Trisha Santhanam
Surviving Modern Marketing

It is no secret that marketers in 2017 are feeling a little overwhelmed. CMOs are suddenly responsible for the end-to-end customer experience, and the landscape of solutions available for implementers seems like it only doubles in size every week. It does not help that consumers are getting a lot savvier, and between a quarter and a third are also eager to block all your ads. How does a marketer start to make sense of this madness, and navigate this brave new world with confidence, and continue to build a brand that people like, respect and want to buy into? Here’s three steps to get you started.

1. Don’t abandon the channels that you cannot measure

Everyone is excited by the increasingly targeted, personal and measurable options that the combination of data and digital media offer. Getting caught up in this hype, however, it is easy to abandon the so-called ‘old school’ channels. We see marketers cutting and shifting entire budgets to digitally-driven, measurable media.

It is important to acknowledge that each channel plays a role in the marketing mix, though the channel format and its role might evolve with time. Consider that according to eMarketer, 34% of senior marketers in North America planned on increasing traditional media spend in 2016. These marketers know and value the role that traditional media plays in their strategy; and beyond that, the role it plays in building the brand’s identity.

Increasingly targeted serving of digital media means that brands have created echo chambers around consumers, limiting the content they are shown based on their past digital behaviour, and brands are reverberating within these. In such a world, the value of serendipity is forgotten. Strategically placed mass media such as TV, print or outdoor can cut through these echo chambers and help new, unlikely audiences discover and remember your brand.

2. Do test and optimise continuously

In a time where marketers’ access to data has grown exponentially, we can test out far more hypotheses than time and resources allow us. When implementing those targeted, personal and measurable solutions that everyone is excited by, take the time to test and optimise each to maximise its value to the business before going on to implement the next one.

Also, seize this opportunity to test long-held assumptions around what constitutes effectiveness. There is a bevy of case studies that can provide starting points and speak to the effectiveness of testing. Through simple ad copy testing on Google AdWords in real time, Extra Space Storage increased its overall CTR by 32%. Imagine the potential to scale these results if we can start to test just the standard variants of channels, formats, messages, CTAs, imagery, timing and frequency across digital touch points – all of which can be done real-time.

3. Avoid becoming the dog that barks at every passing car

There is no doubt that real problems are being solved by the application of new technology. For example, GE is using Virtual Reality (VR) to train nuclear engineers, thus bypassing an arduous security clearance process (above). And mobile wallets enable the unbanked to participate in the Southeast Asian digital economy, contributing to the region’s eCommerce boom.

At the same time, we can’t be chasing every shiny new format and platform because it is being hyped. Stick to your guns (or strategy, in this case). Don’t do chatbots ‘because everybody else is doing it’. Do chatbots because it solves a business problem you have identified. The ability to plan effectively is far more important than having the latest fad, which could very well soon be out of fashion.

Take the example of Adidas, which on realising that Nike was taking over its leadership in the football segment, stopped and diagnosed its problem to gain back its edge. The brand’s response was to focus on understanding its customers, what they wanted and where they spent their time, and then to implement relevant programs over two years. It used mobile messaging apps to form relationships, embraced co-creation, delivered content via social channels and even experimented with new routes to market. This helped Adidas regain its spot as the world’s biggest football brand – not implementing the latest technologies that were available. Adidas stayed true to its brand essence in the way it embraced modern marketing.

With every new generation of technology and tools, the likelihood only increases that we will be taken outside of our comfort zone. This causes uncertainty about how best to tackle the evolving landscape, and causes paralysis with an overwhelming number of options. The successful solution will always be one that sets sight on the goal and embraces manageable and incremental step change to achieving it in a way that is aligned with the brand and its values.

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