Three neglected rules marketers must follow to communicate with customers more effectively

17 September 2018 / Catherine Kelly

Gone are the days where marketing was all about advertising, big events and nice lunches. And no longer can we hide behind the excuse of being unable to measure the effectiveness of campaigns. Times have changed – fast.  Marketers today are much more insight focused, getting under the skin of what individuals want, and chasing results.

In this blog, Head of Marketing Effectiveness, Catherine Kelly talks through the most common marketing mishaps and explains how maths and science can excel your marketing and enable you to get through to your customers.

Marketers today have never been more accountable.  Advocate of advertising and pioneer of marketing, John Wanamaker, once said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”.  A century later we have no such excuse.  The explosion of rich data, developments in technology and the application of sophisticated mathematics in this space means that a generation of insight-driven marketers are now able to make decisions based on robust insights – not gut feel.

The challenge is no longer that marketing is a black art with minimal information on how this business investment is working, it is that marketers can be swamped by data and opinion, some of which is misleading or biased.  During years of measuring and optimising the effectiveness of marketing I have found three core rules that should sit at the heart of marketing strategy:

 

Marketing rule number 1: Your marketing channels need to work as a team

The traditional business structure of marketing “channel owners” and the way that media players are inevitably keen to shout about the success of their advertising vehicle has resulted in a competitive relationship.  There has been an abundance of research and opinion pieces pitching media channels against each other, informing the reader that a particular channel is better than another.  Of course, in reality, media channels are competing for budget but the premise that one is fundamentally better than another in all circumstances is nonsense. 

The power of a good marketing campaign is the combination of different media to deliver the message to all potential customers at every stage of their customer journey.  Delivering messages through channels in silos invariably is less effective than the amplifying effect of deploying marketing via a combination of appropriate channels.  Specifically, marketing media channels have strengths at different points in the customer buying cycle.  For example, TV is an excellent ‘upper funnel’ media that is effective when raising awareness and ensuring a brand is considered when a customer is shopping around.  Other channels, like online display are extremely effective in the ‘lower funnel’, nearer to conversion.  They are excellent at reminding a customer about a brand when they are showing intent to purchase (e.g. seeking out information). 
 
Media channels may be competing for budget but they need to work as a team. Traditionally methods to measure the impact (£ value) and efficiency (ROI) of marketing, like A/B testing and less sophisticated econometric models, do not consider the interactivity of marketing channels.  They calculate how a channel works in isolation but neglect the crucial “interdependency factor” which, if understood and acted upon, can dramatically enhance the impact of marketing.
 
Mathematics has provided the solution.  New, sophisticated attribution methods that are built at an individual customer level, consider not only the marketing being delivered but the sequence, timing and combination of channels.  Transforming understanding of the customer journey and enabling marketers to deploy the right combination of marketing weapons at the right time.

 

Marketing rule number 2: Do not focus marketing effectiveness solely on media channel performance

Often in marketing meetings you hear phrases like “press just doesn’t work for us” or “TV was extremely effective at Christmas”.  While the media channel chosen to deliver the marketing message is core to the success of a campaign, it is just one part of the equation.  Knowing this and developing a suite of measurement solutions that enable true understanding of performance is key.
 
The media channel or ‘vehicle’ for delivering marketing is just one element of the campaign.  Combined with other key components, such as tailored messaging and impactful creative, it can create successful marketing that resonates with customers and hopefully encourages a purchase.  All media channels can work.  They can all achieve a positive ROI, drive awareness and increase brand saliency - and all can fail to do so. 

 

Effective marketing relies on a combination of four key components: 

Attribution image

 

All media vehicles can work if the message is clear, compelling and relevant.  Disentangling the elements that determine the success of marketing is challenging.  It requires a suite of techniques which, used in combination, give a marketer a 360 degree view of the campaign results.  A complete marketing effectiveness suite should include:
 

Commercial impact measurement

  • Sophisticated models that are capable of disentangling simultaneous events and considering the interactivity of component factors via methods like highly advanced data-driven attribution and econometrics
  • Direct causation methods like A/B tests (to validate models and trial tactics)

Customer view

  • Response trackers that capture claimed awareness and response
  • Research and focus groups to deep-dive on core questions

Customer response 

  • Neuroscience techniques to understand the non-conscious emotional response to marketing creative 
Invariably, brand owners need to harness external expertise in order to fulfil this breadth of requirements.  Choosing the best agency for each solution and ensuring that they are committed and capable of working seamlessly together is the best approach. 
 

Rule number 3: Know what your short term needs are while planning for the future

The last 15 years have seen a huge shift in consumer behaviour and media consumption.  The “consumer age” which was typified in the first 90 years of the last century were perfect conditions for the birth of corporate brands.  During this period, brands were able to reach a large scale audience through one-way communication.  Now, advances in technology, launch of the internet and creation of social media platforms have transformed consumer expectations, experience and behaviour.   

There were of course knee-jerk reactions and a decade of opinion pieces would have us believe that the death of traditional advertising is “nigh”. However, evidence does not support this theory.  In fact, TV, radio and press continue to play a crucial role in marketing plans.  The truth is far more nuanced.
 
For example, traditional TV advertising continues to be an extremely effective and efficient vehicle for delivering (excellent) message and creative but emerging trends mean that the targeting of it is changing.  Specifically, traditional linear TV is now watched predominantly by older audiences 45yrs+.  This group are watching more TV than ever before.  So, if your brand is mainstream and your audience is primarily ‘older’ then TV can be a very effective and efficient way to communicate with your core customers.  However, evidence suggests that millennials watch far less linear TV and the trend is negative year on year.
 
So, if your brand is targeted at this younger audience you need an alternative, more relevant channel to communicate through.  
 
Media consumption trends and habits are unlikely to reverse.  We cannot expect millennials to start watching linear TV or buying newspapers when they get older.  So, while continuing to deliver marketing messages through the most appropriate channels for now, marketers need to ‘tool up’ to be prepared and able to talk to their customers in the future.  Brands that are keen to “get fit for the future” are leading the way in testing and building an understanding of how emerging digital channels can be best deployed (as part of the team) in combination with traditional channels, to engage with a generation of new consumers.

 

Three things you should definitely do

In the backdrop of marketing budgets being scrutinised and investments having to work harder than ever, marketers now have an unprecedented ability to measure and optimise their work to deliver powerful campaigns.  This blog outlines the three crucial rules to bear in mind when measuring marketing effectiveness:

 

  1. Understand how your marketing works holistically and deploy your comms across a team of media channels
  2. Measure each element of your marketing, not just the channel, so that you can truly understand and optimise
  3. Keep an eye on your 'consumers of the future' and build knowledge and expertise in how you will communicate with them
 
For an attribution checklist and more practical steps, download our data-driven attribution guide.