Orion is an emerging mobile communications company that is revolutionizing group communication with their single-touch products. Roger Wood, co-founder and creative director of Orion, opens up to us on why startups are opting to leave lasting impressions via traditional advertising.
Q> There are two approaches when building an advertising campaign — traditional ad buys, which include billboards, taxi tops and bus stops, and ubiquitous digital ads that pop up within browsers or live on web pages. Can you describe the current advertising landscape for us and how to approach it?
RW> In creating an advertising campaign for a company, product or brand, these two schools of thought should blend and become one: media buying strategies should include a mix of formats that address the brand intention for your campaign. The most important question to ask is ‘What is our brand trying to achieve?’ Your answer will determine what blend of ad buys should be used to achieve your vision.
Well established brands have been dominating the ad space for years and there’s something to be learned from their approach for companies of all sizes. Look at major live broadcast media events, like the Academy Awards. They continue to hold an unparalleled advantage in achieving brand awareness with traditional advertising. Then look at startups that are now household names thanks to traditional ad buys and strategies. Nest invested in outdoor media buying at the start. GoPro has been invested in event sponsorship from the beginning. UBER has become expert in street team marketing. AirBnB has strong brand studio output. There is no right and wrong way to approach advertising.
Q> Given the large financial investment and stakeholder buy-in required for traditional ad campaigns to take off, why did Orion prioritize this kind of approach?
RW> The rationale is twofold...firstly, Orion prioritized traditional advertising because of its unique ability to target intended audiences in a less invasive manner. By making strategic choices about the placement of our traditional advertising, we were able to reach those targets in a very positive way.
Secondly, as a new mobile network, we need to be competitive and gain mindshare. Communications services remains the fourth largest buyer of advertising among all industries. Wireless carriers, or mobile operators, consider advertising a fundamental aspect of the business. Whether it’s mobile, VoIP or messaging, these businesses rely on loyalty. Once you win a consumer, they don’t like to switch providers — that’s why brand essence is so critical. If you have no brand, you have no business. Orion has set its sights high and is aiming to become one of the greatest startups in the history of mobile communications, which means high impact messaging is key — and that’s exactly what the creative team has done.
Q. Is this representative of a larger trend within Silicon Valley? Do you see other startups investing in “old school” advertising tactics?
RW> As tech companies become more consumer facing, Silicon Valley startups are looking to build brand awareness fast, winning dominant mindshare in specific categories as quickly as possible, and thus making brands synonymous with product in consumer minds.
If you drive down highway 101 in the Bay Area, or even along city streets throughout San Francisco, you will see numerous billboards and available ad space. Those spots are now dominated by startups. There was even a storyline in HBO’s “Silicon Valley” about it! Salesforce, Gap and other, larger, well known brands still own ad share, but because this industry and geographical area is saturated with so many up-and-coming companies, the fight for brand awareness and mindshare is real.
In our eyes, traditional ad buys is a less invasive approach that generates brand curiosity as compared to infuriating pop-ups that spur more annoyance than interest. Traditional advertising campaigns give consistent exposure to locals who encounter the creative while going about their day-to-day journeys. It builds a relationship with passersby from the ground up. Digital ads can be very effective, but that too is a crowded space that’s facing its own challenges to attract the right audience and to convert that audience to users. Traditional advertising allows companies to step outside of a world crowded with screens and to reach a broader audience outside of tech.
Q> Based on your experience directing Orion’s creative campaign, what strategies should early stage companies adopt if they are aiming to boost brand awareness?
RW> Articulate an intent. It’s best to keep it simple but determine the focal intention of your marketing program. Once you have decided on the best targeted approach, the next step is to pinpoint who exactly you want to reach and which geographic locations will maximize reach to your target audience. With that information in mind, buy media space where they work, rest or play.
After successfully generating awareness, the next step is to spur interest and convert observers into enthusiastic customers. This is where additional efforts, like PR and interactive hands-on product trials, come into play.