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The Always-On Consumer takes their digital connection with them. (Photo Credit: VIKTOR HANACEK)

We are marketing in the age of the always-on consumer, a majority group that takes web access with them on-the-go. Being always-on means these consumers are persistently connected to the web, which presents new opportunities and challenges in brand storytelling.

Always-on consumers now make up about half of the US market. ComScore confirmed last year that at least 54% of consumers were using multiple devices—such as a laptop and a smartphone—to consume media. The trend is growing.

The Vivaldi Always-On Consumer 2014 report had similar results, estimating that 48% of the US population are now “always-on consumers” who are connected online with multiple devices and from locations throughout their daily lives.

To market to always-on consumers successfully, you must find new ways to connect with them, collaborate, and support them in a way that is also increasingly also always-on.

To begin with, let's clarify that always-on marketing goes beyond simply being multi-platform. It's not only the ability to reach your market across devices, but also with a frequency and relevance that matches their appetite for media and interaction.

The first step in achieving always-on marketing is to move away from big idea campaigns, and instead to use long ideas and consistent engagement.

By big ideas campaigns I mean classic ad campaigns that were set up to make a big splash. They would usually have one central idea, repeated so often that it could sink into popular consciousness. For a while big ideas worked really well.

However, today’s always-on consumer seems less affected by big ideas. Always-on consumers have unprecedented access to information, literally at their fingertips. They have social media and apps to create customized digital experiences tailored to their own tastes. Maybe they don’t want to be told what to think or do and would rather figure it out for themselves? If we accept that repetition of a single, perfect brand story isn't necessarily the best or most effective way to sway opinion anymore, then what is?

One tactic that has gained a lot of traction is to replace "big idea" marketing, with "long idea" marketing.

Long ideas consist of multiple small touch points over time. Each moment ties back to a larger brand story or brand ideal. The sum of these small ideas is greater than its parts, and the result can be a longer-lasting story than many big idea campaigns.

By recalibrating your strategy from big idea campaigns, to always-on, long idea campaigns, your brand story can stay aligned with consumer habits and behavior patterns.

To do this, deliver utility to consumers in addition to brand messages. For most teams, that means some form of content marketing or content advertising. When the content delivers consumer value, those efforts can generate additional exposure in the form earned media.

Always-on marketing also requires active listening. The most commonly used tools are social listening tools, but there is almost limitless depth to the data than can be mined to understand what is relevant to your market from one day to the next. While big-picture data is great for this, don’t forget to also listen closely to your customers.

While you are actively listening on social media, take some time to respond and start a dialogue as well.

In addition to interpersonal exchanges, offer real-time engagement by expanding the frequency and duration of your marketing activities. Diversifying the tactics you use can provide opportunities to reach on-the-go consumers more frequently or more often in their always-on lives.

Building successful long ideas also requires constant iteration. By embracing agile marketing practices, you can learn and adapt to achieve even more positive outcomes. Stay fluid and use experiments and data to help guide the way.

Finally, because the always-on consumer is also frequently using devices to stay connected, content and ads need to use multi-screen technologies and channels to be able to reach them wherever they are. In paid media that means moving toward native advertising, HTML5 for display ads, and other formats that are multi-platform. For owned media, it means having a mobile-friendly website or building a mobile app. These long ideas require multiple touches, and if you’re missing your audience half the time because you lack a mobile strategy, it can reduce the brand story’s overall effectiveness.