My wife and I spent months researching the perfect car for a weekend getaway, emergency trip to the vet and the occasional recycling depot visit. The car we eventually settled on was a controversial choice as it was a model many of our friends, professional reviewers and, even, strangers described as ‘Marmite’. People either love or hate it.

Given I work in the communications and marketing services industry I naturally think about the buying experience, and the many ways prospects and customers are influenced to make a decision.

The modern buying journey is complex, non-linear and often emotional rather than rational. For a brand, it is challenging to get a message across to its core audience in the right way and at the perfect point in the prospective customer’s decision-making process.

The agency I work for teamed up with YouGov to produce a report that looked into consumer-buying habits in across a number of sectors. The survey found that word-of-mouth and search engines are the go-to sources for information pre-purchase, followed by review sites.

Beyond these channels, customers are influenced by so-called ‘dark social’ platforms, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. When I started out on my car-buying journey, I sent an instant message with an embedded video link to my wife. However, this method of communication creates a challenge for public relations and social media managers, as it can be tricky to influence and measure.

However, this fragmented buying landscape, spanning multiple stakeholder touch points, media channels and devices, also creates an opportunity. It gives brand communicators the chance to deliver distinctive content and memorable engagements, optimised to land at the right time, in the right format and on the right device or platform. The content could both educate and influence those opposed to recommending a brand based on a previous experience or misconception.

As I was forming my decision to buy the ‘Marmite’ car, I was influenced by the mixed reviews I heard and read both on and offline. At any point, a timely piece of content or campaign-work could have diverted me from the buying journey. That’s why multi-channel, optimised content is a valuable tool.

Communicators that deliver content optimised to reach consumers at the right time and in the right format put themselves and their prospective customers in the driving seat.

If you ever need help finding the perfect car or you’re after some advice on how to improve your company’s multi-channel communications offering, please feel free to reach out to me on a platform of your choice. Our car of choice turned out to be a Citroen C4 Cactus.

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