One of the most common mistakes some industries make in branding is to spend too much time working on what message to send out, and not enough time on selecting the right medium with which to send that message.

Habits also kick in as to what medium or media to use; the years roll by and the brand declines without anybody taking much notice. Markets and audiences change, but organisations stay with the same old promotion methods in the same old media. I have found that the oils and fats industry suffers with this more than many others.

In wanting to build their brand, few industries realise that a ‘half-okay’ message in a hot medium with a lot of traffic will have a lot more traction (as marketers say) than a super ‘bang on’ message in a tired old medium that nobody bothers with any more.

But many are stuck on the ‘what’ of a message and spend little time on the ‘how’, which is far more important for these reasons:

  • If something is scrappily written, we often won’t bother reading it, let alone pass an opinion as to whether it’s any good in the first place.
  • If something looks appealing, we are more likely to give it more of our attention. That can cover anything from what makes us want to read a book, to what makes us want to listen to a person.

When it comes to a person, the phenomenon is so common that psychologists have a term for it: ‘the halo effect’, where we are more likely to believe or generally give extra credibility to someone who is good looking.

When you talk to enough people on their preferences with media, the range is very broad. Also, there’s not a whole lot of logic in how preferences are arrived at. In many ways it parallels food preferences. Sometimes there’s a practical easy-to-understand reason for a preference, but often there isn’t. It can be a general impression of aesthetics or something even more whimsical.

If you think the answer is to focus on which new social media to use for communications – email, LinkedIn or Facebook, for example – it’s more complicated than that. Some people have stopped with social media altogether.

For most of human history, there has really been one technology for the media: the printed word. But a hundred years ago, that changed with more technologies: radio, TV, PCs, the Internet, smartphones and now tablets.

And the number keeps on growing – it’s not as if one medium falls into disuse because a new one comes along. It’s a pluralistic word.


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