Brands are suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out) in media — and business is paying the price.
Digital innovation hands us a tactic (or three) a day, and brand stewards don’t want to be left behind. The pressure to be new and capture audiences that appear to be migrating to emerging platforms is intense.
Remember all those businesses that stampeded into Facebook pages without really looking at why, how, or who will manage it?
Strategy gets lost in the rush to capitalize on new media connection opportunities. Marketers get seduced by metrics and KPIs that aren’t necessarily meaningful drivers or indicators of business results. Many will end up spending millions before they can define what really works.
And the building of a more powerful, profitable customer base gets sidetracked along the way.
This impedes the revenue and profit performance business needs from media. Business needs a provable path of influence, from changes in perception to shifts in behavior to increases in sales. To produce it reliably, we need to reclaim an investment mind-set based on a clearer understanding of what media can achieve in the context of the brand and business.
The best media can’t overcome a misaligned brand strategy or mediocre creative.
The explosion of media channels, and the resulting fragmentation, keeps complicating and raising the stakes. So, we need a deeper “why.” Specifically, we need to take a step back and first look at the brand context — which doesn’t get anywhere near the attention it deserves from most media practitioners — to determine what communication needs to accomplish.
Where is the brand in its life cycle?
Is it just building awareness and consideration? Is activation lagging? Is the opportunity to increase the loyalty base? Does the brand need to recapture a magic it once had?
Rather than defining broad consumer segments, we need to start with who’s most meaningful to the brand — the people with the greatest upside revenue potential — and what’s most important to them.
Then we can use geography to our advantage by mapping our best prospects bottom-up, rather than top-down, which has largely been standard because it’s easier and entrenched. National brands don’t have anything like uniform consumption across the country; markets aren’t created equal any more than customers are.
We should be asking ourselves: Where does our brand have strong distribution and a consumer base that’s engaged in the category, but still isn’t getting its fair share of demand? This is the place to focus media for real business impact.
We can scale that line of thinking from the Zip code level to city, state and national levels. There is a real strategic plan for reaching and developing the kind of customers in locations where they’re needed most. Importantly, it also establishes the basis for making more considered trade-offs in media.
Because people use so many forms of communication throughout the day, we need to employ more types of media. But every time we add something new to the mix, we must take something away.
These trade-offs can make or break a media plan. More than ever, marketers need to balance the media they know will drive volume, while testing new things to bring new people to the brand and grow the business. The difference is, the testing needs to be strategic and planned, based on an audience that has meaning within the mix. These involve hard choices that preclude buying new audience connections or platforms on a whim.
Finally, we need to measure what matters to the business.
I’m not talking about media metrics — CPM, CPC, click rate, conversions, as so on — that are proxies for performance. I mean a focus on KPIs that move the business forward like sales volume, revenue, profit and market share.
We’re entrusted with a budget, and we’re expected to produce incremental revenue from customers that have strategic value. We can’t do it or prove it operating only from a communications perspective. We can, repeatedly, when we truly approach media from an investment mind-set.
Good one, Kyle. I think that the basic issue here is the very strong inclination to arbitrarily determine how the message is to be communicated---TV?, radio?, print?, etc. without considering the many audience, timing, context, ad clutter, etc. nuances that a media planner can bring to the party. To put it bluntly, too many marketers and their agency creatives and top brass assume that the ads will select out those who are most receptive to the message, so it doesn't really matter if too many off-target consumers are also reached so long as the campaign works its wonders among those most likely to buy. Of course, this is never stated and much lipservice is devoted to talk about better defining targets, reach, frequency, wearout, etc. without really integrating these "media" considerations" into the mix. Thus, media planners are stuck with arbitrary mandates about what is the main communications platform---TV, usually----and they must work within this framework, which stifles their urge to evaluate alternatives on a serious basis.