The idea behind a startup is crucial, but alone it cannot guarantee its success. Marketing and communication play an essential role in the success of a startup, as they help build a distinctive corporate positioning and create brand awareness.
Limited budgets, undefined organization, maybe the wrong mindset can lead young companies – especially innovative ones – to disregard traditional means of communication and use online channels for communication in an almost exclusive way. I am referring to RTB, programmatic ADV, search activity and social media campaigns. Not to mention retargeting, native advertising, storytelling and community creation.
Undoubtedly, online marketing is a growing trend and is representative of how digital disruption has transformed the world of communication. However, young companies should not forget the relevance that offline communication can have for their business: it can be a strategic element for success.
This becomes patent when, for instance, we take into account a recent survey by Tech.eu, supported by WeWork. The survey has involved three of the most brilliant startup community managers who work in Europe – Bram Kanstein from Product Hunt, Maddie Sheesley from EyeEm and Osto Valta from FishBrain – who handle thousands of users on a daily basis and know the importance of having a wide and active community of people who follow their company. From their professional perspective, the success of a startup depends on the presence of an offline community: actually meeting people is a necessary step for the development of professional networks. That is why these managers are increasingly focussing on organising events and meet-ups and promoting them not only online, but also in a very traditional way – through branded gadgets, stickers and t-shirts.
Fortunately, in recent years we have witnessed a change of focus in startups confronting the issue of communication. They have finally recognized the potential of traditional media and their determining role in shaping brand positioning and trustability. Investing in TV, radio and printed media becomes crucial especially in a country like Italy, which is still low-tech and less inclined to online shopping than other EU countries. Today, if on the one hand big traditional companies are seeking to explore new digital worlds; on the other, new, digital businesses are expanding their market outside the small circle of hyperconnected consumers.
Some startups that were exclusively devoted to online communication have now included traditional tools into their strategy, in order to both strengthen the reach of their business, and increase the company’s perceived reliability – not only by customers but also by suppliers. Among the best-known cases there is the first Italian unicorn Yoox, which in 2013 realized the documentary “I love Yoox”: a series of reality commercials that starred real customers who told their real life stories and shopping experience on the company’s website. This has proved to be a smart and efficient communication concept and a successful strategy, as it used the language of the web in a TV commercial: the company has thus demonstrated that it has carried out a thorough analysis of their consumer target. Recently, Tannico.it, the leading Italian wine e-commerce, has also launched a widespread campaign on the major national TV channels and newspapers.
Television seems still to be the means of communication reaching the widest public in the shortest time, and having the strongest influence on the brand’s perceived reliability. But the good old radio, according to research conducted by GFK Eurisko and Ipsos, is the second most effective means of communication in Italy. Which is very interesting, especially if we consider that a tool that was born in the late Nineteenth century is the one that until now has responded more vigorously to the demands of the digital era. In fact, the research shows that new technologies have helped the radio reach out to more potential users. Essentially, the radio has been able to use all available platforms, since you can listen to digital and analog radio signals, stream it on the Internet and even listen to the radio on TV. This multimodality allows it to approach young and technological listeners – just the ones that meet the interest of innovative startups.
As we have mentioned before, at the beginning of its life, a company must usually deal with a limited budget and an undefined organizational structure. However, we also have to remember that one of the main reasons why many companies experience failure in the first two years of their life is that they lack a proper and well-defined marketing/communication strategy, and therefore an accurate positioning. For this precise reason, startups should explore every possibility, even those that may look obsolete: without discarding a tight and steady digital communication schedule, they should also integrate offline channels into their strategy, especially at specific times of the year that are pivotal to the success of the company.
This is the kind of full round vision that has lead the British startup Deliveroo (which has just received $ 100 million funding) during its integrated communication campaign in Italy this December. Young men and women dressed up as kangaroos are handing out “promocard” leaflets and flyers, which they are also leaving on cars or in tube stations. And these “traditional” communication tools, of course, dialogue with the company’s digital campaigns on Facebook and Instagram. As communication specialists at Deliveroo know very well, in a world devoted to innovation, a “blast” of tradition can boost communication and accelerate the development of the company.