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Still Marketing Like It’s 1999!

AcxiomJuly 13, 2015

Over the past decade alone, marketing has undoubtedly transformed in ways that would have Mad Men’s Don Draper losing his mind.  This marketing transformation can is predominately attributed to social media and the mobile phone, which have fundamentally shifted the way consumers interact with each other and brands.  It has enlivened and empowered consumers with real-time information at their fingertips and the ability to get feedback and opinions from their friends about everything from what color shoes to buy to the type of music they choose to listen to – the possibilities are endless!  Many brands have been slow to harness these new channels, but those that have listened to what consumers want by embracing these transformations are undoubtedly leading the pack.  So why are there so many brands still marketing to consumers like its 1999? 

One potential reason may be that many established brands are internally challenged with outdated business models, bureaucracy, and obsolete measurements of their marketing efforts.  This leaves brands out-of-touch with their consumers and the trends that drive conversation, and distances the connection between the brand and the products and services consumer’s desire.  The big issue for a stagnant brand is the inability to measure the progress of the marketing systems it employs.  It is critical to understand the ROI of promotional and marketing initiatives, and how it drives demonstrable top-line revenue growth.  The challenge, however, lies in understanding how effective the messages and promotions are in driving purchases.

The shift in consumer behavior and rapid innovation in marketing and ad technology has transformed the market at a pace many brands are struggling to keep pace with, and capitalize on. This shift has made it difficult for marketers to attribute conversion through their marketing funnels.  Even though we as marketers now have a myriad of  methods to track everything that happens, it remains very complex as content is no longer solely owned by the brand, with the advent of the consumers voice and influence in the digital echo chamber via social etc.   We are no longer in a world of single push-marketing channels to drive conversion.

It’s a scary thought for marketing departments to shift from known and understood methods of marketing they have used for decades to an unknown and complex world of mobile and social media.  These same marketing departments have created profit attribution models that give them peace of mind in how they think consumers are finding and engaging with them, and ultimately the ability to justify their marketing budgets.  Many old school marketers believe that the more direct mail pieces or the more emails they push out the more return on profit they realize.  However, this is a very short-sighted way to think of consumers.  All consumers are not treated equally as we now know.  Each brand can have several segments of consumers and each consumer now expects to be communicated to as an individual in a personalized manner with products and services that best fit their needs.  They don’t want their time to be wasted, nor do they like to be spammed!

The truth is, measuring the effectiveness of social media posts or blog posts in terms of ROI may be a challenge, unless there is a direct call to action.  Marketers must start to shift the way they think about promoting their products and business.  They need to shift from a short-term outlook to a long-term viewpoint, and this is what we call pull-marketing.  They must put into place the proper teams that can handle authentic conversations with their consumers through social media, deliver personalized messaging through channels that are most relevant to individuals, and provide value-add content that inspires and communicates authentically.  Consumers have a choice, they have numerous avenues to both research a brand’s products and services  and  provide their opinions on the value delivered; they must be treated as the smart and savvy arbiters of value they are in the world of Omni-channel marketing.

How can this be accomplished?  In my opinion, analyzing available consumer data is the first step.  The second step is to understand who the consumers are along several dimensions, e.g. most loyal, most profitable/unprofitable. How do each of these consumer segments like to be communicated to?  Once a customer analysis is complete, it’s important to ensure that all of the necessary channels are available and in-sync as a single unified ecosystem, not as separate components.  The phase of adding separate channels that don’t communicate has passed.  To become a brand in touch with consumers you must be available at all times communicating the same message across different channels; then track, measure, optimize, and repeat.