February 12, 2014

The State of Media Mixology If I had a dollar every time a client asked about media mix or tried to define which channel accomplishes a particular marketing task or objective, I’d be as rich as Mark Zuckerberg. In spite of an explosion of channels, media and marketing strategies, there are no rules of thumb and there is no consensus on what does what. This gets confusing quickly when you consider the continuously evolving array of digital, social and mobile options. As a result, marketers chase this illusive beast in search of a framework for allocating time, effort and money and for measuring key performance indicators (KPIs). In theory, most channels can accomplish a variety of tasks from creating brand awareness, to generating leads, sales or buzz or reinforcing brand loyalty and advocacy. The tricky part is crafting and parsing the key message and then delivering it through multiple channels at the right time to the right people in the right way at the right price. Media mix modeling tends to focus on media efficiencies and getting the best prices. They are generally used as a planning and negotiation tools. I haven’t seen a model that can accurately predict consumer activity or that can produce a behavioral (or sales) forecast that can be measured. The challenge is to build a model that considers business goals and consumer behavior and then ranks or weights the relative impact of messages and media versus the relative investments during a fixed campaign time frame. In the old days, TV was the universal reach tool. Print extended reach, added frequency and vertically reinforced the message. Radio was the mobile reminder medium with a local personalized appeal that reached hard-to-find audiences, like teenagers. Out-of- Home was the LBS of its time. Direct mail got you one-to-one targeting and FSIs delivered coupons. Life was simple and satisfying. Now that’s all gone. Writing in The New York Times, David Carr says we live in “an age of individualized media cocoons … each of us is building our own little campfire on our phone, tablet and big screen at a time and place of our own choosing. “ Consumer media use, which used to be predictable by demographics, has gone ka-fluey! Finding and aggregating a sizable audience at a decent price at the right point in the customer journey now takes much more time and effort than ever before. Orchestrating messages and media to achieve widespread penetration and persuasion is still much more of an art than a science. The alchemy changes product by product and target audience by target audience. No wonder agencies, media firms and marketers are trying to isolate and package discrete audiences so that they can replicate or adjust the formula to achieve cost efficiencies and profit margins. Marketers are faced with the need to orchestrate campaigns where attitudes, behaviors and devices are dependent variables. Reach frequency and impact/activation are still the critical objectives. But like Mozart, marketers have to construct the symphony from the ground up. Most use search as a baseline and call on TV, web or print to express the melodic line. Then message variations and alternative channels (apps, online display, mobile and social media) have to be creatively integrated in time. And while I don’t have a simple one-size-fits-all solution, here’s what I’m learning along the way. TV/Cable/Video. These media are becoming almost indistinguishable from one another since consumers use them all and use them idiosyncratically. TV still can reach millions, especially live broadcast events like the Super Bowl, but finding the right mix of programming and time slots to resonate with a tight psycho-demographic and to leverage the multi-channel viewing/commenting/tweeting phenomenon is still a big challenge. Longer form video resonates with a range of audiences who view them at random times on a broad array of devices. This is where the potential for virility and massive earned media exists, if you can hit the right sensibility with the right meme at the right time. Organizing a “road block” to slam home a message or introduce a product or service is a very difficult task. TV and video messages are effective at driving web, #hashtag and 800 number traffic if the CTAs are prominent and the timing and frequency are right. Online Display. Banners are the default medium touted by publishers and widely ignored by consumers. Brands load up on these to fill TRP goals and to “go digital” without regard for their lack of impact and attention. Rich media, page takeovers and inventive combinations of...
The Techno-War in the Store The stealth cyberwar between the US, Israel and Iran is child’s play compared to the techno-war brewing in virtually every major retail store. Since the physical act of shopping will never disappear, the savvy players are investing in technology to better engage audiences and steadily increase market share. Big chains are marrying up with technology providers to attract store traffic, serve up personalized offers or recommendations and reward repeat customers. Consumers’ embrace of mobile technology is driving a complete re-engineering of the retail experience. In re-thinking the store experience, retailers are zeroing-in on loyal customers and those with a high probability to become repeat buyers and vocal brand advocates. Initiatives have begun to reduce buying friction, enable personal cadences, make shopping a richer, more fun experience and reward repeat behavior. Driving Traffic Getting consumers into the store frequently has always been job number one. Technology investments seek to increase the frequency of planned visits and to motivate spur of the moment activity. Email, text and social media, segmented based on individual consumer behavior, have been principal drivers of regular visits and vital coupon delivery vehicles. Localized search, keyed by geo-fencing, is beginning to be widely deployed to prompt in-the-moment traffic. And Instagram is becoming a potent platform for Target, Nordstrom, Victoria’s Secret and Michael Kors to show their wares and stimulate customer desire. NAPA and retailers in many categories, including grocery, are testing reserve online/pick-up in store programs. This guarantees a store visit, sets a positive customer expectation and holds out the hope that the experience will spark impulse purchases. Experiments are being conducted which time outbound, personalized text messages and offers by day-part or by previous purchases. These can be extended to out-of-home media and digital LED displays, in-car screens and other devices like in the movie, Artificial Intelligence. In-Store Engagement Once customers arrive in the store, an array of technologies is being tested to meet and greet them, direct them to merchandise, keep them there longer and sell them stuff. Since 83 percent of smartphone users use their phones in stores, accessing these devices as a shopping companion is mandatory, not only to blunt showrooming but also to mirror consumer behavior. Foursquare and Facedeals distribute offers in real time as do QR codes on products, on signage or on LED displays. Video kiosks and triggered shelf-talkers engage the senses while RFID tags, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals can be used to zero-in on and trigger messaging aimed at active shoppers. Apple installed iBeacon in its iOS7 software to track movement through the aisles of all its US stores. The software will also enable triggered messages in scan-able or video formats to iPad and iPhone users. Two start-ups, Nomi and Swirl, tack Wi-Fi signals offering the ability to map in-store traffic patterns and push messages to a customer’s phone while they’re seeing and touching merchandise or deciding what to buy. Comparative pricing tools and reviews from experts or users can be served up in real-time. Using branded apps, offers and incentives can be linked to products under consideration. Best Buy, Macy’s, American Eagle, JC Penney, Crate & Barrel and Sports Authority have deployed Shopkick, an app, with 6 million users, to track and communicate with shoppers in the moment. It’s being used both to drive store visits and to engage active shoppers when they’re in stores. Kohl’s, in a five store experiment, was able to serve up offers on mobile phones based on products viewed, but not bought, on Kohls.com. Online kiosks or salespeople with tablets, who can access customer records and personalize recommendations or make highly targeted offers in real-time, has shown promise in increasing sales and customer satisfaction. The technology can find and deliver messages to customers, but it won’t eliminate the burden of creating short, relevant, compelling and useful content. People on mobile devices are short on time and patience. If the message doesn’t hit the target, you risk alienating a strong prospective customer. Payment & Loyalty Sophisticated retailers are already pro-actively loading offers, coupon values and special rewards directly onto loyalty cards or apps. Starbucks, Duncan Donuts and Chipotle are leaders in this effort using a brand app supported by multiple marketing channels to stimulate visits and purchases or to bake-in instant rewards and freebies. Whole Foods is deploying Square at deli counters to expedite smaller payments and get customers in and out faster. As mobile payments become the norm, the sophistication of these tools will improve significantly. Purchase history data linked to scanner data using...

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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