Well, the Framework for Engagement did not generate much discussion. Perhaps it was too technical, or not technical enough. That duality is always a problem when you are trying to unravel an issue at the junction of Marketing and Technology; you have to speak down the middle and sometimes, you don’t “engage” either audience.
So let’s try attacking this issue in another way…from the “generally accepted Marketing speak” perspective.
First, a couple of short definitions:
Brand – the actual personality of your company or products, the experience and feelings people have when they think about and interact with your company or products.
Branding – the act of trying to communicate this brand or product personality to people though media. As we know, this Branding effort can project an image that is different from the actual Brand.
Here is what is happening:
1. Marketing communications used to be one-way, and the “media” was in control of these communications. This was the era of Branding, where companies tried to establish a personality and set of benefits associated with products. For the most part, the only challenge to this effort, unless it was a spectacular failure or blatantly false, was conversations over the backyard fence with neighbors.
2. Marketing communications are now at least two-way, if not many-to-many. This means in terms of the shear volume of communications, it’s more often Brand (the true personality or experience) than Branding being communicated, e.g. “the customer is in control of your Brand”. While I don’t think this is true, I think it is possible to allow the customer to take control of your Brand, but you have to give up control for that to happen.
3. With Brand more important than Branding, companies need to pay more attention to the actual product and service experiences they deliver. This means product design and customer service / experience become much more important than they have been in the past, relative to Branding and media.
4. Direct Marketers have always been hyper-sensitive to Brand – the products and experience – because that is all they have. In a one-to-one Relationship with the customer not fueled by GRP’s, if they screw up the Brand part, they are toast. They can’t afford to do business any other way but being deeply thoughtful about the end customer.
This is why, for example, most catalogs and TV Shopping networks were very early winners in e-commerce and established a lot of the best practices, especially on the back end – they already got all this. Same business, different medium. Web analytics was happening at these companies way before it became accepted as mainstream.
This is what interactivity with the customer brings to the table. It changes the customer Relationship. Yes, the web is different, as is TV shopping. It requires a lot more focus on actually delivering on Brand promises. It requires more empathy with the customer, requires streamlined and flawless operations and execution. Because now that every person can “be the media”, it is possible for a company to allow customers to take control of the Brand. But they have to give this control up first, by not understanding the fundamental changes interactivity brings to the table through the shift from Branding to Brand as the centerpiece of Marketing execution.
Here is what needs to be done:
1. Unfortunately, most Marketing people have skills that are aligned around media and creative, not products and service. This is unfortunate, and is leading to the Deconstruction of Marketing and rise of the Chief Customer Officer. To correct this, Marketers need to expand their skill sets, and interact more deeply with Operations / Customer Service.
2. For most Brands outside of packaged goods, Media dollars need to be shifted away from mass media and more into direct / database Marketing and yes, into Operations. Personally, I have used Marketing budget to pay for customer service testing and upgrades, because I know how important they are when dealing with interactivity. Apparently, I am not alone, as some of this is starting to happen already. For example, $100 million out of TV into direct at Talbot’s.
3. Marketers (and analysts, of course) need to change the way they look at customer measurement. If the customer relationship is now different, it has to be measured differently, measured interactively. I run media, I get response, that measurement is not accurate with existing customers. I drop catalogs, I get response, that measurement is not accurate with existing customers.
Because now you have Interactivity, and you have always-on scenarios that are self-perpetuating, people can visit or order from a web site any damn time they want – regardless of marketing stimulation. The key variable to understand is not response, but what you get from the customer without doing any “outbound” marketing at all. This is the true measure of your success with Interactivity – how “engaged” the customer is with your Brand.
If you are addressing Interactivity properly and doing a good job with the Brand – design, experience, service – consumers will want to interact and / or purchase from you regardless of and sometimes even despite your marketing efforts.
That is the way Interactivity works.
In fact, it can be argued that the better you are at Interactivity and Brand, the less you will have to spend on Media and Marketing, because interactivity begs continuity – you don’t need to spend to drive response, because you have an ongoing relationship, the customer is drawn back to you time and time again through the power of your Brand. That’s what you wanted, right? A Relationship?
So I ask you, Marketers and Analysts. Can you have it both ways?
You wanted Interactivity, now you have it. Now that you have it, are you going to go about your business like nothing has changed? Will you continue to measure your success in the many-to-many media world using the one-way media measurement model of “response”? Or are you going to learn the ways of Interactivity, shed the old models, and begin to learn how Customer Interactivity works?
After all, if all this Interactivity with customers is really new and very important, then shouldn’t “Strength of Relationship” be the most important KPI you could ever measure to determine success?
In other words, are you going to Measure Customer Engagement and dis-Engagement rather than Response as the true benchmark of your success in an Interactive Marketing world?
What are your comments on the above? Does the scenario I painted on what is happening with Marketing / Brand / Branding make sense to you? What about my suggestions on what Marketers need to do to address these changes? What did I get right or wrong? What is holding you back from making these changes, if anything?