10 Industry Challenges Successful Marketers Have Overcome

Liodice Looks at the Changes That Have Forced Brands to Adapt

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Bob Liodice
Bob Liodice
The one constant in the marketing industry is that it is ever-changing. Over time marketing has faced countless challenges, be it from disruptive new technologies, consumer empowerment or ongoing advertiser trust issues. As a result, the marketing community continuously adapts to achieve its goal to successfully connect with consumers. The following 10 examples show the marketing industry's strength in turning challenges into opportunities for growth.

Shift from radio to TV
Just 20 years after the first radio commercials aired in 1922, the first TV commercial ran in 1941. As TV sets quickly made their way into living rooms, the landscape to which advertisers had become accustomed instantly changed, ushering in an exciting way to reach mass audiences. This new category forced marketers to strategically shift to using sight, sound and motion to convince consumers. Seventy years later, TV is still the preferred media for advertisers. But it's a medium with its share of challenges, as well as substantial opportunities -- as evidenced by interactive TV and addressability.

DVR/Video on demand
Consumers are in control. Nowhere is that more evident than in the explosive use of DVRs and, to a lesser extent, video on demand. The challenge of DVR and video on demand is simple: They enable consumers to time-shift programming and skip over ads. That's an obvious barrier for TV advertisers, as Nielsen estimates that 37% of TV households have DVRs, and the percentage is increasing. Additionally, nearly 135 million people now watch video on the internet, deciding when they wish to view select programming. Marketers have adapted with branded entertainment partnerships, ads that work in fast forward, interactive TV technologies and online video sponsorships.

Advent of the internet
In 1997, just 18% of the U.S. population had internet access. In 2010, 77% of the 300-plus million Americans are connected. That means that consumers can now get more information about products and services from internet sources than through traditional media. As the internet consistently evolves, new enormous challenges -- and opportunities -- arise for marketers. They must work to maintain their brand promise as consumer information about their companies proliferates on social media, blogs and websites other than their own.

User-generated content
Technology has put the consumer in control of brands. They now can dish out their personal experiences, thoughts and ideas on websites, blogs and through social media. No longer do brands maintain their own perceptions. Instead, brand perceptions are influenced by consumers. The challenge for marketers is to fit their companies into this two-way conversation. The public expects and deserves honesty and transparency. This level of direct contact with consumers, when wholeheartedly embraced by a company, creates a golden opportunity to enhance brand loyalty.

Proliferation of media
The number of media outlets has multiplied since the days of exclusive reliance on newspapers, radio and TV. Consumers are increasingly using media that speak specifically to them, in the format they desire. Marketers are now challenged with maintaining consistent messages across multiple platforms, integrating each to work well with the others. This directly affects budgeting, as more forms of media are considered, evaluated and used. Media proliferation also encourages marketing-mix modeling to ensure effectiveness.

Mobile marketing

Mobile has been growing in popularity as a medium for advertising with the rise of smartphones, SMS and MMS. People expect, quite literally, to have the world at their fingertips, and the next step for marketers is to get consumers comfortable with receiving advertising on their PDAs. While the introduction of smartphone applications has given rise to some mobile-marketing activity, there are still many ways to embrace the technology. For instance, the rise of location-based marketing is just starting to give local businesses and services the chance to interact with their on-the-go consumers. These targeted activities can greatly benefit consumers, if we can put them at ease with such marketing tactics.

Multicultural marketing
Multicultural marketing exploded in the 1980s as the need to create more tailored advertisements based on cultural differences became increasingly essential. This growing emphasis, combined with media proliferation, has challenged marketers to align their brands closely with varied cultures. The next step in marketing's evolution is to shed the arrogance of the "general market." Marketers must avoid simply translating English ads into other languages and create campaigns targeted specifically for certain ethnic markets. They must also be acutely aware of cultural sensitivities that may be pertinent to their campaigns, embracing the many facets of multicultural marketing from start to finish.

Consumers have serious concerns about their privacy online. Legislators, public policy groups and the marketing industry are all paying close attention to the issues of behavioral data in online advertising. For marketers the challenge is twofold: First, they must resolve the issue. Second, the industry must gain legislative and public-policy trust and settle consumers' apprehension. To make this practice responsible and transparent, industry trade associations, including the AAF, ANA, 4As, DMA, IAB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus, have come together to introduce self-regulatory principles. This accountability process will help the industry show it is focused on consumers' interests.

Celebrity endorsements in a transparent society
Celebrity endorsements have consistently been a strategic platform for marketers. Consumers look to celebrities for new trends, and marketers recognize that linking a product or service with a well-respected and recognized celebrity can be lucrative and help build the brand. Marketers must consider the potential for brand damage, however, especially with today's culture offering intimate peeks into celebrities' lives. Marketers must assess the risks of taking on a celebrity spokesperson whose choices could seriously affect a brand's image.

Trust in marketing
In a recent report from marketing-solutions provider Alterian, 95% of respondents indicated that they did not trust advertising, with fewer than 8% trusting what companies say about themselves. This poor image, lack of respect and low sense of trust in the marketing industry is not new but consistently poses a major challenge. To resolve these consumer doubts, it's essential that marketers create campaigns that are smart and strategic as well as honest and transparent. There are more opportunities today to communicate directly with consumers and recreate that trust firsthand. It's imperative that we all do so, each and every day.

Bob Liodice is the president-CEO of the ANA (Association of National Advertisers). This is the eighth in a series of 10 columns being published in celebration of the ANA's 100th anniversary.
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