In some ways, marketers have never had it so good.

Digital media offers marketers capabilities that previous generations could only dream about; digital display provides marketers the ability to reach its target market across many digital properties.

Social media gives a brand the potential to have its messaging mingle with people’s everyday personal interactions; search platforms help marketers reach consumers when they are researching a product; and retargeting allows brands to their keep its messaging in front of consumers who have already shown interest.

Yet many marketers feel that they are not yet exploiting the full potential of digital media. Results may have improved over traditional marketing efforts, but many marketers are either not meeting performance targets, or their efforts are at the very least, not improving over time.

What if taking a campaign-based approach to marketing is what’s preventing you from exploiting this potential? In this piece, I’ll explore some of the shortcomings of campaign-based marketing, and offer an alternative approach based on a presentation by Mark van den Haak, Oracle Marketing Cloud from Econsultancy’s recent Agile Marketing event in Manila.

The norm: campaign-centric marketing

The traditional way for a brand to reach customers is to

  1. Create an offer
  2. Schedule the campaign
  3. Send it out to a wide audience

And this approach has been enhanced by digital media to a large extent.

Segmentation: Third-party data allows marketers to segment their target market by using many demographic and psychographic variables.

Targeting: By deploying third-party data, brand can leverage programmatic, social and even search platforms help brands find potential customers online and deliver a highly-targeted offer.

Interactions: Brands can measure consumer reaction to offers down to the individual click.

Transactions: Marketers can trace the source of conversions to a reasonable extent and understand which of the digital platforms are driving the most traffic.

A series of icons illustrating the traditional, campaign-based approach to marketing: Creating an offer, scheduling in the calendar, and sending to a mass audience.

The limitations of campaign-centric marketing

Many of the benefits of digital media also lead to marketers discovering the limits of campaign-centric marketing.

1) Brands are finding it difficult to keep ahead of competition

Despite being able to target offers toward well-defined customer segments, many brands have found that using third-party data does not offer a competitive advantage. P&G, for example, stated that targeted advertising on Facebook caused sales to stagnate, rather than increase them.

What can P&G and Facebook teach us about the reality of targeting and the future of TV ads?

One possible reason for the reduced impact of targeted messaging is that all brands have access to the same data.  Segments identified as high-value by one brand will almost certainly be targeted by others. And, when the same consumer receives multiple, similar offers, all competing brands suffer.

2) Engagement across channels is difficult

While technology platforms are now available to help marketers manage campaigns across all digital channels, it is still quite difficult to manage engagement cross-platform.

Using third-party data undoubtedly helps marketers find the right customer, but it doesn’t help when trying to determine the next-best-action for a multi-channel consumer.

3) The customer journey has become unpredictable

Targeted campaigns allow brands to deliver bespoke offers to customer segments, but customers do not typically simply ‘click and buy’. Instead, according to a study by McKinsey & Co, consumers now take a long, unpredictable journey before the moment of purchase.

So, while campaign-based marketing makes it easier for marketers to reach the right person, it does not necessarily help find them at the right moment.

The alternative: customer-centric marketing

One alternative to campaign-based marketing is for brands to start their marketing strategy by thinking about the customer, instead of the offer.

Called ‘customer-centric’ marketing, this approach involves:

  1. Building customer profiles or ‘personas’
  2. Designing an experience for each persona
  3. Using digital marketing platforms to interact individually with its target customers
A series of icons illustrating the process of customer-centric marketing: building profiles/personas, designing an experience, and interacting individually.

Then, instead of marketing to a customer segment, say ‘women between the ages of 24 and 35’ or ‘auto shoppers’, your marketing is planned to walk an individual through a shopping journey.

‘Moments’ are created which take consumers from finding out about your product to understanding enough to make comparisons. Offers are no longer delivered to a mass audience but personalized to appeal to desires revealed through content viewed by individual consumers.

And buying opportunities are offered contextually – be it via an email, through social media, or even through an affiliate, each of which can be enhanced with bespoke content which adds value to the individual consumer.

The benefits of customer-centric marketing

The benefits of a customer-centric approach improve a brand’s marketing so that it can overcome many of the limitations of the campaign-based approach.

1) Customer-centric brands stand out from the competition

A customer-centric brand is no longer one in a list of many in its categories. Instead, it ‘understands’ its consumers better than the competition because it has captured their priorities and preferences better than the others. Content, offers and even purchasing funnels

2) They become more engaging no matter what channel consumers are using

Armed with a system which can efficiently manage 1st party data, brands can engage consumers across channels with messaging and offers which take into account previous engagement.  That is, if a customer has already downloaded a product data sheet, the follow-on ads can provide more product detail and less branding. Doing so will encourage customers to continue to engage with the brand, potentially at the expense of the competition.

3) They remain relevant throughout the customer journey

Finally, as the customer journey becomes increasingly difficult to predict, a customer-centric approach allows a brand to remain relevant as a consumer progresses toward a purchase. In addition to providing more engaging ads, brands can also ensure that a prospect has consistent messaging and offers no matter where they are on their journey.

Two lists comparing the benefits of campaign-centric and customer-centric marketing. On the campaign side: interactions, targeting, customer segmentation, media schedules, relevant messages, and transactions. On the customer side: moments, engaging, individualization, personalize experiences, contextual unity, and value.

Moving to customer-centric marketing

Moving to customer-centric marketing is a big step for marketers.  It requires investment in technology, analytics and, most importantly, in communicating the value of the customer-centric approach to stakeholders and the broader business.

But for many businesses, the benefits will outweigh the costs. A brand which uses customer-centric marketing will be able to engage consumers personally at every step of the customer journey and across all touchpoints.

To help marketers understand the transformation necessary, Econsultancy is holding an Agile Marketing event in Bangkok on November 29th to cover this topic and many others. For more information and to book your spot, visit our event site.