When I wrote my first book, The Zen of Social Media Marketing (now updated and in its 4th edition), back in 2010, the idea of the connected consumer hadn't really reached maturity.
We weren't as attached to our smartphones as we are now.
We didn't research every purchase as closely.
We didn't expect our offline and online worlds to sync up so effortlessly.
Now, just 8 years later, your average consumer - the connected consumer - has changed drastically.
That means that the way we market to them has to change, too. It's this monumental shift in consumer behavior that inspired me to write Momentum, which comes out in paperback on February 6.
In the book, I write about the 5 principles that I've observed in my work with clients at my marketing agency, Zen Media. And when it comes to reaching the connected consumer, I think perhaps the most all-encompassing of those is the last one: cross pollination.
What is cross pollination?
Cross pollination is one of those terms that's been overused in the business world over the past several years, so it's worth it to go back to the original definition.
In biological terms, of course, cross pollination refers to the transfer of pollen from one individual plant to another individual plant, with the result being a brand-new seed - a packet of creative material that contains the potential for a new, totally unique - and, by the way, much hardier - plant.
When we talk about cross pollination in marketing, we're referring to this miraculous process: one idea meets another idea, and something wholly new and creative results.
This could mean a partnership between brands to promote a cause their customers are passionate about. It could mean a partnership between an influencer and a brand to take a brand's products into a new market. It could mean blending the digital and offline worlds to create a unique educational experience, like Zen Media did with our Social Media Genius Bar at the Chase for Business conference.
These sorts of new, unique, and creative experiences are what the connected consumer wants - and cross pollination is the way to deliver them.
How do you incorporate cross pollination tactics into your marketing?
So what will cross pollination look like for your brand?
While every brand's needs and approach will be different, here are the initial steps you need to take to start expanding your creative horizons.
Look outside your industry for interesting ideas and brand activations.
The best place to look for an idea that nobody in your industry has thought of yet is, of course, outside your industry.
Apple did this when they teamed up with Nike to create Nike+. Up until that point, a tech company partnering with a fitness shoe brand hadn't been done - in fact, it's likely that many less forward-thinking companies didn't think it would be successful.
By partnering with an unexpected brand, rather than another tech company, Apple got customers' attention and gave them a unique experience - and this was before most companies were even talking about the connected consumer.
Look to your existing resources and mine the possibilities.
Cross pollination is all about looking at your resources through a fresh lens. What do you already have, and how can you put it into action in a new, different way?
This is what we did with a client of ours at Zen Media (at the time, we were still Marketing Zen). A major apparel manufacturer wanted to create a huge splash on social media - but they didn't have the digital following to do it on their own, despite their massive traditional following.
To make this social media campaign successful, we spoke with their retailers, which did have large social media followings. By partnering with these retailers and leveraging their digital presence we were able to give our client the social media event they wanted - and all while helping the retailers sell more product.
Be bold in your brainstorming.
A few years ago, no one would have thought you could virtually try on Sephora lipstick shades via an app, then save the ones you like to try on when you're in the store.
And yet that's just one example of the many integrations between the offline and online worlds that we're seeing brands creating now.
It simply doesn't make sense to think, design, or sell in silos anymore. The brands that win the loyalty of connected consumers now and in the future will be the ones who break down walls and embrace a culture of innovation.
For more on cross pollination and the other principles I discuss in Momentum, check out the book on Amazon. You can also watch this video overview of the 5 Principles.