Marketing and Research Consulting for a Brave New World
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Integrated marketing used to be like a dinner plate; it was preferable to have side dishes with the meat but if you left off the vegetables, it wasn’t terrible.  Now, integrated marketing is like lasagna; leave out the ricotta, and it will taste awful.

There are three big points I want to make about the effective use of media in a digital age for brand building.

1. In our digital world, everything amplifies everything else.

Many shopper journeys now start with digital search.  However, the top 30 or so search terms are invariably versions of the trademark. In other words, search doesn’t come before brand; brand comes before search.  In many cases, mass advertising made the brand interesting in the first place. But ultimately, if your owned media doesn’t deliver, and is not mobile optimized, you wind up with, well…bad lasagna.

2. The focus of brand communications should be to amplify digital activities that lead to successful business outcomes

Here’s what a brand team should hope consumers do.  They want them to search for their brand, talk about it, like and follow it in social media, visit the owned media website, sign up for something, and download something (e.g. a coupon). To get geeky for a minute, you can think of a Bayesian net that graphically maps activities, facts, events based on conditional probabilities. Presumably, these activities all add strong conditional probability to something we want to move, such as sales. The purpose of push media, such as TV, or digital display can be thought as amplifying these self-directed activities that the Bayesian model shows are highly predictive of a successful outcome.  These activities form the basis for tracking what we can call brand conversions.  You want media to make these conversions go up consistently over time.

3. Marketing research needs to update its approach to digital measurement

Ironically, while digital media should be the most measurable of all media, we do the worst job of measuring it. I bet that few marketers who sell products in physical stores have a metrics system set up to measure digital brand conversion activities as described above.  If you aren’t tracking conversions, you can’t effectively track digital brand communication impact or determine its ROI. You simply are not positioned to succeed in a digital age.

Social media is particularly complicated.  People talk about brands that are interesting to them but the conversation itself then amplifies the brand as it helps to make the brand more available, even omnipresent, and hopefully drives traffic to the owned media properties.

It is an advertising input, a behavioral output, and a source of marketing insights via what is called “listening”.  Except for listening, we are really far behind when it comes to measuring social media as a source of (earned) impressions.

Suppliers who offer listening platforms tend to treat all comments as equal when that can’t be true. A tweet from someone with 100 followers or a  Facebook update that might or might not be seen could not be equal to a blog posting by an influential mommy blogger whose post might be read of hundreds of thousands.

And then, here comes mobile.  Parts of the world are way ahead of the US on adoption of mobile phones as the primary form factor for accessing the internet but it is coming here as well.  By 2015, mobile (smart phone and tablets) will pass the computer in the US as a means of accessing the internet but for a different purpose.  Smart mobility will revolutionize shopper marketing.  Are we really ready to measure this?

We need a new mental model for how media creates and nurtures relationships between brands and consumers.  Media is no longer a force exerted against a passive audience.  In a digital age, brand communication lives in an action environment and its purpose should be to amplify and shape consumer activities along the digital path to purchase.

Acknowledgment: My teaching fellow for my NYU course, Social Media for Brand Managers gave me the “lasagna” metaphor and I love it!  Thanks, Daniella!

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