Cadence, Lifecycle And Values

In the ever-dynamic world of online marketing, frequency is often a proxy for success.  How do you discern the difference between success and failure, when the pressure to produce is ever present?  In the world of advertising, the message is the catalyst, but frequency of exposure is what drives behaviors -- good or bad.  Even bad commercials and promotions can succeed in driving brand engagement and brand perception when exposure is high.   We are in a fickle time, where overexposure is challenging the quality of brand relationships and consumers are numbing to the white noise of advertising.

The real challenge of frequency and cadence is measurement.   Years ago I was working with a very large brand, a highly engaged retail/ecommerce-driven marketer.   Their question to me was exactly this: “How do I get the most out of my 9 million customers?”   My response: “ If you try to solve for 9 million customers, you’ll never get to the 200,000 that really matter.”   In the world of broadcast media (TV &* online), broadcast email, and social media, reaching 9 million is not the challenge today, it’s simply an economic and timing decision. 



What we often forget is the value of the brand engagement lifecycle.  It was a favorite term years ago, yet has shifted attention over the last few years.  I partly blame the allure of out-of-home and social with so much focus put on reach and communities.  Economics dictate it is more efficient to broadcast in many cases.  It’s become simpler to wait for a customer buying signal rather than trying to predict, prescribe and optimize patterns.

In my opinion, the industry will shift to focus on three primary core values:

 Customer lifecycle will shift from a buying lifecycle to an engagement lifecycle.  Brand exposure is both about quality and quantity and exposure to the brand.  But brand loyalty is about changing behavior through perpetual buying patterns. Many brands try to do this on the cheap.   We have your email address, let’s broadcast messages and see what shakes out -- 1% is acceptable.  Messaging cadence is critical in early lifecycle messaging, activation cycles (if brand involvement includes more than transactional interactions), conversion cycles, and fulfillment cycles.   You must establish a connection, a value exchange and unobtrusive, thoughtful interactions.  Entertainment value is not enough with an overstimulated digital experience.

Brands will learn to know what customers to fire.   Like all customer/supplier relationships, there is a point of inflection where you have to decide if it makes economic sense to continue the relationship.  Brands are typically very poor at this.   It’s hard to tell your CMO or CEO that your customer or prospect base is shrinking. 

But the decision is really easy, it’s a time/value equation.   If you had 50% of the time you have today, what would you focus on first?  If the major driver of success is increasing first purchase, there should be a heavy focus on early lifecycle messaging and thoughtful messaging to engage and establish a pattern of exposure.  If success is defined by increasing customer loyalty, then focus on accelerating first redemption and this value exchange. The first step in getting to what’s most important is to know whom to fire.

Clicks aren’t a proxy for success. How do you make dashboards meaningful when you can’t reconcile attribution?   Clicks or impressions are a poor man’s path to measurement and success.   Don’t get me wrong, all behaviors and interactions  have value, but they are directional at best and mean something different for each channel.  

 I believe 2012 and 2013 will be a huge year for measurement.  Brands will spend amazing amounts of budget to apply success proxies that have profit and growth values to the business.  Channels and programs that can’t map to these will starve. 

Our business of marketing and advertising is not an easy business, the choices are endless, success is short-lived yet the rewards show themselves in so many forms.   Business transformation begins with focus and risk-taking.   As author George Crane says,  “Act the way you’d like to be -- and soon you’ll be the way you act.”

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