Rethinking Marketing: From Media to Experience

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In the marketing industry, we have been talking, writing and even creating a shift in the way that we do business for over a decade. Early blogs and (what is now called) social media provided an inkling into where the shift was going – away from paid media into “owned” and “earned” media. This was a difficult, but relatively understandable transition because we were essentially talking the same language – the language of media. Accordingly we shifted from media planning and strategy towards “content planning and strategy” – we were still talking about the same processes behind the brand curtain – it’s just that some of those activities happened on the other side:

  • Paid media – traditional advertising like print, television, radio, direct mail, retail/channel and the kind of placement that you have to pay for. The benefits of paid media is that you get (mostly) what you pay for – control over the context, content, use of your logo and other branding, messaging, focus and tone of voice.
  • Owned media – your own properties like your website, microsites and blogs, forums or branded communities. To an extent, your Facebook fan pages, Twitter profiles and YouTube channels etc fall into owned media – though you have less precise control over interaction/commentary, overall look and feel (ie your Facebook page is always going to look like it belongs to Facebook).
  • Earned media – the word of mouth, social mentions (tweets, status updates, mentions, reviews, blog posts) and so on that are produced about your brand by your fans. You have little influence over the structure, timing or even appearance of your messaging or branded assets – but it ranks as one of the most influential forms of media.

But while we (marketers) were talking about the different kinds of media, technology companies and startups were out there changing the form and function of that media. They weren’t interested in the marketer’s view of media – looking instead for ways that technology could extend, enhance or accelerate the flow of that media from brand to consumer. Accordingly they focused their efforts on four technology trends – creating an enterprise-scale IT model known as SMAC which combines Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud. And while this works from an inside-out point of view, it must be revisited and reframed to deliver value and relevance to our customers.

Experience as the beating heart of brands

It’s easy to rant about poor customer experience. We see it on social media all the time. Sometimes it is warranted. Sometimes it isn’t. But SMAC has removed the barriers to entry for the vast majority. All we have to do is take a photo upload it to Facebook or Twitter and tag it with #fail and it will reach not only our friends and connections but others who monitor and amplify these kind of failures of brand experience (yes, these people really do exist).

Take a look at this single tweet from Mashable about a “Valentines Day flower failure”. With over 5 million followers and hundreds of retweets – a poor customer experience can turn a bad day into an unfolding disaster.

The point, however, is that we – as consumers – experience brands at a very personal level. With this in mind, it is worth reframing SMAC and media from the outside-in. It’s time to understand the behavioural triggers that arise out of SMAC and create engagement that works for our fans, customers, and advocates.

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  • Social: The Social dimension has the potential to deliver powerful, personal yet scalable CONNECTION. It offers a single conversational channel, builds trust and offers a way to accelerate a resolution or conversion process
  • Mobile: The Mobile dimension delivers LOCATION. With a connected device in your pocket (close to your beating heart), a mobile phone is the convergence point where the digital and the “real” worlds collide
  • Analytics: The power of big data is not in crunching everything known about a customer. The real value is in delivering AWARENESS to a network. This effectively means creating USER context from the social, mobile and business data signals available
  • Cloud: And the cloud provides the mechanism for SERVICE. To remain relevant to customers, brands must re-acquaint themselves with the value of service. And Cloud provides the mechanism to do so.

Combining SMAC with an understanding of customer behaviour means that SERVICE can be delivered conveniently at the right time, in the right space in the right context. And even in the right environment.

Is it the future of marketing? Don’t look too far towards the horizon, for this future has already happened. Only some heard it knocking on the door.

How to be a Digital Survivor

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Whether we like it or not, we live in an outside-in world. It is no longer good enough for our marketing to be “good enough”. It’s no longer safe to “play it safe”. And it’s time we learned to adapt in the same way that our customers have learned to adapt – with social intelligence, technology and impact. For it is clear that the innovative nature of our customers is, for the most part, outstripping our own capacity to innovate.

This is no longer a function of competition. We no longer make the markets that we once could conjure through a force of will (and a huge media budget). Marketers must work smarter. Listen better. Respond impeccably. These days, relevance is not a buzz word, it’s a matter of survival. And at the heart of relevance is one thing. Customer experience.

What does this mean?

To shed light on the 50 shades of customer experience, Sitecore have curated a “Digital Survivor” webinar program. Featuring 12 of the most innovative digital experts, marketers and public speakers from Australia, New Zealand and around the world, it’s a great way to deep dive into some of the great marketing challenges of our time.

So far, the line-up includes:

Scott Scott Stratten
UnMarketing: Stop marketing, start engaging
Author of NY Times bestseller, UnMarketing, and voted top 10 marketing guru by US Business Review magazine.
13 February
Edward Edward Murphy, Web Services Manager, CPA Australia
Driving customer engagement through personalisation
Responsible for digital design, user experience and interaction, web CMS, accessibility, SEO and analytics, Edward shapes and delivers on digital strategy.
5 March
Gavin Gavin Heaton
The new physics of the consumerverse – How the buyer’s experience has been transformed by digital
Co-author of Age of Conversation and founder of the ‘un-agency’Disruptor’s Handbook.
12 March
Clare Clare Swallow, General Manager – Digital & Peter McHannigan, Strategy & Web Analyst, Cucumber
Content first: the approach to websites in 2015
Clare’s background includes sales, marketing and digital consultancy across the logistics, agri-business, retail, professional services and education sectors.
16 April
Rich Rich Parker
Developing a digital content marketing strategy
ADMA Content Marketing Strategy course instructor and Head of Strategy at Edge Publishing.
23 April
Dietmar Dietmar Dahmen
Digital wolves
Austrian futurologist and digital expert; previously held senior creative positions at DDB, Ogilvy and BBDO.
7 May
gabe Gabriel Ponzanelli, Digital Strategy Director, Sitecore
It’s just a few steps to a personalised experience for your customers
Gabe is a veteran digital thinker and strategist.
14 May
Tom Tom Webster
The Mobile Commerce Revolution
Tom Webster is Vice President of Strategy for Edison Research, a custom market research company best known as the sole providers of exit polling data during US elections for all the major news networks.
4 June

There are more webinars and speakers to be announced. Register for one or all of the webinars. They are free and offer particular insight into the challenges that we all face today.

