Brands need to stop thinking about ad campaigns, websites and social media as separate experiences. This siloed thinking creates a fragmented consumer experience. Brands must shift the mindset to think of modern marketing as simply a data exchange.
On one side of this data exchange, consumers access critical information as they go through the purchase journey. In studies we conduct for our clients, we typically find over 40 different points of inflection where consumers make decisions and access information from brands. Sometimes the information they're looking for is as brief as a photo and sometimes they spend hours interacting with content.
Now, let's pause for a moment to think about what information really is. Information is data. Meaning consumers covet exactly what the brand does. Consumers want comprehensive, integrated, dynamic data. Data that provides the critical inputs for deciding how to invest their time, money and energy. Just like brands.
This is why the industry needs to move away from a reach and frequency model and move toward an empowerment model. Consumers don't want the same piece of data repeated over and over across multiple channels. They want information that is personalized based on their contextual needs and behavioral history.
Thinking about marketing as a data exchange shifts brands away from simply extending traditional campaigns to perform online. It shifts them away from the social media memes that strive for irrelevant engagement metrics. It shifts them away from videos desperately seeking to go viral. It shifts them away from websites that treat every customer the same exact way. Instead, it enables the brand story to grow on a one-to-one basis as consumers immerse themselves in research for products and take a journey down the sales funnel.
On the brand side of this equation, every time we provide data to the audience, we receive data in return. The most basic of which is demographic data. More interestingly, it's psychographic data. More importantly, it's behavioral data. Every time she clicks, she tells us something about herself. Looking at the travel category as an example we can all relate to, those clicks let us know about her family structure, budget, location, travel preferences, motivations and purchase barriers. We know where she wants to stay, when she wants to stay, why she wants to stay, what she wants to do, how much she wants to spend, who she wants to travel with, what barriers stand in her way and what motivators can get her over the final purchase hurdle.
That level of personalized data is revolutionary in nature, but not difficult to gather. What's critical is that brands' overarching mindset and internal structures change to capitalize on the opportunity. Brands typically have separate teams responsible for owned, earned and paid media, which limits their ability to profit from this data exchange. The data goes from the consumer to the brand, but it often doesn't get synthesized and disseminated throughout the organization.
It's not complicated mathematics, but corporate structures are slow to change. That's one of the key reasons why so many of the most successful brands are relatively young. They're not hamstrung by legacy organizational models.
When you think of marketing as a data exchange, you move beyond the concept of owned, earned and paid media. You realize that it's all just one thing: millions of consumers connected to brands by data. This shift in mindset helps brands make strategic decisions with a holistic look at the entire consumer journey. When brands leverage this mindset, they realize four key benefits:
1. Strategic budgeting: Brands can shift budgets away from paid media by identifying the channels that are most cost effectively delivering consumer data at each stage of the consumer journey rather than relying on paid interruptions to tell the entire brand story.
2. Optimized KPIs: Internal teams can create synergies across departments by focusing on the key performance indicators that lead to bottom-line results. For example, the content team won't focus on engagement metrics while the paid search team focuses on conversion.
3. Optimized technologies: Brands can leverage CMS personalization and media tagging to create a sequential brand story that changes as each consumer goes through her journey. No longer will each effort be optimized without thinking about a seamless consumer journey.
4. Strategic agency relationships: Brands can shift away from a large stable of agencies that are RFP'd for each assignment and move to a handful of retained partners who share complex data. No longer will agencies be asked to develop creative without being fully immersed in consumer behavior.
Brands no longer need to cram their entire brand story into a 30-second spot, a two-page print spread or a 300-pixel banner. Instead, they can leverage the entire consumer journey and embrace a two-way data exchange. By shifting to this mindset, brands can make the structural changes that benefit the consumer as well as the brand. This helps both entities spend their money more wisely by providing the data needed to make smarter decisions. It might not be the sexiest aspect of marketing, but it is now the most important.