Old School Skills Meets New School Activation
“These new digital marketing tactics seem to be outshining my 15 years of experience in brand and product marketing, do you think that is true?”
The first time this question of whether 15 years of experience in brand and product marketing had any value in today's market was raised by one of my students at the University of Santa Cruz (Extension campus), I was surprised it came from a mid-senior level marketing professional at a fortune 500 company with an advanced degree. Though this question may have had a slight undertone of presumption (as they have been doing marketing for years), I believe there was a genuine interest getting input from an independent source in the in the world of digital (as that is what the course covers).
After getting additional permutations of this question from other professionals and exchange students, I wanted to answer this from a general experience perspective (both academic and professional) as well as how it plays out across digital versus off-line marketers. As a marketer with a similar foundation in experience and academia and in a professional standpoint, I have identified 3 areas of areas where traditional marketers bring incredible value to the table and how they can adapt.
Knowing the Fundamentals and Addressing Strategy
Irrespective of the new digital tactics used today, those versed in marketing concepts such as “the 4 p’s”, “promotional mix”, inbound vs. outbound marketing, and other marketing frameworks bring a very structured approach to marketing strategy, media strategy, and media execution. This structured approach helps focus efforts back to the overall marketing objective. Generally, those who have made a long-term career in marketing make sure that before any kind of media is planned, there is a prior step to discuss the overall objectives and strategy that any subsequent marketing tactic will ladder up to. They will define an objective (e.g. Sell more widgets) and a strategy (e.g. Sell more widgets through direct response channels). Though these are simplistic examples, the overarching idea is that everyone needs to be aligned with what the brand is looking to do and how they are going to achieve that.
There are some brands and/or divisions in large brands that have a “knee jerk” marketing executions not based on the foundation laddering up to a unified strategy. When this is done, it can spread an organization too thin, focus on the wrong types of media channels for a target consumer, drive inconsistent measurement across marketing channels, and contribute to marketing waste. The experienced marketer would have likely set up the strategy, solicited “buy in” from the cross functional teams at large, and made sure that any “tactics” considered laddered up to their strategy. Too often, less experienced folks may not have had the proper training or experience until they are faced with their manager asking, “is our marketing working?”, or “why did we buy that super bowl spot?” In that moment, someone trained/mentored would be able to justify their operations, show how it aligns with the overall strategy, and point to KPIs compared to benchmarks.
Marketing Tactics Must Ladder up to a Brand’s Strategy
Seasoned veteran marketers tends to be less swayed from the latest and greatest shiny ad product out there if there is not a clear indication that it ladders up to the overall business goal and its corresponding KPI. When a decision to try a new media channel/partner, there are typically very strict parameters that are used to determine success with a lot of onus on the new partner to prove its value. This kind of laser focus has helped them maximize the tried and true channels that have brought value into their company. With this said, all marketers should come to the table with an open mind and of the mindset that they will likely learn something new, and some of those learnings may equate to something actionable.
Traditional Tactics May Need to Evolve
In late 2016, digital out spent television according to eMarketer. This stat alone shows that marketing dollars are much different than they once were. As consumer behavior and marketing technologies evolve, the types of “mass marketing” such as television or sponsorships are less valuable unless it can be “audience targeted”. For those that are unfamiliar with “audience targeting”, it is simply the ability to find a target audience without only being tethered to endemic sites as a proxy for marketing the “right folks”. As consumers continue to shift toward consuming content digitally or watching television across their various devices (i.e. desktop, mobile, and tablets), the way a marketer gets in front of the right people and engages them may be different today than what has traditionally worked in the past.
Digital marketers come to the table with some unique ways to target and engage people in ways that could potentially amplify a brand’s marketing efforts while still staying within an established marketing framework. Some of these tactics may be foreign or confusing but some due diligence may inform how marketing is executed. In today’s digital ecosystem, almost everything is trackable. This means that channels whose value was hard to quantify is now very accountable. Secondly, marketers can target consumers based on their activity online and can capitalize on that activity with personalized messaging depending on where they are in the customer journey. Finally, if a medium is not working, that can be identified and optimized much more quickly than in the past.
Creative Storytelling and Design Principles Transcend Across all Media
No matter what advertising channel a marketer considers using, the need to create relevant content that speak to their target audience in a way that tells a story, and invokes emotional triggers are still the gold standard. Seasoned marketers know how to be good story tellers to invoke emotion and action. However, the shift a traditional marketer needs to account for is related to the plethora of digital and targeting tactics available that is directly correlated to a shift in consumer behavior. Today, the consumer is empowered through channels like social media to share, refer, review or just simply engage with any brand online (though not all brands reciprocate). This new two-way dialogue means that brands need to stop speaking “at your consumers” and start communicating “with” them.
Though the creative/messaging fundamentals have not changed, the consumer is more sophisticated and has certain expectations from brand messaging. Today, consumers expect to view relevant and personalize ads that are valuable. According to Media Dynamics, consumers today will see approximately 5,000 ads (across digital and offline channels), and being bombarded with ads make is difficult for brands to get noticed (especially those with limited marketing budgets). This means that the creative and the media/marketing team need to work closely to find the best way to effectively message a B2C, B2B or B2G audience.
It is certainly not a “one size fits all” approach, as a B2C marketer may consider driving awareness for their young millennial brand on SnapChat versus the B2B marketer may consider offering valuable research studies (e.g. Gartner Reports) as gated content on endemic publishers. If the decision is made to go online, a retail marketer might consider incorporating the last product they put in their shopping cart but did not buy in the advertisements is one way to retarget consumers who are already familiar with your brand. Things get even more complicated when brands need to consider customer reviews on sites such as Amazon or social media comments about a product/advertiser and how this will affect sales. As the age old saying goes, someone with a negative experience tells 10 people about it, but may only tell 1 about a positive one. As such, any positive or negative sentiment about a brand can spread very quickly in a digital environment, much faster than in the decades before, so it is important for traditional marketers to be cognizant of this.
Disclosure: The opinions expressed are strictly my own and not necessarily those of iCrossing.