Brands Are (Finally) Driving The Innovation In Digital

For the very first time, brands, rather than direct-response advertisers, are driving innovation in the digital marketing category.

DR advertisers have historically taken this role, as they’re always on the lookout for new ways to drive down costs, increase performance and create efficiency that scales.  DR advertisers were the first to adopt search advertising, the first to push rich media and the first to make the shift into programmatic advertising.  DR advertisers love to be at the forefront, but recently I’ve noticed brand advertisers are the ones pushing toward the concept of the enterprise marketing stack, and brand advertisers are the ones adopting the data management platform (or DMP) the quickest!

The reason is clear: To build a proper marketing stack and get the most out of a DMP, you have to make an investment, and DR marketers are just as well-known for being notoriously cheap.  Investing in an infrastructure to support data-integrated marketing is a stretch for them.  That’s not say that DR marketers are not practicing data-driven methodologies -- but they tend to do so in a vacuum, by taking advantage of tools and solutions offered in stand-alone formats by DSPs and other solutions. 



On the flip side, brand marketers are typically the ones who know the most about their customers.  They do research, they deep-dive into audience profiles, and they understand the value of aligning all their cross-channel marketing efforts into a single solution, leveraging the insights from every customer interaction.  Brand marketers are accustomed to the slow play; they know that a dollar spent today might reap dividends in time, maybe months.  They don’t just look for the ROI to be returned tomorrow.

So brand advertisers are, possibly for the first time, beginning to drive the next wave of digital marketing by making the investment in enterprise solutions.  To do so, they are asking questions like “How do I structure my organization?” and “What skills do I need to bring in to be more effective?”  These are also the kinds of questions you ask when you recognize the shift that needs to take place.  Brand marketers know the way they’re organized now may not be the right structure for the future.  They are looking to teach their teams new skills, and they are searching for ways to make the transition from idea-driven to data-driven marketing. 

There is also a shift toward programmatic and the newly burgeoning area of programmatic direct.  These two trends align perfectly with the development of the marketing stack because they enable even more automation. Programmatic direct, or automated management of upfront, premium buying, is especially relevant because brand advertisers tend toward upfront commitments and premium placements.  Programmatic direct enables them to lock down key inventory and still segment the audience in a very efficient manner.  It’s the best of both worlds: locking in what you need, but maximizing the ROI of those exposures.  The future is filled with different ways to enable more efficient media management, but only for those who have made the investment over the next 12 months to enable the enterprise-marketing stack and the solutions that potentially plug into them.

So the question for you is, how are you playing the game?  Are you a short-term, DR-focused marketer, or are you looking for the slow play -- the one where your current investments will pay back in spades over time?  How you play your cards now will set you up for the later tables and the chance to win the overall game.

1 comment about "Brands Are (Finally) Driving The Innovation In Digital ".
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  1. Bob Sanders from Sanders Consulting, February 13, 2014 at 6:53 a.m.

    One can hope both brands and marketers are taking the first steps in this world. Most people still think of digital marketing as a website linked with Twitter, Facebook and perhaps LinkedIn. But that is not accurate anymore. I pointed out few years ago: “The new market leaders in the next several years will be determined by how well firms embrace the information flow that surrounds their own brand and their customers’ lives.”

    I wrote up some thoughts here:

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