inauthenticity
It’s essentially “If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” for the digital era. “If I enjoy a piece of content but I do not indicate that in a way which is visible to a marketing analyst, is that piece of content related in any meaningful way to my eventual purchase?“ (or, you know, something pithier than that…).
The evolution of digital media and advertising has in some ways meant the death of the Buy Now CTA. The volume of content that we’re exposed to in our digital lives means that users have the luxury to just straight up ignore anything that isn’t meaningful to them. Namely: ads and overtly branded messages. In an age where advertising = inauthentic, you’ll see people calling meetings to talk about how their content is adding value to their audience. (Note: referring to people engaged with your brand as “customers” is now considered a bit distasteful).
From GLOSSY a couple of months ago, on customer relationships with luxury brands: “While they once focused on pushing product, they’re now looking to enrich interactions that might lead to purchase”. There’s something a little bit scary about that “might”, isn’t there? It feels like a cringe-inducingly outdated piece of marketing terminology at this point, but we’ve moved towards an understanding of any kind of content as “upper funnel” – whether that’s organic content, paid ads or even IRL brand events.
Human reactions are complex and open to misinterpretation. And it’s lazy to imagine that we can fully assess the effectiveness of a creative campaign or piece of branded content simply through CTR or an Instagram follow. At the same time, a proper measure of success is absolutely key to any content strategy. So, what should that measure be?
The Neuroscientific approach
If we want to think about the human reactions that we can trust, let’s just go all out and start measuring people’s neurological activity. It might be that this year’s budget isn’t quite going to stretch to a series of brain activity measuring research sessions for every piece of content you produce. But Conde Nast did something along these lines earlier on this year. Partnering with market research firm Neuro-Insight, they measured the impact of its Youtube and Facebook video content on memory encoding and emotional intensity. Using steady-state typography (brain activity tracker), they looked at how 200 consumers responded to their content. It turned out that video was 17 percent more “effective” than other general facebook content.
What’s in a facial expression?
For brands looking for real-time feedback on emotional engagement, machine learning might be the answer. Emotional Intelligence Realeyes works with its clients to measure responses to video content using webcam-based emotional measurement. Tracking micro-movements in the face, they looked at happiness, surpirse, confusion and disgust. Big KPIs.
Looking for more (charmingly irreverent) insight into balancing the creative with the commercially valuable? Get it here. Contact us now to talk to us about your project.