The Ultimate Guide to Conversational Media for Brands

July 28, 2020

Conversational Media is a new frontier for brands. Social media channels and website landing pages are inundated with ads. TV, newspaper, and radio advertisements just don’t have as much impact as they used to. With Conversational Media, your brand can reach people in a popular and virtually untapped arena - messaging. And instead of talking at them with promotions and product releases, you can join them in conversations they’re already having.

In this guide, we’ll break down what Conversational Media is, why it’s important, and how your brand can take advantage of it to reach consumers in a meaningful way.

But first, let’s talk more broadly about visuals and why they’re so crucial.

The Impact of Visual Content on Communication

Let’s face it - sometimes words on a screen just don’t cut it. And in a world where conversations are, more often than not, taking place in digital arenas, people are hungry for more ways to better express themselves.

Visuals help to bridge the gap in online conversations. Think about it. When you speak to someone face-to-face, much more than just words goes into the experience. You have visual cues, body language, and tone of voice to help you better understand the sentiment behind the person’s words. But in messaging, all of that is virtually erased. And when there’s just text on a screen, messunderstandings occur quite often.

Messunderstandings are the misunderstandings
that occur in online interactions.

We’ve all been there - someone sends you a text, DM, or email that seems cut & dry. Let’s take “I’m fine.” for example. You get that message as a response and immediately think the person on the other side is either mad at you or being distant, when in reality, you just don’t have the full context behind the statement. That’s where visuals become crucial. If the person sent a smiley face with that text, your interpretation of that text would have been vastly different.

Text message conversation with two texts and no emoji
Text message conversation with two texts and a smiley emoji

Visuals are powerful tools in digital communication. Whether it be stickers, gifs, emojis, or any other piece of content you can think of - visuals are already wildly popular and will only become more essential as time goes on.

And there’s a place here for brands to become part of these conversations people are having everyday that are hyper-relevant to your brand, through the use of smart and useful visuals. It’s called Conversational Media.

So, What is Conversational Media?

We’re glad you asked. Think of Conversational Media as any type of media that helps enhance a conversation. It can be anything from an animated sticker, emoji, or GIF to a snippet of information that helps people tell their stories better in messaging environments. Conversational Media is a new avenue of advertising for brands and provides them with a way to reach people within conversation in a meaningful and relevant way.

Conversational content, like animated stickers or GIFs for example, are not only produced, but served to people right within chat, at just the right moment.

Conversational Media example of a conversation using stickers
GIF of a messaging conversation using stickers for expression

And it provides a great opportunity for brands to connect with people in messaging by  owning a certain mood, intent, topic, and keywords that align perfectly to brand goals. With this strategy, you’re able to enter into conversations that are about your brand, but also chat that is not directly about you, but still relevant.

For example, Starbucks wanted to promote their summer drinks campaign and also be associated with laid-back summer vibes. Through creative strategy, content design, and the use of AI - their sticker content was served when people were discussing the Starbucks brand, coffee, and drinks, as well as other general summer-related chat like sunshine, chilling, and lazy days.

Messaging conversation using Starbucks branded conversational stickers

Instead of ads that talk at the consumer, persuading them to buy a product or take advantage of a promotion, these pieces of content help enhance the conversations people are already having that are aligned to your brand.

And remember what we just talked about regarding visuals. They help people tell their own stories in messaging, to better connect with the people they’re chatting with. They’re useful, they’re expressive, and most importantly - they’re welcomed by consumers.

Why is Conversational Media Important for a Brand’s Strategy?

For many reasons! Let’s explore each:

The Breadth of Messaging

The popularity of messaging far outweighs any other communication vehicle. Our 2020 State of Messaging Report revealed that over 72% of people messaging more than they email, make phone calls, or comment on social media. Think about your own experience - how often do you pick up your phone to text a friend, family member, or other? We’d guess multiple times each and every day. And when it comes to brands, the messaging space is still virtually untapped. Over the years, advertisers have had to figure out how to adapt to new mediums - from print advertising to radio, to television and social media. See the trend? Marketers knew they needed to innovate in order to meet people in the places they were dedicating their attention to. Now, messaging environments are crucial spaces to reach people where they’re most active.

The Importance of Visuals

We already touched on this above, but really can’t stress it enough. Visuals are important! Stickers, gifs, and emojis are all tools that allow people to express themselves better in digital environments.

And people everywhere agree. Our report revealed that:

78% of people believe visuals help them express themselves in ways words can’t.

81% think that visuals make conversations more fun.

70% are hungry for a greater variety of them.

Did you know that 76% of people aged 18-29 (and 68% aged 30-49) have conversations using only visuals “all or some of the time” on chat messaging apps? Visuals are key - and are even oftentimes replacing words altogether!

Conversational Media lets your brand help satiate that hunger for more expressive content.

