Breaking Through in a Consumer-Driven, Omnichannel World

By Mike Peralta, VP & GM, T-Mobile Advertising Solutions

U.S. adults spend the bulk of their daily media time with digital media, particularly on mobile devices. Following the 2020 surge in media time spent due to the pandemic, digital and mobile media continue to see gains, albeit at a more modest pace. The amount of content, apps and experiences that are competing for this media time at any given moment continues to grow at an exponential rate.

Success in the new media and advertising reality is going to require brands to break things—patterns, siloes and, overall, conventional thinking. For those looking for inspiration and examples of how marketers can build up their brands by breaking down barriers, look no further than these leading content platforms, whose marketing leaders joined T-Mobile Advertising Solutions on stage at Cannes Lions 2023 to discuss the challenges and opportunities of pushing boundaries in a customer-first world.

Breaking Out of Echo Chambers

If marketers want to know what consumers want, they need to listen—and not just within their own echo chambers and channels. Many of the most potent conversations today are happening within online communities that are dedicated to letting consumers lead the conversation—no matter how obscure. By paying attention to and participating in such communities, marketers can not only take the pulse on consumer sentiments around important topics (including their own brands), but also gain a greater appreciation for the trends driving media and engagement at any given moment.

Reddit is a prime example of a community-driven platform that both reflects and drives broader media and consumer trends. A network of communities that connect people with their interests, Reddit serves as home to powerful, unexpected and sometimes absurd conversations and shared experiences. Take, for example, the now-infamous Bread Stapled to Trees subreddit—now 325,000 members strong. If Reddit can bring together a community of this many people around a shared passion for stapling bread to trees, imagine the other conversations and communities that marketers might be able to tap for unique consumer insights to drive truly breakthrough campaigns.

Breaking Expected Patterns

Human beings expect a certain rhythm to their experiences, both in life and in media. When those patterns are disrupted, the disruptions are noticed. For brands, that’s an opportunity. By creating small moments of surprise and delight, marketers can infuse their campaigns with deeper memorability. In particular, brands that are heavily associated with providing services or products in a specific media channel can broaden their reach and drive greater impact by branching out into other channels. Mobile apps, for example, can drive significant ROI and new growth by branching into CTV and DOOH advertising.

Tubi, an ad-supported streaming service, knows a thing or two about breaking patterns and disrupting expectations. In fact, this innovative over-the-top content platform managed to own Super Bowl LVII in 2023—perhaps the most traditional TV viewing event of the year—by briefly convincing millions of viewers that they’d accidentally sat on their remote controls.

Breaking Down Brand Perceptions

Advertisers that want to thrive in today’s community-driven landscape also need to come to terms with a simple fact: They don’t control how people think about and use their products.

They can develop brand positioning and messaging all they want, but at the end of the day, they need to also actively listen to customers, invest in quality data that helps them understand those customers better, and adjust their strategies and messaging accordingly.

Consider Tinder, the world’s most popular dating app. In recent years, the app has reinvented itself to better reflect the gender spectrum. Furthermore, the app has kept in touch with its users and, realizing that its community thinks of and uses it as far more than a “hookup app,” adjusted its advertising to reflect the portion of its community that has found long-lasting, meaningful relationships through its connections.

Breaking the Illusion of Creative Control

Tapping into high-quality, trusted first-party data, including privacy-safe insights into how people are using and engaging with apps on their personal devices, can help brands open new windows into consumer behaviors. In addition, by leveraging predictive AI capabilities, those insights can be used to accurately find and message to desirable audiences. But brands shouldn’t stop there. They need to also adapt their creative approaches to what they observe and learn within the environments where their customers and prospects spend time.

TikTok is a prime example of the need for brands to loosen the reins when it comes to reaching and messaging engaged users in dynamic mobile environments. TikTok users speak the language of trends, and brands must move fast to align with those trends within their creative. Traditional, repurposed brand commercials are quickly spotted for what they are on TikTok. Brands must take the opportunity to go deeper and contribute to—rather than interrupt—the user experience on this important platform.

For marketers, the challenge is clear: Brands need to engage consumers on the devices and platforms where they spend most of their time, but it’s becoming increasingly hard to break through the growing media noise in terms of both content and ad experiences. A successful path forward will be one that’s built on leveraging community, creativity, and the latest technology and tools—including predictive AI and rich, high quality first-party data—to a brand’s advantage, with an omnichannel approach in mind.