Opinion: Doubling down on digital basics
Something feels odd. A consumer goods marketer can use sophisticated tools to identify the next best thing in emerging technology, but at the same time often can’t even be sure the company’s digital media spend was seen by the right person. Instead of following what’s trendy, let’s focus on what’s effective. Let’s excel in a strategy that works. Listed here are the brilliant digital basics, which is everything we’re already doing—just a lot better.
Win the digital shelf
E-commerce highlights performance; there are a few big winners and many more losers. This is why winning the digital shelf is crucial. Brands are moving beyond standardized metrics provided by auditing tools to isolate what moves the needle for their specific category or brand. General Mills, for example, has developed e-commerce merchandising strategies by shopper mission—whether spearfishing for the specific, hard-to-find items or shopping for a full basket of goods. And General Mills enjoys an online market share that exceeds physical stores by 20 percent. Some brands are going further to design packaging specifically for the online shopper.
Of course, stellar mobile-ready content is now a necessity. For instance, Hershey’s thumb-stopping packaging uses bright strips of color for each brand of candy in a variety pack, a strategy that also works well in stores.
Take back control
Recent research shows that consumer packaged goods companies are typically spending 30 to 45 percent of advertising spend on digital, but leading brands also recognize that media performance is more important than channel mix. The pipe is not significant; its quality is. To achieve this outcome, brands are taking control of their relationships with strategic publishers, moving more of their technology stack in-house and are transforming staff into data-driven practitioners. GSK introduced Marketing IQ as a capability-building program to train staff on the fundamentals of marketing in the digital era, with modules including search, content and programmatic advertising. This transformation enabled GSK to bring digital media planning in-house and also to replace a dozen demand-side platforms with a consolidated solution from Google to improve agility, transparency and control.
Unify customer data
In the recent acceleration to acquire data, we can lose sight of the fact that data represents a person. For this reason, we see the growing importance of identity resolution. Brands are investing in technology and data infrastructure that can link multiple digital identity and behavioral signals to a unified consumer record. Once established, this can be deployed across a number of use cases, including building highly targeted audiences, personalizing experiences, and measuring marketing effectiveness. Ab-InBev says its ability to match consumer identity across multiple platforms, enrich profile data over time and deliver targeted content has resulted in media savings of 10 percent.
Run deliberate testing at scale
Most consumer goods companies have now an embedded test-and-learn culture into their marketing organizations. A sound philosophy, but sometimes we mistake activity for progress. Are we moving forward or just iterating in circles?
We see three main characteristics of brands that do this well. All begin with a clear business problem and an ongoing hypothesis, which helps ensure data and analytic models are aligned to commercial priorities. Next, testing plans are incorporated upfront, with the ability to read and respond while in-market. Finally, testing is systematic and at scale. Instead of doing quarterly reports, leading brands conduct thousands of tests annually, often simultaneously. Procter & Gamble, for example, is moving to a model of “hands-on-the-keyboard,” whereby in-house teams use technology and data to conduct performance marketing experiments, enabling the business to work faster, at lower costs and operate with greater agility.
A final note
Over the last few years, we’ve been bombarded by a narrative of disruption; however, many digital innovations—mobile, social and e-commerce—are now mainstream. It is time for marketing organizations to evolve from digital experimentation to systematic excellence at scale. Embracing these brilliant digital basics might not win you a Cannes Lion, but they can reward you with superior business performance.
Ron Kinghorn is PwC’s Consumer Markets consulting leader for the US, Mexico, Japan and China.