by Chris Bennington and the P48 Digital Team
Starting an online business, or taking an existing business and growing through digital channels is easier than ever. You just throw together some creative, build a few Instagram Ad campaigns, and revenue runs in the front door… But is it really that easy?
The sheer number of new products that a person comes across on a daily basis is staggering, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. Your typical person is inundated with branded content daily as they scroll through Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube and a variety of other app-based platforms built on advertising models.
This clutter means that the stakes are raised. Simply “out-advertising” your competitors isn’t going to take you from challenger brand to industry leader. The days of building a brand on boilerplate Instagram Ads alone are gone, the waters are too murky, and brand recall is difficult to establish.
Let’s take a look at three reasons why the game has changed for challenger digital brands. And follow that up with three solutions. Three strategies that can lead to true digital innovation when implemented correctly.
1. Higher CPMs across all mediums (particularly Facebook & Instagram)
It’s no secret that Facebook advertising has dominated budgets this decade. With $14 Billion in US advertising revenue in 2018 ($33 Billion worldwide). The platform is used by more advertisers every day, creating those murky waters, but perhaps more importantly, killing efficiency. CPMs have risen dramatically, beginning in January 2017. And while they have recovered some in the past few quarters due to new ad placements, the fact is, advertising on Facebook and Instagram is not nearly as cost effective as it was just a few years ago.
2. Harder to stand out
We see a lot of Ads every day. Captain obvious, right?
The number that often gets thrown around is 4,000. Most Americans are exposed to over 4,000 ads every day. Honestly, that number is pretty old, and only growing as time on devices increases. Psychological studies have shown that we simply can’t ingest and retain all of that information, which triggers our brain to begin a natural “screening process.” The bottom 30% … forget about it. Middle 50% … won’t remember most of that either. The top 20% (whether it be through creativity or product interest) …we might just recall.
3. Beautiful branding is table stakes
The boom of direct-to-consumer brands has taught the advertising world A LOT. Particularly, these brands have showcased the power of targeting niche consumers with niche products (which we will touch on in possible solutions below). Another important lesson? Creating a modern, visually appealing aesthetic is a lot easier in 2019. Brands with truly impressive creative pop-up regularly, see examples like Billie Razors or True Linkswear. More accessible talent, better technology, and quicker creative implementation. Simply stated, a beautiful aesthetic is table stakes.
How Can We Actually Innovate?
1. Changing HOW people buy
Not every product is revolutionary, and they don’t need to be. There are only so many materialistic things we use in this life (although the number of things keeps growing). Sometimes, innovating on the way people purchase and receive those products is the major differentiator. Of course, the most obvious examples are your subscription model winners: Stitch Fix, Dollar Shave Club, Blue Apron, Ipsy and many more.
However, a subscription model isn’t the only way to innovate (let’s face it, you probably won’t be the first to try a subscription model in your industry). Brands like MTailor and Thirdlove focused on common problems, clothing that doesn’t fit quite right, and combined those needs with guided online buying processes. In the end, the customer leaves satisfied due to a pleasant experience and a better fitting product; while the brands leave with direct connections to their customers and a much better chance of keeping those customers long-term.
Or consider housing start-up Bungalo Homes. Bungalo started with a simple mission, improving the home-buying process. That fairly simple mission led to a complete overhaul of how a person might buy a home, including a hands-on guided process that occurs right within a digital platform. Pretty cool.
2. Creating a new reason to buy
Creating a new category? That’s insane! Well in certain markets, that may be true. Struggling to change consumer behavior in a category has killed many good ideas. However, sometimes culture has already changed around an industry, while the incumbents haven’t changed with it. Leaving a serious hole in the industry, full of consumers that are ready to adopt something new, they just don’t know it yet.
Take the braces market for example. With market leader Invisalign, followed by challengers like Smile Direct Club and Candid. Clearly, the braces model is not ideal, and these solutions can be viewed as an alternative. But in reality, Invisalign created a whole new category, by providing an invisible braces product to adults who needed braces, but were unlikely to actually commit to that process. The market was ready, tens of thousands of adults needed a solution. It just took a while for that solution to appear.
3. Finding the niche still works
As preambled earlier, the direct-to-consumer era has ushered in a whole new world of successful niche products. The reasons are all right in front of us: simple shipping, ease of data collection, inexpensive digital media options, accessible creative resources, etc. Creating products for a small group of consumers has long been a worthwhile endeavor at small scale, but now, lucrative brands can be built around a few niche groups. Consider the success of medical apparel brand Figs, reportedly tracking for $100 million in revenue in 2018.
We are all humans that prefer to buy products/services from other humans we know and trust. There is no better way to develop that trust than to truly understand your audience. By creating products that address their particular needs, resources that provide value in the industry, showcasing expertise, or building a community where those consumers can interact, learn and grow together. Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Now, it’s time to run your Instagram Ads. You’ve created your unique buying experience or found your niche group of consumers. Now, you’re focused. Drive that singular message home. Over and Over and Over and Over and Over.