Throughout history, developments in communication and technology have gone collateral. Technological advances, such as the internet, social media and mobile devices, have changed human behavior and communication. Back in 1980, Toffler describes in his book “The third wave” how society had progressed through three historic waves. The first one started from a hunter-gatherer structure to transform to an agriculture society. Second, the industrial age with its technological advances, starting to provide mass distribution of consumption, media, education and entertainment. The third wave is the so called “Information Age”, when knowledge began to become more valuable over material items, and it has just begun (Toffler, 1980). New inventions, like virtual reality, voice recognition, and connected mobility are going to permeate society in the future. Entrepreneurs need to make use of these trends to thrive in an omni- connected, always-online and non-real world.
II. Theoretical Background
1. The creation of reality in todays world
The invention of social media had one of the biggest impacts on how people live today. Not only communication has changed, even more it influences the whole perception and creation of reality.
Already in former times, Plato, a famous Greek philosopher who wrote the allegory of the cave, attempted to explain the nature of reality. The philosopher imagines a cave in which prisoners are being kept, who have been there since their childhood. They can not escape because they are chained, forced to look at a wall in front of them. Behind the prisoners is a fire and in between there is a parapet, on which puppeteers can walk. They hold up objects, which cast shadows on the wall in front of the prisoners. As the prisoners can not move their heads, they presume the flickering images to be real. The plot goes on that one prisoner is able to escape, realizing the fire and that the shadows weren’t real. When he is brought to the open, at first he is disoriented but after his senses adapted to the new circumstances he is learning about the reality of the world. As he returned to the cave to share is knowledge, the others resist and say he returned with corrupted eyes, since all they’ve ever known is the cave (Kreis, 2012). One finding of Plato he wanted to explain with this story is, that people believe what they see and resist believing things that they never saw before. Another stance of him was, that those who gained further knowledge and have seen reality have the obligation to educate the others (Cohen, 2006).
The allegory of the cave has relevance in todays world as well, if one applies it to the perception of reality through media. In that case, the people behind the media play the role of the puppeteers, who are deciding what objects to hold. They have the obligation to inform society, in this case depicted by the prisoners. But medias communication goal is not only to inform, motivate and create a mutual understanding, it is also trying to persuade people in their own interest. According to Plato’s theory, people believe what they see, and they do not know what is real. Therefore, the media is composing the reality of todays society, and are setting the agenda of what people care about. The main difference is, that in todays world people are not forced to look at one channel or medium. They can turn their heads, look for the source and try to gain their own knowledge. Everyone can be an escaped prisoner and look for the realness behind what is depicted. Obviously, it is not always possible to find out what is real, due to barriers of geographical distance, authorisation or permission.
Another difference is that with the invention of social media, everyone is a puppeteer sharing content, and everyone is a prisoner looking at what others are depicting. People create a shared reality by their own actions, mass media and what they learn from others (Berger & Luckmann, 1991).
Since people are moving away from traditional media, and online and digital media are pervasive, entrepreneurs need to be highly recognizable in these channels to be part of people’s reality and have impact on their actions. Another finding, which can be interpreted from platos theory which has relevance for marketers, is that experiencing the reality of their products or services in real life, is going to have more impact on people than what they saw before in the media and additionally they are going to share their knowledge with others.
2. The evolution of the second screen
Coming back to Toffler, he said that people are adapting their abilities to technological developments (Toffler, 1980). As the quantity of information available expands, especially caused by social media, people start filtering what is important for them, since they can not cope with the amount of information. In todays society one can see this phenomenon in the application of a second screen, which means making use of a second electronic device while using another digital medium. „Thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones, tablets and ultra books as well as the proliferation of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, 88% of the 70 million tablet owners and 86% of the 100 million smartphone owners in the U.S. use their mobile devices while watching TV at least once a month, according to Nielsen.” (Turner, n.D.). On the one hand, the second screen is a great opportunity for businesses because it encourages interaction of people, and it provides the business with fast feedback, if they use it to share their thought about something they saw on TV on social media. On the other hand, people are not paying attention, which is disrupting the content and makes it harder to comprehend. Especially for marketing purposes, people seem to switch to another medium and only the subconscious mind recognizes the content (Turner, n. D.).
3. The impact of the subconscious mind on decision making
According to Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman, 95 percent of a purchasing decision takes place in the subconscious mind. To reach the subconscious mind, the communication concept has to arouse positive emotions (Mahoney, 2003). „All purchase behaviour is emotional! So, if you want to maximize your marketing results, your marketing needs to evoke an emotional response in your prospective client’s heart and mind.“ ( Shapiro, 2013). The great part of the mental processes are sensory intuitive, therefore the impact of the emotional brain is 10 times bigger than the rational brain. The greater range of sensory impact communication creates, the deeper the experience is connected in the subconscious mind of the audience (Shapiro, 2013). To expand the audience, a communication approach needs to address all senses to reach visual, kinaesthetic and auditory people.
Not only colour, taste, smell, acoustic, shape, message and price is triggering an emotional response. To achieve actions from the recipient, one needs to provoke motivations as well. The most prevalent motivations behind an action are either or in connection, to defend yourself, bond with other people, acquire something beneficial, or learn something (Kahnemann, 2011). Behind every purchasing decision, the customer has at least one of these motivations. Consequently, advertising initiatives need to reflect these motivations that customer can identify with them and want to purchase the product or service. Out of this reason, social media works so well, because it combines all motivations in within one medium.
The goal for businesses is to forecast the customer’s decision making process and create the communication strategy that conveys the right motivations in order to engage the audiences interest, influence their emotions and impact them in a way that leads them to a purchasing decision.
III. Online Marketing, Digital Branding and Social Media Communication Strategy
The online marketing, digital branding and social media communication strategy represented in this paper, is created for a car brand. The company BMW is going to be used as a substitute, to show how the strategy can be adapted to a specific brand.
4. Market trends
The automotive industry has a wide range of companies and organizations involved in design, development, manufacturing and marketing of motor vehicles. It is one of the most important sectors by revenue and market growth. One main attribute of this industry is that it is driven by creativity and innovation. It has a big potential in shaping and impacting the future. Since automotive technology and expertise is continuously advancing, companies need to response fast to market trends to stay competitive. This spirit of innovation and creativity needs to be reflected in their communication strategy as well.
4.1 Automotive technology advances
One market trend is the so called connected car, which is fully digitized with Wi-Fi, has an advanced infotainment system and apps, vehicle to vehicle communication exchanging safety data, and real-time location and routing services based on current traffic. The intelligent car is a forerunner of the fully autonomous car, with functions like self-parking, automatic cruise control, automatic accident-avoidance system, and computer operated power steering. Since the idea of autonomous cars are still too futuristic for most of the driving society, these features need to be brought to the public in a careful manner, so that they can get used to it (PSA Group, 2017).
4.2 Mobile marketing
Regarding marketing, mobile devices have changed the way how consumers research, shop and make purchases. „According to the J.D. Power 2015 New Autoshopper Study, 51% of respondents said they used a smartphone or tablet to help find the make, model, price and dealership that best suited their needs.“ 51% of all automotive searches on Google now occur on smartphones. In response, Google created a mobile ad format for automotive marketers. A mobile showroom which shows exterior and interior images, users can swipe through, including details about performance and features, find the local dealer and navigation to it (V12Data, 2016).