The 6 Second Challenge

Posted on Posted in retail strategy

You have a smartphone and precisely 6 seconds to communicate a meaningful message about your brand. Mission impossible?

Well, US home improvement giant Lowes took the challenge, and created a series of oddly mesmerizing and engaging 6-second stop-motion videos with DIY tips for customers. Called “Fix In Six”, the initiative is billed as “a collection of clever improvements that make life at home a lot easier”. Posted via the looping short video service Vine and publicized via a Twitter hash tag, “Fix in Six” is evidence of the changing nature of retail marketing communications.

As a young copywriter, I grew up in an era when launching a retail campaign meant a 60 second television commercial on prime time on a Sunday night, “road-blocked” across three networks. The campaign would likely be anticipated by small-space “teasers” in daily newspapers and backed up with a catalogue inserted in Sunday press. While mainstream media is still an important part of putting (and keeping) brands on the map, retail campaigns today are likely to include a myriad of communications touchpoints, and increasingly short-form video distributed via social media is a key component.

Besides the Lowes example, brands like Nike and Burberry are utilising Instagram’s new 15-second video tool launched just a month ago. And they’re not using high-end video equipment to make expensive productions. They’re shooting short grabs on smartphones in that distinctive “sepia-toned, artfully out-of-focus aesthetic that characterizes much of (Instagram) photography”, as America’s Ad Age puts it. This is disposable advertising. Shoot it. Post it online. Connect with customers. Move on.

Is this an effective form of communication? Certainly, it’s worth the experiment if your customer includes Generation Y’s who are hungry for innovation and have short attention spans. And just as definitely, video is set to dominate online into the future.

The challenge to retailers is to constantly re-evaluate your communications mix in the second decade of the 21st century, question traditional forms such as catalogues and mainstream media, and include one or two of the new tools in your armoury. And that’s worth more than 6 seconds thought.

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