The devices that consumers use to interact with media and brands continue to proliferate, which is leading many marketers to rush into new channels with the potential to reach or better understand their audience. For example, if a fridge is no longer just for keeping groceries cold — it’s now a TV, an internet-connected device, and a data repository — what effect does that have on marketing?
As the number of potential channels grows, more and more marketers are adopting multi-channel strategies to help deliver a consistent voice and message across more touchpoints. The downside to multi-channel is that it’s still so new and so complex that many brands can’t do it on their own, in-house. This leads many marketers to work with agencies or technology companies to execute campaigns across channels, and while these partners can be quick to tout their capabilities and reach, they may not have access to enough qualified audience targets to make the investment worthwhile. Far too often, marketers who choose to experiment with multi-channel are forced to choose volume over quality, which likely contradicts their core marketing strategy. For multi-channel to be effective, it needs to be about reaching the right consumers, rather than the most.
This disregard for strategy can be rooted in marketers’ fear of falling behind in the rush to new channels. Many brand marketers hear the buzz about new and emerging platforms and rush to find an agency or a vendor that can help them. But with that rush, they may be giving up on some strategy essentials, such as the measurements they use for attribution on their core channels.
Many of the so-called experts in multi-channel delivery are as new to the challenge as the brands themselves, and some are looking to increase their revenue by bundling their services with media. The implication is that a brand can reach a new, affluent audience, provided they buy the media through the vendor and let the vendor measure it as well. This introduces a potential conflict of interest, because it’s always in the vendor’s best interest to sell more media, no matter how effective it is. If that’s the motivation of the brand’s multi-channel advisor, there’s less chance the brand’s budget will be spent effectively or efficiently.
Brands can counter this by moving more thoughtfully toward multi-channel. The first goal for every brand should be optimal measurement and attribution in their core advertising channels, whether online or off. It’s also good to have a clear understanding of different audience segments’ cost per acquisition and lifetime value, as I’ve discussed before.
Once those pieces are in place, brands can expand their search for the most qualified audiences across new channels. Of course, brands may find they have to wait for better tools to become available, as there are very few vendors operating in the multi-channel space right now that offer attribution solutions without selling the marketer the media as well.
As an example, consider an advertiser whose current core strategy is to reach affluent audiences through online and direct-mail campaigns. This advertiser has a very clear understanding of the kind of audience their promotions are reaching, thanks to the rich available data sets. But as they expand their focus and move toward multi-channel, they may consider mobile and addressable TV, where there is less data available, presenting a greater challenge for the agencies and tech partners delivering the messaging. If an offer within an ad is tailored to affluent, high-lifetime-value consumers, then a broad reach multi-channel campaign could be far less effective.
In the end, efforts to “go multi-channel” have the potential to bring in lower-lifetime-value customers while simultaneously raising the brand’s cost per acquisition. That’s an ineffective use of marketing budget, and could ultimately result in a very poor ROI for the campaign as a whole.
However, if the brand is able to expand deliberately, one channel at a time, then it can closely evaluate its partners and leverage the same kind of targeting and measurement criteria it uses in its core channels. This kind of mindful expansion into multi-channel marketing ensures that a brand’s message will be more likely to reach the appropriate target audience. And when done this way, it’s easier for marketers to transition their multi-channel campaigns into omni-channel strategies.
While multi-channel currently represents the future, marketers can’t forget that it’s in their best interest to reach qualified consumers instead of chasing volume. Rather than targeting as many consumers as possible on emerging channels, brands should remain focused on a strategy that identifies and reaches the audience segments that resemble the best potential customers. By emphasizing quality over quantity, brands will put themselves in better position to move their strategy onto new channels as those channels mature. Sound data-driven marketing that focuses on the overall quality of each conversion will always be a winning strategy, whether that’s on a tablet in 2016, or a fridge in 2021.