One of the biggest challenges for brands is to harness the value of true integration and creativity particularly during the next 12 months. Sandra McDowell, MD at Amaze Communications, highlights 7 key trends we expect from integrated marketing.
Today’s customers are exposed to more brand messages than ever before; they’re now more mobile, consume more reviews, and buy more online. To respond marketers must become customer-obsessed, adopting better ways to maximise their marketing efforts, to offer succinct and consistent messaging to remain relevant and build greater and longer lasting connections with their customers.
1.Connected customer journey
Marketers need to stop thinking about big campaigns and channel execution. Instead, focus on the pathways centered on typical customer life cycles. It is going to become increasingly important to learn, not assume, how consumers behave, where they go and why and which devices they use in a variety of contexts. Only with a rigorous journey mapping process can the gap between desired experiences and reality be identified. This provides the opportunity to overlay the appropriate brand responses to win, serve, and retain customers.
2. The strategic value of content
In some ways, we have come a long way in the world of content as brands now recognise the true value of it and yet, the strategic importance of content is still lagging behind in terms of adoption. We saw the same happen with social media as brands clamoured to set up new channels without much consideration for what they were there to do.
If we fast-forward through the next 12 months, we can still expect to see brands struggle with their content creation and distribution efforts as many fail to create content that their customers really care about and many won’t even have the patience to build loyal audiences over time. The focus for the future therefore needs to shift from simply creating more content to serving the right content. Users expect brands to offer consumers personalised content – and deliver this hyper-relevant information instantly – and we certainly have the ability to do this, but it needs to be delivered wherever they are engaging, be it social or on email etc.
3. Alignment of message and medium
We’ve seen 82% year-on-year growth in the UK in active users of ad-blocking technology so we can see just how consumers are increasingly feeling about irrelevant content. This isn’t just a publisher problem with their inventory; agencies need to work closely with clients, not just on the buying side, but on the creative process, too. It has to be of equal priority that messaging is as targeted as the media plan. All-too-often, messaging is seen as an afterthought when it is actually the sole purpose of running display activity in the first place.
4. Defining a Purpose
To make an impact, brand marketers are starting to recognise the need to think about the bigger picture; instead of leap-frogging from one campaign to the next, or continually in selling mode, they’re beginning to think about brand purpose. Content will only be effective if it has a well-articulated, meaningful vision and that vision is embraced by everyone who is responsible for content.
5. Restructuring of Teams
Many organisations are still working in silos, due to lack of collaboration across the organisation and in failing to optimise, efforts are losing their impact. In 2016 we should see organisations letting go of silos and restructuring teams to break down barriers between brand, marketing, product and customer service teams. Content will be the driver of this change. The next battleground will be who ‘owns’ the content-driven customer experience.
6. Social Commerce
Being able to purchase directly from a social network and newsfeed will be back on the agenda in 2016. Facebook will continue its efforts to keep people within its own networks and apps; encouraging brands to pay to reach audiences. Expect to see an overhaul to brand page profiles – they’ve been broadly the same since early 2012 – and we’ve already seen steps towards this with revamped ‘notes’ functionality while public figures and celebrities have had access to tools like live video, collages and the ‘mentions’ app. This overhaul will enable customers to purchase from brand page profiles and, more importantly, directly from the newsfeed. The big hurdle, of course, is that it’s not (yet) second nature for many people to have credit and debit cards registered alongside their profile. We expect the first wave to be to encourage users to pay for goods directly through apps such as Messenger.
7. Growing importance of PR
There’s no doubt that the importance of PR (as well as internal communications) has increased across all organisations in recent years. Whether it’s influencing the share price of a multinational, the trust put in a charity or the public reputation of a consumer brand. With unlimited transparency and the advent of hacking, PR will be integral not just to success, but also to the survival of brands and businesses. The true value of public relations, however, comes where public relations professionals are used for strategic counsel and not just within a tactical role.
It’s clear to see that a strategy focused on being relevant and compelling in 2016 will be critical for brands, with the priority on being holistic, audience-centric, relevant and timely. A well thought out integrated marketing programme can and should become central to an organisation to ensure communications is being maximized across all channels. Get that right, and the world really is your oyster.
By Sandra McDowell