The Case for Digital Strategies: The Reach-Richness Trade-off

By Phumulani Mngomezulu

Phumulani Mngomezulu is a Brand Strategist and an award-winning business author whose thought leadership work has been recommended by business, marketing, brand and psychology experts across Africa and from successful brands in Africa. Phumulani’s strategy and thought leadership work focuses on sustainable brand building and branding for purpose-led/impact entrepreneurial development.  

There is a lot of hype around digital advertising in the entrepreneurial space. It is frequent to hear an entrepreneur talk about how digital advertising is so important because we are now living in a digital world and consumers are on their phones, and there is a visible online presence and so on…

I agree, it is true. However, it is the perspective around digital advertising that I think is flawed in most areas. Hence I ask, Are we seeing digital advertising as this commoditized version of traditional advertising? Or are we seeing digital advertising as the complete opposite? So, are we trying to replace traditional advertising with digital? Or are we starting something new?

I believe this is a question we would have to answer with depth and reason because if we say we are replacing traditional advertising, then that means we are still employing traditional advertising rules on digital advertising. We are merely just taking the other one out but we using the same line of thinking, and if you say we are starting something new then that means all those ways of traditional advertising, we are considering as ineffective and we are using digital as a way to create something new and effective.

I find that the former is what is currently happening. We have entrepreneurial businesses switching from producing print materials to providing that same material they would’ve printed, in the same exact way, online. Instead of printing an advert, this business is posting the JPEG format advert on Facebook. Instead of printing a magazine, that magazine is provided as a PDF version, and instead of brochures, brochures are turned to websites where you visit and you find three generic pages: Home. About Us, Contact Us. Everything that was printed is now just provided online and that is what is meant with digital advertising in the entrepreneurial context. “Push the stuff you would print, online!”

I say this perspective is flawed because when we look at digital advertising from a Brand Experience (BX) perspective, we are really missing the point here. Digital advertising should not be commoditized, it must be customized.

The Reach-Richness Trade-off

The Reach-Richness Trade-off is quite a popular model, I will just give perspective to it that is fit for the entrepreneurial context and brand experience.

This theory is about exploring the richness of experience versus the reachness to customer, where “Rich” is about how rich the experience is when the customer interacts with the brand at touch-points. Is it brand-aligned or is it destroying the brand? And then the “Reach”, is about the number of customers the business gets to interact with.

The aim is to have High Rich and High Reach. We want to reach as many customers as possible and at the same time, in a way that brings the brand alive, creating customer experience so they enjoy the brand.

Now when you look at traditional advertising, part of why it is has become ineffective is because of its inability to achieve this goal. The brand experience really suffers with traditional marketing, in the sense that, as you print more flyers and run more outdoor adverts you can be reaching millions of people but you are faced with a limited chance to make them really feel  special.

Traditional advertising is like public speaking. If you have ever spoken in public you would know that, with public speaking you can be speaking to many people but you not quite able to measure how many people resonated with you in the way that you would want them to. You just guess and you hope that everything is okay.

Traditional marketing is all the same. You are able to reach people but the more you reach them the more the experience is under threat. You are putting out 1000 flyers and there is no way for you to know if all those people were touched by the brand.

From the graph above, we can deduce the following:

  • At Store/Office Experience: The richness of experience is very high because at that point the customer can get to interact with the brand at a direct level, making the service a customized and personalized service. However, the reachness is low because there is only a certain number of customers that can come to the store, compared to how many they are in the outside world.
  • At Call/Telephone Experience: The richness of experience is in the middle there, where it still rich but on its way down because we are interacting on the phone and the only communication language is words, voice and tone. That could easily be misinterpreted and therefore the experience is at risk. Same goes for reach. A call allows you to interact with more people than you would at store or office.
  • At Print/Outdoor Ad Experience: Here the richness is very low but the reach is very high, so it’s the inverse of the store or office experience. We are reaching a lot of people but we do not know them, we do not get to meet them and talk to them so therefore they are not experiencing the brand at the potential they should be.

The only place where we have high rich is the store experience, but that is not enough because the reach is low.

We then need a situation where we can attain high rich and high reach. How do we do that?

The answer is: Digital Advertising.

Digital Advertising is an opportunity to reach millions of people, through the internet and still provide a rich experience. But that would require a shift in perspective to how we see digital advertising altogether.

  • See Digital Advertising as an environment where the brand could exist

Rolling out the purpose functionally through digital advertising is a great way to achieve rich and reach. So instead of a website being static images and 3 pages (Home, About Us, Contact Us), make it the whole office where you create touch-points in every page and section where the consumer visiting the website meets the brand.

  • Customize and Personalize it

So with the example of the website you must remember experience is about the HOW not the WHAT, so if it just a website with static images and webpages, it’s not enough to elicit an engaging experience. 

We have to arrive at making the consumer feel like it is their website, for example, create a login dashboard where they get the same information but in a tailored way that is customized and personalized according to insights you have about them, so if you run a book shop, when the consumer comes to your website, they login to their dashboard with their name and everything. The website would show them the latest books according to their interest, likes and information that they have provided to you about themselves.

YouTube is a great example (sometimes it is hard for me to remember that Google owns YouTube), it’s like it is my app that came with the phone. I go on YouTube and it’s a whole experience. It provides me with content tailored for me based on my interaction with Google and the information that Google has about me. As a result, my experience with YouTube and Google overall is rich, even though I have never been to any Google office. I feel like they know me because of how personalized and customized my YouTube experience is. I am sure you must feel the same way?

We need more entrepreneurial brands thinking in this way. A global brand in America knows me more than my friend’s small entrepreneurial brand. Why aren’t entrepreneurial brands doing the same? That is what the internet is for!

  • Data Mining

As a brand, get into the habit of capturing information about consumers at every touch-point they meet with the brand. This is how you glean consumer insights. That is why brand building is an organizational exercise, not only a thing that the marketing department does. At every department that interacts with customers in the business, you have to see that as a touch-point to interact with your customer and capture information for insight into what they like, how they like it, interests, etc. Not to spy or stalk your customer, but to use that information to offer the customer a personalized service that is customized to their needs. This customization helps us to be in continuous contact with the customer and further glean this Big Data. This can increasingly help in deepening customer loyalty and making them valuable over time. 


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