The Impact of Quarantine Culture

As if people weren’t already glued to their phones before, the effects of Covid-19 have only accelerated the popularity of digital outlets. At Holler, we saw a 30% spike in message volume at the height of quarantine between March and April 2020.

With extreme social distancing measures in place across the country, people turned to activities that could be done in the comfort of home - like messaging, video gaming, and binge watching shows.

Going months without seeing friends and loved ones has had an impact on people’s lifestyle and mental health, and digital platforms have helped them to stay connected, even when far apart. And visuals have helped to soften the impact of social distance.

As a direct response to current events, we created empathetic content to help people connect on a deeper level during Covid-19. Sentiments like “Thinking of You” and “Stay Safe” had massive share rates, proving that helpful and relevant visual content is widely used by the masses.

Think about how your brand can help people express themselves in relevant conversational moments. Because even after the pandemic is over, messaging won’t be going anywhere.

Animated sticker of man washing hands
Animated sticker of thinking of you word art
Animated sticker of girl washing hands

A “With You, Not at You” Approach

Social media has taken over as the most effective platform for advertising in recent years. But at this point, that medium has become overly saturated with ads - so much so that they far outweigh the organic posts.

Messaging allows you to cut out all the noise, and is a place where you can join the conversation while building brand equity along the way, instead of shouting at consumers. Conversational Media lets you be authentic to your brand and only show up when you’re useful to the end user.

You’ll have to think about your strategy differently though. In messaging, you’re not just creating a banner ad or social image to drive people to a product. You’re associating your brand with relevant chat that aligns.

For example, if Starbucks were running a campaign for their summertime drinks, they would be associated with general coffee and snack chat - but also with so much more. Their brand could show up in conversations around summertime activities, to keep Starbucks top of mind in those meaningful moments with relevant and useful content.

Why is Conversational Media Important for a Brand’s Strategy?

Technology and creativity come together in harmony in order to make Conversational Media such a powerful tool for brands. Let’s explore a bit about both.

The Power of AI

Holler’s proprietary AI technology, and our dedicated team of researchers and scientists, understand not only keywords, but the context of messages. This is extremely crucial when it comes to Conversational Media, because it means your brand is only entering conversations when you’re most relevant. Words and phrases can take on several different meanings, but understanding the context allows us to deliver the right content at the right time.

This is also pertinent for your brand safety. The AI technology’s understanding of context ensures your brand won’t be cast in a negative light or show up in conversations you don’t want to be part of.

Creative Content Studio

When it comes to maximizing Conversational Media for your brand, aesthetics are important. That’s why we employ a full in-house team of illustrators and animators that create each piece of content for your campaign. They consider your brand guidelines, color palettes, and fonts to ensure you’re represented correctly (and beautifully!)

Because these animators are trained to work in the messaging space, they are well-versed in creating content for these environments. In messaging, there isn’t as much real-estate as there would be in a billboard or a banner ad. Our designers know how to maximize the space so the content looks professional, clean, and clear to the user.

Creating all content in-house means no user-generated content. This is crucial to your brand safety as well, because you’ll never be shown next to anything of low-quality. Rest assured that the branded work is among other high-design content within the platform.

Creative Strategy

The strategy is truly the backbone of the creative campaign. A clear and concise purpose to the campaign ensures your brand will be part of all the right conversations. This is where we can consider what types of chat is the best fit for your brand, and decide whether you should own a mood state, topic, or intent.

Text conversation using HBO Max, Smirnoff, and Starbucks branded stickers

Our team of strategists will work in tandem with the content studio to come up with a strategy for your campaign. We consider different types of chat environments - like messaging and payments - to realize the most relevant ways your brand can come to life.

And we don’t just consider the most obvious ways (like wine chat for a wine brand) but the most useful as well. For a wine brand, it might be entering conversations about relaxing and winding down, celebratory “cheers-worthy” moments, and paying each other back for a night out on the town or a girls’ night in.

Conversational Media in the Wild

Innovative brands have already embarked on their Conversational Media journeys. Smirnoff, Chipotle, HBOMax, IKEA, Snickers, and Keurig are just some of the brands that have recognized opportunities in Conversational Media and have used it to capture their audiences in new and exciting ways.

Learn more about brands’ experiences with Conversational Media:

Snickers Logo
HBO Max Logo

Wrapping it All Up

Conversational Media is a brand new arena for your brand to play in. Defined as any type of content to enhance a conversation, this form of advertising is innovative because of its useful and relevant nature.

Instead of talking at your target audience in order to push a product or service, you can now join the conversations they’re already having related to your brand in a non-intrusive and welcomed way.

With Conversational Media, your brand remains top of mind when people are connecting digitally where they’re the most active - in messaging environments. Providing your audience with useful branded content will help them tell their own stories better in messaging, while weaving your brand personality into the conversation organically.

The future is bright for Conversational Media. If you’re interested in learning more or discussing how your brand can become part of it, get in touch!

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