The traditional approach to marketing looks at creative, media, and strategy in silos. You hire an agency to handle branding and creative production and then hand it over to a different agency that plans media and execute buys.
The data and analytics for targeting buyers and measuring effectiveness is generally the responsibility of another separate agency or technology provider.
In spite of all of the new developments utilizing technology and data in marketing, this segmented and siloed approach is still the standard practice.
COVID-19 has changed consumer habits, challenging marketers to be agile and nimble in the face of shifting consumer behavior.
Marketers that have historically approached creative, media, and planning in silos are finding it harder to make adjustments at the pace that a crisis requires – a challenge made all the more difficult if their siloed efforts are not united by a clear, data-driven understanding of what drives revenue for their business.
Marketers require an integrated solution that brings data, media, and creativity together into a cohesive process. One must inform the other to uncover what drives revenue, and to organize efforts around profitability in time to realize the advantage.
This is true in both the micro-sense – where programmatic technology and strategy enable nimble A/B testing and rapid campaign optimization – and likewise in the macro/logistical sense, where cohesive teams of media, data and creative operators collaborate as a single unit.
There has always been a strong logic to the integrated marketing approach, but it hasn’t always been possible.
The reason marketers have taken a siloed approach is because it was the only one available to them – because they lacked tools with the sophistication and data necessary to really bring all the pieces together.
The connective tissue of centrally administered and analyzed data really hasn’t been present. The mechanisms that now exist to gather, store and deploy data for marketing purposes have brought this closer to a reality.
Data now provides the connective tissue to unite and optimize both creative and media in a single, elegant process. When you have data as a central source of truth for what drives revenue, optimizing the rest of the machinery around it becomes possible. And it is possible today. These capabilities exist.
Acquiring these capabilities has become much more urgent under COVID, as marketers contend with a purchase funnel that has suddenly shifted entirely online.
Perhaps you’ve seen some ads for seafood delivery pop up in your Instagram feed recently. Those were most likely wholesalers, who have now been compelled to go DTC.
All brands are now DTC and ecommerce brands, at least for the moment. And ecommerce is a high-pressure environment because of the speed required to capitalize on signals of purchase intent.
In the relentless ecommerce race, everything is suddenly up for grabs due to the COVID pandemic and quarantine. Consumer sentiment is in upheaval across the board.
The old models of intent signals and conversion journey don’t apply anymore. Whether you’re selling bicycles or houses or corporate bonds, your new customer in the middle of lockdown is not going to be the same as your familiar customer from 2019.
It’s one thing to recognize that fact, it’s another to actually optimize for it. How do you bring that extended funnel from consideration to conversion into your own environment? How do you own that?
You need to be able to efficiently identify, reach, and convert customers, and then measure, optimize, and repeat. It takes more than a media agency to buy reach, or a creative agency to communicate some high value proposition. Data, creative, and media need to work together as never before.
That means that the creative of a marketing campaign needs to be informed by data, before the first concepts or storyboards see the light of day.
Creative teams need to know not only who your typical customer is, but who are the new customers who don’t even know that they need your product? What sort of images, emotions and narratives are going to stick with them and pull them further along the funnel?
Once several creative concepts have been deployed as part of a dynamic campaign, the data and strategy teams need to interpret the feedback to optimize not only the current campaign, but to inform creative’s future work as well.
Given enough time and the right human capital, that back-and-forth can yield long-term dividends. Any savvy business leader will tell you that team cohesion and singleness of vision is an essential component of success.
Business has changed for good, and crisis preparedness is in many ways the new North Star for marketing competency. Moving forward, the ability to rapidly respond to massive shifts in consumer purchase behavior will continue to separate winners from losers.
Ross Shelleman is CEO of Aisle Rocket, a marketing agency creating rich experiences that move consumers throughout their shopping, buying and ownership experiences.
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