The rise of predictable (and boring?) marketing

May 20, 2015

Will marketing be bought and sold like a futures commodity on the stock exchange? If we are to believe recent trends, this feels almost like inevitability.

The rise of the machines in marketing has enabled practitioners to build much more sophisticated models than previously thought possible. Programmatic media buying coupled with stronger analytics systems have created repeatable, predictable marketing. Day in, day out smart marketers are looking to grow their businesses using platforms like Adwords, Facebook Ads manager and DSP platforms. Customer acquisition metrics like customer lifetime value and cost per acquisition have replaced the creative heavy strategies of yesteryear.

Even publishers have gotten into the game. Buzzfeed is well known for its listicles and this has worked miracles for their traffic. Product management is getting into the act as well. A San Francisco company called Betabrands is using search trends to develop products based on rising customer interests

Where does this come from?

Data of course. Marketers are getting better in using data to make business decisions (as they should). We are seeing the pendulum swing away from the freewheeling days of Mad Men. I have to admit that I am a data geek and very much admire great creatives.

The huge challenge for brands that this raises is standing out from the crowd. If everyone is optimizing only based on data, does this mean that messaging & creative will cater to the most common denominator? How can brands stand out in this deluge of data driven sameness?

Solving the purple cow strategy

I’ve been a Seth Godin fan for as long as I can remember. He gave us a pretty remarkable insight in his classic book. The thesis is pretty simple, you need to stand out and be remarkable.

A classic example of standing out is CD Baby’s email confirmation to clients. You realize after reading it that it probably didn’t cost much to write it. It took a creative mind to find out how to surprise and delight a customer. Creativity does not need to cost a fortune. Good ideas are the ticket.

Digital platforms are an amazing enabler of creativity and the combination of performance and brand if evidently necessary.

Determining the right mix between performance and brand

The first step is to link your efforts to what the company is trying to do. Ultimately, business strategy takes precedence. If the company needs to grow sales, more should be spent on performance marketing. If no one has heard of you, awareness/brand needs to be top priority.

Another way to look at this is customer retention & loyalty. What is more profitable for you? Gaining new customers or retaining existing ones? Segmenting your business in this fashion will likely uncover different performance and brand tactics.

The measurement conundrum

There is a common misconception that branding has ‘softer’ metrics than performance. Yes, measurement is not perfect but it does not mean that it goes out the window.

  • What happens to your brand searches when you invest in brand campaigns?
  • What was the last piece of content people read before signing up?
  • Did call center volume decrease over time?

These are the types of questions that should be used to understand the efficacy of brand campaigns (and challenge their profitability).

Ying and Yang

Performance and brand are not opposite or contrary forces. They are complementary and interconnected (sound familiar?). What new technologies have enabled us to do is to link the two more closely than ever before.

The opportunity today is that you can surprise & delight your customers at scale. Yes I know, sometimes the opposite is true as well. For large scale marketing programs, moving the needle with brand and driving more sales with performance are deeply intertwined; they should be wholly accountable for helping each other.