Australian Online Retail Grows – But Did You?

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eWAY-holiday-retail-spendingAn interesting report has been released by eWay – the online payments gateway that powers more than 17,000 Australian online stores. Showing a 20 percent year-on-year growth for the mid-November to mid-January period, the results bode well for the struggling retail industry.

The report reveals that with traditional sales kicking in on Boxing Day (26 December), the industry received a much needed boost. Over $35 million was spent not in-store, but from the comfort of our living rooms. But rather than a “holiday spike”, there was a consistency in spending online. “It was very steady. eWAY recorded higher sales and transactions volumes in October than we did in December”, said Matt Bullock, founder and CEO of eWay.

Processing 1 in every 4 dollars spent locally online, eWay have extrapolated their data to reveal a surge in retail over the Christmas/New Year period. Interestingly, this seems to have been mirrored by the retail growth experienced by Harvey Norman. Fairfax media reports that after a surge in its share price, Harvey Norman explained, “The big sales increase was in the December-January period. It’s only a week, and there are 52 weeks in a year, but it’s a positive sign”. And while sales were strong across the board, sales of the FitBit seem to be riding a #BackToFitness trend associated with new year resolutions and holiday over indulgence (yes, guilty as charged).

Unfortunately, the data from Harvey Norman does not reveal a split between online and offline sales. eMarketer, meanwhile, has released estimates claiming that retail ecommerce will grow 14 percent this year, passing $10 billion. This would seem a safe bet given eWay’s calculation that Q4 2014 sales accounted for close to $4.5 billion.

But what does this all mean?

Without a doubt, the retail industry is being disrupted. Consumers are discovering, debating and deciding on products well ahead of reaching out to retailers or visiting stores (with stores often only used for the convenience of immediate delivery). So if you ONLY have a bricks and mortar store, now is the time to being investing in your digital strategy. And if you already have a digital presence, now is the time to build out your customer experience strategy.

The Surprising Truth about Transforming the Customer Experience with Digital

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Are your employees doing the right thing? Are your teams empowered to make the right decision for your customers? At the Constellation  Research Connected Enterprise conference, moderator, Esteban Kolsky, Board of Advisor, Constellation Research, grilled a panel of customer experience innovators on just how “digital” was transforming the customer experience.

The panel included:

  • Dan Steinman, Chief Customer Officer, Gainsight
  • George Wright, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Thunderhead
  • Howard Tarnoff, Senior Vice President, Ceridian
  • Dave Pennington, Principal, Business Strategy, Microsoft.

It’s a great, short video with a few surprises. Some of my favourite quotes:

  • There’s no such thing as a sales process – there’s only a buying experience
  • It’s time for marketing to shut up
  • What’s the next disruptive thing? It’s engagement
  • The days of the check-in call are over
  • It’s not all about the data
  • Engagement doesn’t mean offer management

The Surprising Truth

But the most interesting thing to me was the focus on culture. We see it over and over again – and it is the most difficult challenge for organisations. While you can buy technology, you can’t buy the hearts, minds and engaged focus of your employees.

And while they may have all the customer data ever needed, without the right focus, support and attitude, you still won’t get the sale.

Need to harmonise your approach? Or bring technology and people together? We can help.

The Brand Behind Your Buttons

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Sometimes the most important aspects of brand experience happen below the level of our consciousness. Think of the sound that is made when you close the door of your car. Manufacturers spend millions researching, designing and engineering that experience. Same with the exhaust note of a Harley Davidson. All of this careful thinking and planning has been crafted to heighten and differentiate your experience of a PARTICULAR brand.

This approach should also be applied to the digital domain.

Over the last dozen years or so, I have built a number of online platforms for clients or employers. Each time, I have focused on designing not just a “user interface” but an on-brand experience. And this process begins, surprisingly, with buttons.

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Marc Hemeon, designer at YouTube, eloquently connects the use of web buttons with brand experience. He proposes “the button test” – and sets a surprisingly easy challenge. Can you pick the brands that use the style and colour of the buttons shown in the image? I bet you can. But more than that … can you pick the call to action, the behaviour and your sense of intention that is connected to that button? That’s the important and interesting part!

When I am thinking through and planning a digital platform, I focus on user behaviour and intention. I plan for interaction and process but I also take a leaf out of Amazon’s books. I plan for trademarking. Imagine coming up with a single button that brands an experience, explains a process and corresponds with an inherent behaviour. It’s the digital equivalent of a “Kleenex” – where the act of using a tissue has become synonymous with the company that produces the product. Amazon’s 1-click purchase button is the prime example.

As Marc’s button test shows, the smallest element on your website delivers brand impact. Maybe we should pay more attention to the digital brand experience rather than just making the logo bigger.