Integrating online marketing into marketing communications is the key to success & longevity
The head of the world’s largest PR firm, Edelman, declared recently that the marketing industry has its business backward. That marketing has a “short-term and broken model”. And, he’s saying, it doesn’t have to be this way. Where brands could originally only reach and stimulate consumers through advertising or promotional marketing, we’re seeing brands such as American Express, Coke, Red Bull and Dove all creating content rich stories, integrated into much wider campaigns, to enable connections in consumer news feeds.
Annoyingly Edelman is pointing to “marketing” but referencing the advertising model specifically, but the point is still great if viewed in a wider context.
“I see the emergence of a new paradigm, which is ‘communications marketing’ instead of ‘marketing communications.’”
Richard Edelman, CEO, Edelman
Of course Edelman is encouraging a PR or journalistic mindset of ‘communications’ vs ‘marketing’. If we cut the jargon, this is a PR guru’s take on what’s now well established thinking for ‘new’ or permission based marketing as described by Seth Godin et al. What we’re saying from my perspective is ‘relationship marketing’ vs ‘promotional marketing’. And how long has the idea of one to one marketing been around? Since 1996, that's a long time.
Here’s another practitioner guru stressing that we should avoid limiting our thinkinking and plans to digital and putting it in a silo. In this article Marc Mathieu says: "People think too much about digital marketing".
“We need to start thinking about marketing in a digital world, a world gone digital. We think too much about digital marketing, which is applying thinking we have learnt to marketing digitally.”
Marc Mathieu, SVP Marketing, Unilever
What does it all mean for you?
No matter the jargon, thought leader or angle we approach it from - what I feel we can understand is that: A lack of a coherent, customer (or consumer) centred is the death of successful online marketing (or PR, or whatever angle you approach it from). Creating poorly integrated online marketing strategies or plans can cause further problems
We can break this down further by way of understanding the problem in order we design the right solutions - and more importantly, not f**k up our marketing strategy.
- Digitally-led - As Marc Mathieu states in the quote above, we’re digitally led only because it’s where our consumer is more reachable, more of the time, offering us a means to connect. And, in online marketing, content is the means to connect if we get the distribution right. Since consumers are now spending so much of their time online a digital transformation strategy is needed as we explain in our new guide. But this must be integrated with marketing communications as a whole.
- Audience - everything starts with the content consumer. How poor is most advertising targeting today? Very. It remains at best demographically led, maybe target group led: HR manager, baby-boomer, teenager. But a baby boomer in Yorkshire is a large part of the population, from a 55 year old CEO to a 50 year old part-time yoga instructor. Their beliefs and motivations are very different and no basis for effective marketing - think of them as representative personas who require more detailed descriptions. Answering this is the first, and most important cornerstone to strategic planning.
- Brand as vehicle - “Brand” is an often misused term, fail to get this right at your expense for online marketing. Your brand essence / DNA / one thing / reason why / two words - are the means to to great clarity around your content, in any and every format. If you don’t know what your brands stand for then your audience certainly won’t. Do your ‘two words’ (we call these our single organising principle) reflect your consumer’s experience of your brand? Acid test this with looking at search terms of traffic hitting your site aside from brand name. Do you want those associated?
- Communications marketing - creating content once and broadcasting it everywhere is not content marketing. It’s more likely sales or product promotion in a different guise. Yet, if you (a) know your audience for, (b) know your brand and (c) know where your promoting the content then it’s far from create once and broadcast? Focussing on micro content is the answer, recognising that each platform you promote content within, there are many, is different and akin to their own countries with different beliefs, rules and language. Great Gary Vaynerchuck interview here about the micro-content revolution and content for communications and relationship building.
- Content must serve - serve don’t sell by applying the science of small wins – essentially answering one question, providing one tip or addressing one issue per piece of content. You also have the option of improving someone’s day by using entertainment or humour as well. Or a combination. Our content marketing matrix aims to visualise this quickly and easily. Incidently, Edleman’s key to communications marketing provides an additional and interesting check-list:
“Rational and built for consumption.” (Useful to the reader)
“Emotional and built for sharing.” (Of human interest)
“Supported by data and insight.” (Factually sound)
- Objectives - clearly and logically detail exactly how digital marketing activity will tie back to core business objectives. Why are you bothering. Developing digital objectives is usually a 4 step process that involves interpreting a core business goal (usually revenue), then broad marketing goals that if achieved, will undoubtedly lead to generation of revenue. We then those for the digital space and come up with 3 to 5 objectives based on the broad marketing goal set. Usually there’ll be too many objectives so using a Kill Keep Combine method for prioriting right down to what will matter for the next quarter - rather than a long list of objectives for the whole year - is a great method.
- Media & Distribution - BuzzFeed VP of Agency Strategy Jonathan Perelman once said, “Content is king, distribution is queen, and she wears the pants.” So how you intend to get your amazing stuff in front of the right people, at the right time requires that you think channels before tactics - with mobile and apps stealing time, social changing (will Facebook even look like it does today in 3 years - unlikely!) - it’s not about deep diving into tactics. How will you blend paid, owned and earned media and create touch-points with your audience that make sense? See our Buzzfeed case study for more.From a personal experience in SMEs with limited resources I’d usually recommend starting with (or cutting down to) 3 to 5. Trying to do too much, on too many platforms can spread you or your team too thin – killing effectiveness.
With 67% of the search market, Google remains king from an ever-important search perspective, and as search and discover tools like Knowledge Graph suggest, it’s getting increasingly more sophisticated at not only returning the richest query results, but also anticipating what someone will want to see next. Forget those one dimensional old practises about “how to rank for [xxxx]” - it’s time take a much broader view of consumer journeys.
- Integration & measurement - Of course, any plan requires masses of context. (1) Without adequate integration with the rest of the picture, digital is lost at sea as a stand alone domain of marketing, it forgets the consumer. (2) Similarly the KPI selection to measure effectiveness must be specific to the goals, objectives, channels and tactics in play, altering the dashboard to reflect what matters at that moment is good sense. Prioritise and focus on the handful that will kill or grow the result. There’s so much change today that a tight handle on a smaller data-set is much more empowering to be able to manage and pivot activities as needed.
What say you? Any advice for keeping a firm handle on your strategy?