Marketing as 3D Chess

AlwaysOnIntegrating consumers’ “always-on” mindset into brand strategy

Winning companies today are defined not just by their product and service offerings, but by the manner in which they respond to the needs of their consumers in the new digital world. But this wasn’t always the case. Not long ago, brands were capable of influencing preference primarily through advertising. For many consumer brand marketers, there was perceived correlation between media buys and sales. That environment no longer exists and marketing professionals are now asking what’s next.

When you look at the methods brands traditionally used to understand consumer behavior, develop marketing strategies, plan campaigns, evaluate tactics and measure performance, some of these processes are 50 years old! Despite the enhancements in technology and communications, market research has long been a labor-intensive endeavor. Today’s “Always-On” competitive environment has proved that the technology and techniques brands relied on are limited and difficult to scale. However, and some might say finally, innovation has arrived that enables marketing professionals to keep their finger on the pulse of their target consumer as expressed in digital form across the Web.

Welcome to the era of “Always-On” marketing. Now people are always within arm’s length of a Web-enabled device that connects them to your business whenever they want. With this enhanced capability comes the new expectation that you’ll be responsive on the consumer’s terms. For businesses, the “Always-On” era also means the days of treating marketing in discrete campaigns is behind us. This means marketing professionals who thrive on a continuous state of optimizing their investments will be the winners in this new environment.

Brands are making the shift from advertising to more engagement-focused marketing models; as a result traditional measurement of performance will need to evolve and become more sophisticated. But rather than looking for new standards to develop around engagement, or methodologies to build digital word-of-mouth, brands must develop models that work for their customers. In this “Always-On” climate, adaptive brands have discovered they need to tailor the evolving media landscape to meet their needs and employ social media, along with targeting technologies, to deliver marketing messages that inspire action and loyalty.

There is no greater signal for change than diminishing returns. Brands across all sectors are discovering mass marketing techniques are becoming less effective and more expensive. Their target consumers are often more nimble and technologically savvy than the brand. Companies now understand the promise and peril of managing brand advocates and detractors through engagement. However, many are still looking for a silver-bullet solution rather than building processes that put the consumer at the center of all decision-making.

Consumers are smarter and more equipped to challenge brands than ever before. The buyer’s journey has advanced, making sale conversions difficult, turbulent and competitive. Brands must manage a new path-to-purchase where a few key players influence consideration and preference every day. Increasingly consumers are saying “yes, and …” when it comes to brands, and their current value proposition opens the door for innovative dimensions that contribute to brand value.

Exceptional adoption rates of innovative technologies in the areas of content creation, delivery and marketing have altered audience behaviors and fragmented an already depleted attention span. The weakening signal strength of traditional media is a result of the tidal wave of new media choices  — some from consumers themselves. These new technologies are also changing how consumers discover media, entertainment and advertising. This is the new norm: “Always-On” marketing.

In a world where everyone is a publisher, a network and a marketer how do brands become the signal within all the noise? The short answer is delivering authentic and remarkable experiences that inspire brand advocates to influence peers to become customers. The role media plays in the new marketing mix as it supports peer-to-peer advertising is uncertain. But what we know today is the answer will be different for each brand — even in the same category.

Media will always play a role in acquisition, conversion and retention for marketing professionals. The shift that’s occurring today with brands is the pursuit to find a healthier balance when it comes to traditional media planning and buying. For some organizations, this is fueled by a desire to maximize ROI, and for others it’s inspired by a belief that understanding your audience through social data will allow them to make more efficient marketing decisions. For a company like Samsung, it was about taking away market share from Apple, and they used social data from their target audience to guide how they developed marketing programs that allowed them to ship more units globally than Apple in the first quarter of 2012.

Today marketing executives might feel as if they’re at the mercy of the consumer and the waves of technological change, but that won’t last forever. What is occurring is similar to a stock market correction; instead, in this case, it’s a company’s values and priorities that are finding a new balance. What isn’t changing is the brand’s desire to find harmony with their consumers, and the customers’ desire to have consistent quality experiences. In the “Always-On” age, less authentic brands and lower quality products will find it harder to survive.

One might ask in today’s connected world with the consumer in the driver’s seat: “Does marketing matter?” The truth is it’s needed now more than ever to cut through much of the white noise that brands, consumers and the media are guilty of creating.

This new era has been led by consumers, who are voting with their attention, dollars and social resonance. This “Always-On” marketing metamorphosis isn’t all bad since new technologies bring enhanced capabilities in the areas of segmentation and targeting. Understanding customer profiles enables more relevant messages and compelling offerings. That allows for improved conversions and increased efficiency. But this isn’t possible unless you put the consumer, and his digital footprint, at the center of decision-making. Savvy brands are leveraging big data, much of it social data, to create predictive marketing models or capitalize on trends as they’re occurring.

Winning new business will require a fresh approach to developing and managing business systems and people processes. A culture of iteration and optimization will allow companies to become more agile and stay synchronized with a market segment. New tools in the areas of communications, analytics, and CRM will make it easier to discover trends and apply insights into marketing programs that will be tailored to meet the needs of a variety of consumer personas. The results are campaigns that work in real-time to fine-tune messaging, communication channel and call-to-action to reach desired performance metrics and conversion goals.

I often tell clients that change is inevitable, and you have the choice to either drive change within your organization or to be what your organization wants to change. As an analytics partner for marketing teams at Fortune 500 brands, and their agencies, I can share that the era of optimizing media through real-time data is upon us, and all that’s required to get started is a commitment to reduce data-free decision-making. Once you embrace the choice to rid your media investments of waste, you’re on the path to discovering what we call the “minimal effective amount of media spend.” Along the way, you’ll experiment with new tactics and tools — largely fueled by performance and social data — that allow you to stay in sync with the trends of your target consumer so that you may be present in the media channels where they’re most receptive to your message. Optimization is another way to say survival of the fittest and in our new “Always-On” reality, expensive marketing decisions are slowly becoming extinct.

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1 comment about "Marketing as 3D Chess".
  1. Nazy Pineda from DMNP , June 21, 2012 at 2:35 p.m.
    Marketing is needed...now more than ever! Great points by Dan Neely!