Marketers are no longer in control, consumers are, and they LOVE their digital and always on lifestyle. It is THEIR choice when, where and how to shop, watch TV content, find information. Consumers are integrated and omnichannel so marketers need to be as well.
And best in class marketers WANT a digital future too. They can improve marketing ROI 20-30% by using real time and precision targeted methods to find them at moments of relevance. That’s why Programmatic marketing keeps growing its share of ad dollars.
But (depending on your appetite for reinvention) here is the scary or fun part…marketing is becoming a first party data game, requiring changing practically everything Marketers and Researchers do.
Marketers…you will realize you have under-emphasized generating and managing first party data via your owned media and that your top-down budgeting process has become disjointed from bottoms-up, impression-based marketing action. You target based on user profiles, but the user is literally not in the marketing mix modeling equation that drives annual budgeting…dollars and GRPs are. You will work with your productivity analytics team to fix this. Researchers…you will address how dis-integrated, slow and actually peripheral to a real time marketing process traditional research methods like survey-based brand trackers and attitudinal consumer segmentation have become…or you will be replaced.
Let’s dig deeper…
In the digital marketing future, competitive advantage comes from the ability to take real time marketing action, based on integrated profiles of consumers to drive short term performance and long term growth.
The ability to take real time marketing action…
Via programmatic, an advertiser can choose which specific ad serving opportunities to bid on based on the user, the exact time of day, weather, location, etc. Even with direct buys, the ad serving rules in digital media can be highly sophisticated and audience target definitions can be adjusted quickly. However, the ability to turn this capability into something valuable depends on whether the marketer has deep knowledge of individual users so they can target the right message to the right person in the right context.
Based on integrated profiles of consumers…
In programmatic, one of your biggest marketing assets becomes the first party data you have on individual users. You potentially know their customer interactions with you, their clickstream behaviors, their interests via third party profiling, and how they move across screens. Now you need to unify this knowledge. Even integrating into their profile what type of offer and communication that user responds to. Working with clients, I find the biggest gap is unifying user identity across devices which is critical to get the mix of mobile vs. non-mobile digital advertising right.
…To drive short term performance and long term growth.
I believe the future is to act bottoms-up…serving up billions of ad impressions one at a time, based on a 360 view of individual consumers acted on in real time. In this future, precision targeting will improve ROI and lead to a higher percent of new products and ad campaigns succeeding. But competitive advantage will come down to data. How many users are in your DMP, how well have you rounded out data of targeting value, and how well have you modeled this to differentiate likely responders from non-responders to reduce ad waste.
Marketing research must become a digital player
Paraphrasing what Gotlieb said, can we agree that the following is also true?
“Marketing research has to look more like digital marketing. It can’t go the other way.”
Marketing research is critical in a digital future because it will keep tactical advertising action on brand strategy. However, the Insights team will not continue to be invited into the process unless it connects concept testing, copy testing, brand tracking and segmentation research practices to the billions…yes, BILLIONS…of data points offering insights about marketing effectiveness. Surveys will always have a role but they should be integrated with digital profiling information that your DMP can act on. You want to find concept acceptors, key segments, brand switchers based on shopper data, those who responded to your advertising, etc. at scale. You want to report on marketing effectiveness in real time not retrospectively. If you asked a digital media agency how they spot unhealthy brands, and segment users for marketing action, their answers are totally different than the traditional researcher gives. You have to incorporate more of this perspective while keeping the brand on strategy.
I am happy to report that some research organizations ARE transforming their offerings and buyers are starting to respond. Desire is increasing for real time dashboards and media simulators as an alternative to the retrospective “Powerpoint Deck”. Clients are building brand guidance systems fueled by data lakes. Some research suppliers are now offering more integrated and predictive views of brand health by including social media and digital metrics along with survey based measures. Digital profiles from Acxiom, eXelate, etc. CAN be integrated into survey results at a respondent level which enables the marketer to do lookalike modeling of consumer segments at scale, using profiling characteristics that can be used for ad serving rules. Those in the audience measurement business are now starting to talk about metering WiFi routers, so that all internet enabled devices can be linked for a given user, enabling integrated clickstreams, and proper attribution analysis.
Transforming marketing and research practices is not a question of “if”, it is a question of “when”. Marketing and research have maybe another 6-12 month window to turn this transformation into competitive advantage. Beyond that, slow-to-respond marketers will just be following others’ footprints in the snow.