21st April 2015

How Did You Hear About Us?

Farhan Urfi

A seamless world

It’s a question that’s stumped us all at one point or another. The last question on the form – and one that seems to serve no benefit to the customer, “How did you hear about us?”. It should really read, “we’re not sure if our marketing is working, but seeing as you got this far, you’ll probably have a better idea than us. So is it working, and if so which bit?” – and given that ‘honesty’ is a value almost every company claims to have at the top of their agenda (we’ll discuss the need to say “I am not lying” in another piece), it should definitely read as that.

No matter how hard we try to compartmentalise experiences, we can never do this completely – it’s not in our nature.

So what do you tick? Me personally, I tick “A friend told me”. I do that because that way they can’t prove the dark and sinister truth… that is, I don’t really remember (not that I don’t have any friends).

Guilt and deception aside, there is a deeper issue to consider. Not remembering might not be such a bad thing… I love trees but I couldn’t tell you if the first one I saw was in a book or a real one. But nevertheless, I know they exist and are a kind of greeny-browny colour. And smell nice.

What this tells us about people is that they are organic. If we want to get scientific about it, we could start talking about how someone’s ‘stream of consciousness’ isn’t linear and is constantly being updated, long after the reality of the event has passed. But we’re not. And I am not a scientist.

We do know however, that no matter how hard we try to compartmentalise experiences, we can never do this completely – it’s not in our nature, so why fight it.

Life is seamless. And so are great brands.

The single touch point

Welcome to the world of the single touch point. It’s a paradox in a way, because it’s made of many things, so think of it as an accumulative experience rather than a single one. It’s simply the outcome in one’s mind of all their interactions with a brand coming together to form an opinion or feeling – and sometimes resulting in an action.

However, from one platform to another it is not simply about repeating a message in as many different formats as you can until ‘they’ start listening to you (R.I.P. the online PDF page turner).

Nor is it about electing a combination of channels best suited to conventional thinking. The real challenge starts long before that.

My maths teacher at college told me two things when faced with the seemingly pointless dilemma of long equations. One; work backwards from what you know and two; stop messing around with Emma. Rightly or wrongly, I listened to him on both accounts. I do still think about Emma sometimes, but never about long equations.

There is a point to this.

Work backwards from a good understanding of the of behaviour, habits and patterns of your audience and you can not only create the most effective message for that audience, but reach them in the right way.

So, it’s a combination of being in the right place at the right time and saying the right thing.

Got it, right?

Making the most of your stage

Imagine shopping online without a search facility.

Whist you might end up with one or two interesting things that you weren’t expecting to take home, you’ll also not appreciate having to look through the ‘U’nderwear before you get to the ‘W’indowlene.

And unless you were planning to clean your windows in your underwear, this is problem. Spending all day on the internet in your underwear is also a problem. We aren’t concerned with either of those here.

But, when you walk through your favourite supermarket, rather than offering you a search facility on the way in they offer you a chocolate bar on the way out!

In that environment, coming across numerous offers, goods and messages as you navigate the aisles on the way to finding what you want isn’t a problem. The creators know this and use it fully to their advantage. This is simply an effective use of a platform.

A deep understanding of the audience (their journey, mindset and expectations) and the ability to harness and align the key qualities and advantages of each channel is essential. As I alluded to earlier, simply replicating a print piece online doesn’t cut it anymore. Each platform has it’s advantages, and you need to make the most of them.

So ask yourself, what can a branded environment bring to the experience that a website can’t and what can a piece of print do that a radio commercial can’t? And vice versa of course.



how do you make sure that all channels fit together and feed into the brand experience in a relevant way?

People are important too. You can create a great brand concept or have something special to say, but if you don’t consider the people of the organisation who will ultimately deliver the promise, as part of the brand identity – the wheels fall off. Whether face to face, over the phone or via social media channels, they are a key component of the single touch point, and one often over looked.

But even more important is making sure that all the channels fit together and feed into the brand experience in a relevant way. It’s not about bombardment, it’s about a longer, more considered two way ‘conversation’.

When your audience knows what you want them to know, but doesn’t quite know how they know, you know you’re doing the right thing. It’s really simple when you look it like that!

Greater than the sum of its parts

It’s a total brand experience. Seamless, cohesive and one that appears to have been made just for you, wrapping around your activities and from time to time, when appropriate, getting your attention in the right way – and ultimately making you think, feel or act in a certain way.

Take the BBC for example. Is it a channel, is it an online player or is it a programme maker? It’s just the BBC. Greater than the sum of its parts – and that’s what a ‘single touch point’ can do for a brand. It defies logic, and harnesses the ability of the consumer to put 2 and 2 together and get 5.

So where does the extra 1 come from? That comes from the consumer. But to activate it, you have to know it’s there and tease it out. Once you switch the extra 1 on, it stays on for a long time.

An effective omnipresent approach means a place in the subconscious, that is ready to be retrieved every time the consumer experiences your brand.

So when you ask them, “how you did you hear about us” and they reply, “a friend told me”, take comfort in the knowledge that they probably don’t remember – and that’s a good thing!

By Farhan Urfi - Creative Director: f.urfi@smallbackroom.co.uk