2016 is in the rear view mirror, but a flip of the calendar doesn’t mean things are any easier for marketers. With uncertainty, confusion, and change dotting the landscape, marketers are tasked with engaging audiences that are skeptical and overserved. So what’s next? Where should marketers focus? Some of BSG’s senior executives offer their ideas, predictions, and advice.
Let Customers be the Heroes in Your Story
With skepticism high and brand trust low, marketers face a dilemma. Keep a tight focus on the customer by offering transactional benefits, or tell a broader brand story emphasizing the values that drive it forward. In truth, it’s a false choice. The brands that break through will tell their own stories through narratives that make customers the protagonist. By linking a brand’s values and vision for the future to customers’ own, companies can become part of their customers’ lives and vice versa. The key is understanding the stories your customers are telling about their own lives—where they want to go, what’s working for them, and what obstacles are standing in their way. Only by appreciating the narratives customers feel are shaping their own lives can a brand absorb them into the broader narrative they want to tell about themselves.
– Danny Franklin, Managing Partner
Strategy – Not Tactics – Need to Drive Integrated Marketing Communications
Marketers’ natural inclination is to promote their brand through various communication channels and rely on soft metrics related to breakthrough and click rates to evaluate effectiveness. Unfortunately, this overemphasizes “tactics” that are too often siloed and out-of-sync with brand mission and message. The increasing reliance on digital agencies, big data analytics, and CRM specialists has caused marketers to forget a core principle – effective communications need to be driven by an overarching strategy.
Marketers are more concerned with the how and where of their communications instead of the why and what. At times, messages and communications are running contrary, rather than complimentary, to each other. As brands work harder to build lasting connections with their customers, they cannot forget the power of a strong communications strategy told across channels in a cohesive, integrated way. Going forward, I believe companies must revert to a “strategy first and tactics second” approach – ensuring creative and targeting is aligned with broader strategy. As a result, measuring individual tactics will be less important than having a holistic read on how different vehicles are delivering on the strategy and impacting key brand metrics.
– Mitch Markel, Partner
The Importance of the Brand Experience
Today, consumers are touched by brands in an ever-expanding number of environments and contexts. Companies are increasing the distribution channels they sell in and expanding the ways their brand can reach, communicate, and engage with their consumers. At the same time this proliferation of touchpoints creates opportunities, it also creates new challenges for marketers to rise above the noise, tell their stories, create connections, and facilitate relationships.
Progressive marketers will meet this challenge head on and take the necessary steps to present their brand at each touchpoint in a relevant way. Doing so will require understanding consumer expectations at every turn and careful planning. Successfully integrating the brand throughout the consumer journey will familiarize consumers with the brand, its benefits, and its values. It will also help marketers break through, connect, and shape the customer experience in ways that garner brand loyalty.
– Jennifer Negrin, Executive Vice President
2017 for Europe Means Instability, Opportunity for the Brave and the Rebirth of Data-Driven Communications
Brexit and Trump inspired instability has already led to caution amongst marketers and a projected downturn in global advertising revenues in 2017. Adding to this is an increasingly complex regulatory minefield and what’s set to be further political upheaval across Europe this year. Within this uncertainty however, there’s a sense that everything could be up for grabs. BSG’s work already shows the window of opportunity for brands across banking, automotive, healthcare, technology, and other sectors to drive a competitive commercial advantage in their response to Brexit. What is clear though is that to seize the opportunity and be brave, marketers need to be able to demonstrate effectiveness and a clear route to success.
But this need to demonstrate the route to success comes at a time of increased skepticism about how to deliver it. Further questions are being asked of those purporting to have silver bullet solutions, from economists, to big-data scientists, to the transparency of digital advertising. None of this is new. But in the 2017 context of instability and opportunity, never has there been a greater need for marketers to rise above the fray, look across Big, Small and Digital Data, glean the right strategy, and be more confident and creative in how they grow their businesses.
– Andrew Eynon, Managing Director, UK