Agent of Change - Interview with Rod Banner (Video)
Video Interview with Rod Banner of 3LA
Rod Banner – Digital Leaders UK Interview with Digital Doughnut
My name’s Rod Banner. I like to think of myself as an internet pioneer. I spent my formative years in marketing communications, and I grew up with the Internet. I kind of had one foot on the dock of the technology business, and one foot on the boat of the communications sector. I’ve found that confluence, that engagement between the two, really quite fascinating. If you have been, as I have been, to Cannes, the amazing event put on once a year to celebrate advertising creativity over the years, you look back on the time when all the prime sponsors were media companies in the traditional sense. They were either print businesses, or they were agencies. Now, they’re all tech firms. Tech has won, but no one has really, I think, understood what the next play is going to be, which is when the tech is slightly subsumed and what is ultimately the selling process starts back in anchor.
• What does Participation Marketing mean to you?
Marketing is really a posh word for selling. The selling process is something that human beings have been doing forever. It’s not really about advertising or digital marketing, it’s about forming a relationship with someone and understanding their needs and their desires, formulating a product or a service that suits those, and then enticing them to invest in your specific version, rather than others. During that process you really have to get to know them quite intimately. You have to understand what are the pressures that drive them. I think that that knowing, that intimacy is what makes participation marketing, what makes it but also what makes it effective. The continuous serving of advertising messages in various different shapes, forms, or iterations, does not bludgeon someone into parting with money. It can quite often serve to irritate them. Whereas participation marketing is far more about understanding, forming a relationship, dare I say love, of a brand.
• How do brands move from campaign management mentality to an ongoing dialogue
I like to think of the death of the campaign being replaced by campaigning. Perhaps the most appropriate analogy to campaigning would be the way that politicians use it in trying to persuade you to vote for them. It’s an ongoing discussion, and the feedback from your initial contact helps
people to formulate then the next iteration of their contact. For example, this is elementary seduction I suppose, but if you try and form a friendship, you look around to see the context in which you’re meeting them, what they’re wearing, how they’re reacting. You take on-board all
sorts of signals that human beings have been doing for ages, and you process them. Sometimes you manipulate the way that you may actually engage, in such a way that makes you more appealing. For example, the way men talk to women as opposed to talk to men. There are simple,
unfortunate rudimentary processes that we adapt. I think that in terms of the campaigning strategy for brands, they need to adapt their message to make it more suitable. Now, they’ve been doing this stuff bluntly for a long time. They use data, about what the weather may be doing in the specific locality, the Salon Brothers and this type of stuff. I think that we’re now moving to a stage where behavioural understanding, what actually makes individuals behave in a very specific way, is A, becoming more possible, and B, becoming far more interesting.
I don’t want to be retargeted. I can’t bear being retargeted by people whose product I’ve either dismissed or something that isn’t for me, or something that I may have already bought, and the brand is failing by not understanding how I fit into the context of that transaction. They need to. They need to understand, because if they did, they could perhaps stimulate me if I just bought something to inject some social commentary. I might say, "I’ve just bought this thing, it’s fantastic. Thank you very much for pointing it out the fact that I haven’t already tweeted about it.” But they don’t do that, and that whole opportunity is definitely one to play with. The other thing I’m very passionate about is the way that behavioural typing has been overlooked. Myers-Briggs, for example, 16 or so categories that define the way people behave. One of my
colleagues, we’ve been trying to define a simple web navigation, where within three, possibly four clicks, you can get a rough Myers-Briggs profile on an individual simply by the way you construct the content. Well if you do that, then you can work out whether they’re the type of Myers-Briggs profile that like long form content, in which you can serve it up to them, or alternatively they may be stimulated by images, in which case you can serve those up to them instead. This whole fluid manipulation of that engagement process is I think definitely the way forward.
• What are some great examples of Participation marketing, even outside of your own
A great example of this would be the ‘Axe Kiss for Peace’ campaign, where they made a fantastic film which hopefully all the audience has seen, which feels like war is about to breakout, but in fact all that happens is a fantastic, rather a passionate snog. A lot of people acted very positively towards the film, because it was very dramatic and it was very powerful. What then happened was a social engagement program that engaged young people to kiss the product, and take a selfie of them and post it to win a obviously favour and also prizes. It drove an enormous amount of traffic, and obviously enthusiasm around the brand.
The ‘No Makeup Selfie’ campaign, which raised eight million pounds in six days for breast cancer, where young people were encouraged to take selfies once again, without makeup. Quite a remarkable feat in its own right, but the levels of engagement, possibly driven by their charitable donation, or just possibly driven by the sheer momentum around it, can’t be overlooked. This is more powerful than traditional advertising, and that’s largely because young people don’t believe in traditional advertising anymore. Advocacy is way, way more effective by a country mile.
On the smaller side of engagement, there’s a really interesting little start-up part of the BBCWorldwide Initiative, BBC Worldwide Labs, called "Rezonence." What Rezonence have managed to do is to create effectively something that fits between selling premium content through a
subscription model, and giving it away and selling advertising around it. They’ve created the free wall, and what that does is it interrupts galley content and shows a branded message that people have to read to understand to complete a multiple choice question. Once they get it right, then they are served up with the rest of the content. It’s participation around helping people take a branded message, and be rewarded with premium content. All of these are fascinating, but they seem emergent. The sector’s a long way to go in my humble opinion.
• What are the key benefits?
Participation marketing actually can take place way before there’s any transactional data about a prospect. 67% of engagement around a sector or a brand takes place before, at least according to popular statistics, before a potential customer actually engages with material created by the brand. They do a lot of homework. They reach out to a lot of touchpoints. Therefore, the question is how do you escalate your brand in the minds of people who haven’t bought from you, with whom you have no real data relationship?
Well, participation encourages them to think favourably about your brand or service. It enables you to be part of the dialog and part of the creation of content. Obviously brands are becoming publishers in their own right and content marketing’s a big deal, but you want to be very clearly part of the conversation. You want to share a voice, you want to be thought of in the context way before the transaction takes place, so participation is a way of sucking people in early, and then forming a relationship with them that goes forward through the transaction, through the loyalty, through the advocacy and the virtual loop of ongoing relationships.