We have reached a crossroads. While marketers have made strides in figuring out the "how" and the "where" to target an audience, they continue to struggle with delivering the "what" to impact the advertising metric that matters most--a sale.
You might call it plumbing versus poetry or data versus creative, but what’s clear is that this fragmented view has led marketers to focus on the left side of the equation--spending our time on who to target versus what to say and how best to move the intended audience to action.
Why does this matter? eMarketer forecasts that U.S. programmatic digital display advertising spending will reach $20.41 billion in 2016. At that point, 63% of all U.S. digital display and 40% of digital video advertising will be placed programmatically. So whether you’re selling shoes, diapers, or cars, concentrating solely on targeting without a cohesive content strategy often leads to marketing messages that are incomplete and ignored.
The following underscores the point of conflict, along with three paths to bridge the gap between marketers' disconnected "either/or" thinking:
1. Build A Creative/Content Planning Function
Currently there is no creative planning function or content planner to organize and plan how brands manage their content. How do marketers build a content marketing plan to onboard, organize, activate, and distribute content and information to reach the right audiences and measure success?
"Historically, it was creating one piece of brilliant creative to be fed to millions of people," said Douglas Kofoid, president of global solutions at VivaKi. "But now ... we need a million pieces of brilliant creative to be fed to each individual on an as-needed basis, depending on who that person is, where they are, and what their needs are."
While brands have been crafting messages with the goal of driving people into stores, they often lack a clear strategy for doing it effectively, especially when it comes to coordinating all the channels of communication at their disposal. According to Altimeter’s 2015 study, "How Brands Can Leverage Digital Content to Power In-Store Sales," 60% of CPG and retail marketers said they created digital messages to drive in-store purchases. However, only 37% of those companies said they had a strategy in place to provide a unified customer experience in the path from online information to in-store purchase.
In order to make this a reality, technology and partnerships must underscore a unified cross-channel content and communications strategy that marries media planning and content planning.
2. Construct And Connect A Unified Content Plan
Consumers couldn’t care less how we categorize different forms of communications, so why, as marketers, are we enamored with these distinctions?
I believe that content should be viewed as any form of communication that is seen as relevant by the audience. Content is native advertising. Content is a recipe. Content is advertising. My point here is it’s less about how it’s defined; we must focus on the outcome, which for marketers is simple: reaching the right audience with a relevant message that drives action.
This expanded content scope spotlights the challenge in building a content marketing plan--more content, more variations of content, more ways these content variations can and should connect together--and a lot channels to distribute this content.
"While the tools are important, they cannot be solely relied upon, especially when brands get into local targeting," said Rebecca Lieb, industry analyst and author of the Altimeter Group study. "In these instances, agencies and other service providers can be valuable partners."
3. Bridge The Gap Between Content And Intent
Connecting online and offline is a big opportunity for brands as 90% of shopping still happens locally. Mobile pushes this even further, increasingly driving and directing local shopping. Out in the wild, untethered, but connected to information, mobile informs how we shop and where we go.
But how brands plan and execute communications across an ever-expanding list of disconnected messages delivered through uncoordinated channels is still a challenge. Two examples highlight how both a complex sale--a car--and a highly promoted, household staple--detergent--push executions in creative ways to connect through online, video, and mobile to drive store sales.
In this example, Ford focused its creative approach on building its brand (equity) and driving direct response (action) by tapping into an unexpected tactic delivered by a credible influencer, Lewis Hilsenteger from Unbox Therapy. Marrying the tactic of unboxing, where influencers review products, usually reserved for electronics, and applying that concept to selling the features and benefits of the Ford is simple, credible, and effective.
This example from Tide underscores the effectiveness of location-aware messaging within a dynamic mobile ad that pairs store level price, item, and store content messaging that is inherently tailored to New York. What sets it apart from other ads is the ability to blend a tailored reason to believe with a reason to act.
Executing content more seamlessly across both sides of the equation and bridging the gap becomes the opportunity ahead of us (i.e., the ability to micro target and micro message, bridge digital and physical worlds, and promote the brand and sell product).
Think "and" because there is no more "either/or."