Don't make the consumer Custer

Don't make the consumer Custer

In 1876 Major General George Custer, a decorated civil war veteran, decided prematurely and with little insight into the overall terrain he was approaching, to attack a large Indian village in the hills of Montana.

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

He made a number of mistakes including diluting his forces, not coordinating them well and giving orders that were based on assumption and not certainty.

His attack on the village triggered a response which as we all know culminated in the unexpected large warrior population of the village retaliating, quickly surrounding his 200-plus men and without mercy not only wiping them out, but in fact mutilating their bodies in what became known as the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

I wonder sometimes that we might be the Indians and we might be treating our consumers like General Custer.

The buzz last year was 'omni channel'. Take your brand's key message and surround the consumer with it in every possible channel; insert yourself into a social conversation; interrupt their favourite television program, clutter up their mail boxes.

Unlike Custer, whose only source of protection was to instruct his desperate and doomed men to shoot their own horses to create some sort of defence from the onslaught, today's empowered consumers have the ability to not only escape, but more importantly to effectively fight back.

Omni channel, or the default 360 approach, seems to me to be interpreted by some as a surround strategy.

I am convinced a more effective approach is immersion. Tell your brand's story by creating an immersive world that consumers can choose to engage with. Ensure the story is relevant, useful and entertaining enough to keep them coming back to it – and compelling enough for them to want to share it.

We seem to have been distracted by what we can do with technology as a functional tool, rather than view it as an enabler of both brands and consumers to share stories. "More channels" has become more ways to surround the consumer – often with the same part of a brand's story at the same time, at every touch point.

Great stories are immersive, flowing and expansive and if you can combine brand, digital, analytics and technology in a connected strategy you will not need to surround the poor consumer like the Indians surrounded Custer – they will come charging over the hill towards you.

Paul Bennett is national managing director of SapientNitro