Marketing with staying power!

Very few trends in the world of marketing appear to have staying power
Very few trends in the world of marketing appear to have staying power

Billy McKenna managing director of Aro PR and Marketing examines the marketing communications world at a time of steep technological change.

Over the past few years there have been huge changes in the world of marketing communications, some social, some technological. We have seen trends come and go, but there are a few which appear to have staying power.

These trends have become increasingly important in the composites and advanced engineering industries, helping companies carve out distinctive competitive positions, nurturing a supportive sales environment and much more.

One of these changes is Artificial Intelligence. Advanced engineering industries are already using AI to improve manufacturing, harnessing its power to automate production processes using intelligent, self-optimising machines.

Now many in marketing are also harnessing AI, with a lot of interest in ‘generative’ AI applications that are easy to use and accessible for free or a small fee, for example, ‘ChatGPT’ and ‘Jasper’.

It can help companies connect to the right audience, whether that’s an existing or potential customer, employee, or funder. It can pinpoint the exact audience they want to draw in and reach them and only them.

Billy McKenna managing director of Aro PR and Marketing
Billy McKenna managing director of Aro PR and Marketing

At Aro one of the ways we apply AI is to generate email addresses to named individuals that we want to reach within specific companies that we think we can help. This ‘generative AI’ creates these addresses with a 98% success rate.

Another tool being harnessed increasingly for marketing is virtual reality (VR), albeit having been around for much longer. By providing an immersive experience, it bridges the gap between the digital and the real worlds.

For example, it can be used in tradeshows and exhibitions. Often the best way to sell a capability is to show the machine in action and some companies invest heavily installing large, complex pieces of equipment to do just this. This includes pumps, flatbed cutting tables or fibre placement machines in action, say.

VR will create an experience that is much more memorable than opening up a sales brochure and much less costly than moving and installing/de-installing a large machine around the world. You’d also need much less space on the exhibition floor, again saving marketing costs. 

Virtual reality is widely used in training, notably in flying, with flight simulators. More recently F1 drivers have had their training simulators made much more realistic. With most simulators on the market, there is a delay of as much as 40 milliseconds in the simulator responding to the driver.

This may not seem much, but for experienced drivers it makes the ride feel “less real”. It also makes the performance of the driver more difficult to judge - if the simulator car corners badly, is this due to poor driver response or the slow system?

A small engineering company near Bristol, Dynisma, has reduced the lag in their simulator by over 90% – to just three milliseconds. It is gaining interest in the industry, with McLaren working in partnership with the company.

A social whirl

Moving back to marketing communications, the world of social media has also not been immune to change, and we have seen new platforms pop up over the past few years; of most interest recently are Threads and TikTok.

Threads is an extension of Instagram and has a very similar format to Twitter (now X). There is some scepticism over its value, whether it’s worth joining, as it could be a duplication with two platforms doing the same thing, reaching the same people.

We struggled to find any engineering companies on this channel, apart from some bigger ones. For example, Balfour Beatty has over 1,400 followers - but no posts!

TikTok on the other hand is one of the largest social media platforms and it continues to become more popular. It had 1.5 billion monthly active users in 2023 and this is expected to reach 1.8 billion by the end of the year. It allows companies to get their point across quickly but efficiently, with video times ranging from 15 seconds to 10 minutes.

The nature of the platform also means that organisations can be more informal and show another side to themselves, enabling a reach of different audiences or the same audiences in a different way. However, TikTok is very business-to-consumer oriented with companies, such as Coca-Cola gaining huge followings (952k).

Business-to-business organisations are having a little more trouble gaining traction on the site, apart from huge global multi-nationals. We researched the use of TikTok in advanced engineering, comparing smaller and larger companies.

We found that smaller businesses were having little success gaining followers while only big names, such as Airbus (240K followers), get any attention. However even some bigger companies have difficulties e.g. Balfour Beatty has only 139.

Everybody’s talking

It can be argued that if you aren’t filling your space on social media, someone else may do it for you. A good case in point is GKN Aerospace which does not have its own presence. However, there are other people talking about them, with seemingly little involvement from GKN itself. This clearly presents a risk.

Everybody’s talking: if you aren’t filling your space on social media, someone else will
Everybody’s talking: if you aren’t filling your space on social media, someone else will

The marketing opportunities for smaller engineering companies may be limited through Tik Tok, though where the larger companies start, smaller ones often follow.

And there is a mode of thought that says if your (existing or potential) customers are communicating through these channels, you should too. Looking specifically into the composites industry, we were unable to find any major players on the app.

Companies may also decide to avoid TikTok due to security concerns, as expressed by the US and British governments, and the EU.

Marketing communications has made huge leaps and bounds in recent years, with a rise in artificial intelligence and virtual reality becoming a part of everyday life.

Social media has also continued to grow with new platforms being released. There are more ways to reach the people that you want to reach. The trick is to prioritise the systems and channels that are most effective and most efficient.

If you would like to know more about the latest marketing and communications tools, get in touch.

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