Lately, I have been reading a lot of omni-channel and multi-channel research papers. I shared some findings from Nielsen’s “Screen Wars” study last week, but apart from the Nielsen study, I also read a Google/DoubleClick study called “Reaching audiences across screens,” while IBM offered “Digital Reinvention,” and Digital Doughnut shared their “2015 Multi-Channel Digital Marketing Report.”
Each of these studies talks about the importance of strategy, message, content, data and commerce integration across all screens, touch points and activations.
I wholeheartedly agree.
The issue is not that marketers don’t get the importance of integration, or don’t understand the potential benefits of when it magically all comes together. In fact, 95% of all marketers who participated in Digital Doughnut’s study “agree that a multichannel strategy that allows them to target customers is important for their organization.” However, “only 30% of marketers are highly confident of their ability to deliver against their multichannel strategy (67% are only somewhat confident).”
So, if marketers know and understand the importance and opportunity, why is it not happening? It is because the marketing eco-system, and in some cases the whole business eco-system they operate in, is structured against integration.
Example: An alcohol beverage brand targets premium consumers, and is sold at a premium price. It operates in a highly competitive category with a full set of brands ranging from low price to super premium. The marketing team has carefully crafted a premium brand positioning and communication plan. The creative executions, packaging and pricing all confirm the brand’s “premiumness.” So far, so good. The brand team is evaluated against brand health, sales, volume and market share objectives.
The sales team is trying to drive sales via a number of strategies, including expansion of availability for the brand. A new sales channel is prepared to take on the brand and give it prominence through a very visible sales promotion. The promotion pairs the premium beverage with a very “ordinary” (i.e. every day) snack brand through a combo-offer. The sales team pounces on the opportunity as they are evaluated against sales and share gains through additional channel presence.
Why do you think we all witness the constant battle between brand marketing and limited-time offers? Why is the portrayal of brand experiences in communication so very different from the reality you and I experience every day in real life?
It is because in the vast majority of companies the marketing teams and the sales/trade/shopper marketing teams work not only separately in organizational structure, but they also each have their own separate budget and planning process.
Typically, sales tend to start their budgeting and planning process much earlier than marketing because of long retail lead times. And even if they don’t have to take retail lead times into consideration, the fact that they are evaluated by completely different success criteria almost guarantees confusion in how consumers will encounter the brand across all touch points.
Best-case scenario: The two parties come together only after both sets of plans are finalized. What follows is an “alignment session” which most resembles the current U.S. political landscape in which nothing can be agreed on or, at best, a wobbly and weak compromise is reached.
If companies could manage to close the brand marketing development and sales marketing development gap, I know from experience they become all but unbeatable. And only then can we speak of true omni-channel marketing.