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August 3, 2020
It's Time to Zag!
 
Covid-19 has been an incredible digital accelerator. Now every brand and every company is creating multi-stage email campaigns, viral videos, social media posts and ads, display and retargeted digital ads, webinars, content marketing and increasingly sophisticated search engine marketing. 
 
What do you do when everyone is using the same tactics at the same time?
You zag!
 
Zagging requires a willingness to break with convention, step outside your comfort zone, become a bit playful and rethink your media strategy. Zagging is stepping off a ledge with the understanding that it will yield different results.
 
Consider six zagging tactics.
 
Get Bold. Take an unexpected posture. Write provocative headlines and body copy. Boldness is the enemy of plain vanilla. Convince decision-makers that they will be lost forever in a sea of sameness. Only by standing out will they achieve awareness, lead generation or conversion goals, especially when competitors are present in the same channels using the same tactics against the same audience.
 
Take the Gloves Off. This is the Trump approach. Take on the competition directly. Draw sharp comparisons. Compare features, benefits and outcomes. Share the comparative and competitive insights or language used in private publicly. This requires a healthy risk appetite and some clear legal guidelines. But a straight up one-to-one fight almost always attracts attention. 
 
Develop a Distinct Personality. This can either be a differentiating spokesperson or a vocabulary that drives a distinct impression. Determine who you are and represent your attributes and values with ownable language or an exclusive personality. Yes, you can rent a Kardashian. But so can everyone else. And while you have to be culturally sensitive, there are plenty of celebrities, key opinion leaders and influencers that resonate with your primary audience who can appropriately and affordably represent you.
 
Carve Out a Time.  The frenzy of media and advertising rarely lets up. There’s way more content than anyone can absorb. Carve out a time or a space that you can own. Publish your best stuff every Tuesday at noon ET on Twitter. Or set your webinar series for Thursday evenings at 7p PT on LinkedIn. Or expose your best videos every Saturday morning on Instagram.  Owning a time sets you apart and enables appointment viewing. It gives your primary audience a reliable cadence; a relationship touchpoint they can count on. You don’t have to be the NFL to own a time slot.
 
Rethink Media Strategy. Most brands want to cover all the bases. Many run media roadblocks – the same content on every platform at roughly the same time - to create a captive surround-sound experience. Competitors carve up their messaging and expose different facets in different channels. And others, think Trump again, pick a channel and bombard the chosen platform with bold and unconventional messaging. All three strategies afford the possibility of standing out and finessing the competition. The critical variables are target audience composition and their channel or platform usage patterns. Be where your people are when they’re active and engaged. Borrow and direct the platform’s traffic to your advantage.
 
Use the Data.  You can know much more than ever about your target audience. Use the psycho-demographic, firmographic and mobile usage data to shape your creative and media tactics. One-to-one personalization is touted as the ideal. But mass or segmented personalization, using the general parameters of your audience will get you where you want to go. Data ensures that your messages are useful, timely, relevant and easy to grasp. And while privacy concerns are both real and serious, creating resonance compliantly is generally doable.
 
Zagging is both a state of mind and an agenda for action. In a time of crisis, when executives default to conservative, conventional and reactive thinking, the brand that zags will stand out and win. 
 

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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