Saturday, June 5, 2010

Connection Planning Part 1: Mastering the Mindset

I'd like to begin a short series on a discipline of strategic planning that I have a lot of heart for - Connection Planning.

What is connection planning? In a nutshell, it's planning that seeks to find the connection between the consumer, the brand idea, and the right media moment. Why do I have heart for it? Let's just say I'm a planner that's part creative and part media guru, and so connection planning is right up my alley!

Part of the reason connection planning is becoming more and more relevant is the growing disconnect between a client's creative and media agencies. More often than not, clients will have a media planning and buying agency that will buy space in traditional forms of media (ie. TV, print...) long before the client's creative agency ever receives a client brief. The result of this? Creative teams are forced to come up with ideas that fit the media that's been booked (ie. scripts and print ads). Not much room for big ideas there. Connection planning seeks to tie creative and media planning together. No longer does the message have to be crafted to fit the medium. Rather, the medium becomes the message!

Another reason why connection planning is much more integral these days is the increasing fragmentation of media. We hear it all the time in the industry press. Clients and agencies are growing more and more wary of a media landscape that involves much more than just TV and print. "If people are spreading their time across so many different forms of media, how are we supposed to reach them?" you might ask. Well, media fragmentation is actually a boon to connection planning. If people are spending more time with more things in more places, that means that there are actually more opportunities to reach them. And because those opportunities are spread out in terms of space and time, we can strategically choose the right place and the right time to reach them with the right idea. That is connection planning.

"But wait," you might ask, "this sounds all well and good, but is there an official framework for thinking about how to connect with consumers this way?" No, there isn't. Each agency and planner will have their own framework for thinking and working out how to find the right moments. That said, I'd like to share my own here.

A Framework for Connection Planning
This framework involves thinking about the situation in three non-mutually exclusive ways:

1) When is the consumer in the mindset that makes the idea most relevant?
2) When is the consumer in the environment that will bring the idea to life?
3) When is the right time to reach the consumer so they can act on the idea?

This first post in the Connection Planning Series will cover point number one - the consumer mindset.

Mastering the Mindset
When mastering the mindset of our consumer, we must ask ourselves, "When is the consumer in the mindset that makes the idea most relevant?"

That mindset can skew both rational and emotional. When the problem to be solved or the brand idea being communicated relies on the consumer to be thinking about a situation in a logical, rational manner, we must find a time and place during the day or week when that's the case. When the brand idea relates to a certain feeling or emotional state of being, we have to look for the time and place where they're most likely to be responsive to that.

The bottom line: when the consumer is in the right mindset to receive a certain message, or when the message is specifically relevant to the mindset that a consumer is in at that moment in time and space, the impact of it is much greater than something more generic.

Below are three examples of campaigns that have tapped into the mindset of the consumer.

Windex Keeps Fitness Centers Germ-free

Windex is a brand of cleaner that's traditionally known for leaving windows sparkling, and not a brand you would think of when it comes to killing the germs on the surfaces in your bathroom and kitchen. And so, with the launch of a new Windex multi-surface anti-bacterial spray, SC Johnson was tasked with building awareness of the new product and showing their consumer that Windex was up to the germ-killing task.

What better way to do that than demonstrating the germ-killing power of the brand in a situation where their consumer is thinking about germs? Think about the environment of your typical fitness center. Sweaty bodies working out on the mats and machines. Changing clothes and showering in communal washrooms. Sounds like the kind of place that's crawling with germs. Sounds like the kind of place that our consumer would be thinking about germs.

And so, SC Johnson "owned" the fitness center space to reach their consumer when she was in that mindset. They placed decals in fitness center washrooms - on the sink counter and the mirror - and placed the product there too so it could be used. Copy includes "You know that sweaty lady on the stationary bike? She was here before you". Cleaning stations throughout the gym included Windex brand products and copy like “If it can kill bacteria here, imagine what it can do in your home.” Not only did SC Johnson reach their consumer when she was in the right mindset, they also included coupons that let her act on the message by redeeming them at a nearby grocery store.

Newfoundland and Labrador Turns Stress into Relaxation

 Newfoundland and Labrador's tourism board wanted to promote the fresh air and relaxing nature of a trip to the province to busy, time-pressed Torontonians. What better time and place to reach them than when they need that relaxation the most? As those who live and work in Toronto know, that can only mean one thing: rush hour.

And so, the tourism board sought to reach Torontonians with their fresh air and relaxation message when they are in the "rush hour" mindset. The campaign included radio spots that soothed frustrated drivers with ocean sounds, a taxi cab service that provided free rides in a cab cooled with "fresh air" and driven by someone who'd talk up the virtues of the province.

The centerpiece of the campaign, however, was the gigantic billboard placement beside the Gardiner Expressway, a major artery through the downtown core. The billboard started out as a blank canvas, and the vivid imagery was painted in over the course of several weeks. Eventually, the billboard became a striking window (curtains included) to a beautiful view of Newfoundland. What a great way to make an impact on stressed out drivers!


Swiffer Cleans Up House and Home Magazine

 The kitchen floor before Swiffer...

 ...and after

Swiffer needed to demonstrate to its consumers that it was up to the task of sweeping away substantial stains and piles of dirt from their floors. What better way of doing that than reaching their consumer when they are thinking about their home? And so, Swiffer smartly decided to place its message in House and Home magazine.

But this was no ordinary message, as it was placed within the magazine's editorial. In one photo in an article about kitchen makeovers, several dirty footprints noticeably soil the kitchen floor. The footprints are, of course, out of place in a magazine full of beautiful, unspoiled spaces. It's the type of image that would spark the consumer's mind - getting them thinking about cleaning, if only for a brief second.

On the next page, however, the true message is sent. The same kitchen is shown, but this time most of the footprints have been wiped away, and a Swiffer sweeper stands proudly by the counter. The strategically-placed ad thus plants a seed when the consumer is in a mindset tuned to receive it.

In the next post in the Connection Planning Series, we'll explore the idea of using the consumer's environment to enhance the message...

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