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No longer is brand marketing likely to remain the prerogative of conventional brand marketing organisations.
Whilst these organisations have great strengths in creativity, planning and campaign delivery, they exhibit fewer strengths online where a host of brand association, experience and conversation takes place.
There are others who are better placed to engage and create influence by blog, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter already thrive online. And they are the digital agencies...
Brand marketing organisations will have to change
So far though, brand owners are reluctant to take digital seriously for brand marketing. Perhaps this is because the techniques for engaging with social media and the metrics for calculating brand performance are not standardised.
However, it cannot be long before they are. At that stage, brand marketing organisations will have to change. This may require the morphing of conventional brand agencies and digital agencies into new types of entity which focus on social media engagement. Alternatively it may result in conventional agencies ceding some brand control to digital agencies
Whatever the outcome, the means by which social media can be used to create, generate and nurture brand loyalty continues to evolve. According to a recent Econsultancy Value of Social Media report, written in conjunction with OMS, most companies understand the importance of social media.
The report reveals that, out of 400 companies and their agencies, 85% use Facebook, 77% use Twitter, 58% use LinkedIn and 49% use YouTube. They use these places for brand awareness, monitoring and reputation
Given this high corporate level of social media involvement, it can only be a matter of time before there is a change in how brands are managed. Social media is switched on every second of every day and so brand management organisations need to be too. It is an environment for brand-knowledgeable, media-savvy, brand marketers with effective interpersonal skills.
Forrester believes that conventional branding organisations will have to shift their focus to what they call “adaptive brand marketing.” They suggest that as well as the conventional marketing mix of Product, Price, Placement and Positioning, a new set of Ps will need to be applied: Permission, Proximity, Perception, and Participation.
These are mostly about social engagement, but as ever in marketing, things are not quite that simple. Whilst digital competencies are critically important for social media engagement, conventional marketing competencies are highly important too.
Online is not replacing offline for brand marketing. Studies show that offline channels drive a significant amount of traffic online. So the ideal branding organisation needs to have a combination of both online and offline channel marketing competencies. This is increasingly relevant given the ongoing offline / online convergence, such as the growth of IPTV and the use of QR (Quick response) codes in Outdoor. And of course, the fact that many people watch terrestrial television with a mobile or laptop to hand.
So the means by which markets may experience brands is widening all the time which is why the key strength of digital - that of accurate measurement and in-depth social media capability - is likely to be brought to bear on offline marketing to enable the brand marketer to identify the marketing interactions which perform best.
This is why the emerging technology of attribution management is so relevant i.e. attributing the correct value to an advertisement or interaction which leads to a website sale and or conversion.
Currently, most organisations measure the value of a campaign or media placement on the last click which led to the conversion. A visitor may see a banner advertisement, then undertake a search, click on a PPC advertisement and then ultimately convert. Conventional analysis would give full credit for that conversion to the PPC advertisement – the last click - and no credit to the banner advertisement. The marketer would have no idea that the banner advertisement had any effect on the conversion
The purpose of an attribution management system is to put that misleading impression right. It gives insight into which brand advertisements and interactions led to sales and or conversions. Some attribution management systems not only track interactions which lead to conversion but they can also track revenue and profit.
What is interesting about this technology is that it can also be used to measure the effect of offline activity, say from Print, Outdoor, TV and Radio (provided accurate data is held). Data can be sourced from a corporate CRM system into the attribution management system. Whilst the measurement from offline cannot be as accurate as that from online, the fact that attribution management is being viewed for both is yet another factor which will influence the future shape and capability of brand marketing organisations.
Digital agencies need to adapt
These signs of change have led digital agencies to enhance their offline competencies. For instance, the digital agency, Steak, recently attended Econsultancy’s training course in Offline Marketing Principles, which I delivered. Steak’s rationale is to boost their offline marketing capability and bring their digital skills to bear on the offline market.
Gareth Owen, head of SEO for Steak says:
We intend to offer our clients serious market advantage through an unrivalled ability to apply the strengths of digital to assist offline marketing and branding.
In essence, they are gearing themselves up to be recognised as a digital agency that not only understands brand marketing, but can optimise the relationship between offline and online and all the associated technologies for performance measurement.
Bringing the components of efficient brand marketing seamlessly together; exploiting the technologies, engaging with the market, managing advertising effectiveness and producing appropriate marketing metrics for both offline and online channels is going to require a new type of brand marketing organisation.
Whatever the future, brand marketing is unlikely to remain the prerogative of conventional brand marketing organisations for much longer.