More than ever, brands need people more than people need brands.
Undoubtedly, consumers will continue to fragment their attention spans across an ever-expanding media and information landscape. They will change behaviors at the speed of culture and demand to manage how and when they choose to interact with brands.
CMOs are racing to catch up by investing heavily in technology, but they do so at the hidden cost of brand resonance and creative differentiation. In a 2019 study by Forrester Research, results showed that not only does the CMO now have the fastest-growing technology spend in the C-suite, but that their investment is projected to grow between 9% and 11% from 2017 to 2022. Agency services, for comparison, saw an increase of only 2.4%. While technology spend is growing disproportionally to agency services, ROI outcomes have remained flat.
Across our network, we like to say that “technology without technique is careless.”
Technology alone is not the answer. Clients who succeed at dynamic brand activation embrace creativity as the lifeblood of all successful interactions. They understand that technology and data must be in service to immersive creative differentiation — a combination of timely and culturally relevant insights, strategy bespoke to multiple audience tribes, and timeliness — so that audiences are not left to wander through the media forests blindly. These inextricable elements combined are the essence of precision media placement.
Just as technology without technique is a perilous proposition to brands, a lack of empathy through misinformed media utilization has damaged an untold number of enterprises and wasted countless resources. Brands must stop organizing their marketing teams and planning cycles around individual media channels. Instead, they must begin organizing their teams and strategies around ideas, consumers, moments in time that matter and heightened cultural awareness.
In my previous article, I touched on how a brand can tap into its audiences’ fandom and need. Brands must grasp that people want to feel connected to similar, like-minded individuals who also appreciate something or someone, and who they are happy to be associated with.
In conjunction with aligning to a specific community, brands must also provide consumers with utility and answers that address their needs and wants. One of the most critical factors of accomplishing this is determining how and when brands speak to these individuals. Media plays a massive role; with this comes both challenges and, if done right, opportunities. But communicating brand messages successfully is not for the inexperienced.
Extreme high precision (and nothing less will do) can help avoid the following:
• Ineffective targeting.
• Wasted spend.
• Cluttered content landscape.
• Silos without explanation.
• Performance optimization.
• Cross-device sharing.
• Lack of transparency.
These challenges exist across the media landscape but no more so than online, where millions of new animatics and videos are uploaded daily. There, the failure traps exist alongside oceans of opportunity; fraud and loss compete with successful awareness. To dismiss the difficulty and assume an easier landscape is to place hope over fact.
Those most exposed to this impact are small and midsize companies and regional or local media agencies. Midsize brands typically don’t have the budgets that would enable them to work with the largest media agencies (those that have tremendous buying power due to the huge volume of their media placements). Smaller brands and enterprises are often unable to work with sophisticated adtech and martech firms — again, due to budget and resource limitations.
Similarly, smaller independent media agencies frequently do not have the staff required to manage the buying and optimization of the most complex campaigns. And here is the kicker: Even if they could somehow work with these powerhouses, they are not free from manipulation and waste, either. “Big” almost certainly guarantees a discount, but does it ensure seamless execution every time? The answer is simple: No, it does not.
Notwithstanding the above, the drive to lower the costs should be matched with an ongoing endeavor to optimize spend through agencies. Agencies must prove that they have played a leading role in establishing brand relevance and optimization by accomplishing the following:
• Filtering out inappropriate content.
• Targeting the right person at the right time.
• Achieving total transparency in performance management.
• Replacing silos with campaigns across all relevant channels.
• Creating a unified campaign voice.
• Proving ROI for every dollar invested.
Engagement does not happen unless people are attracted to a subject matter and reminded about it, and if they’re willing to share it and actively participate in the dialogue; they do it not because they’re asked, but because they simply want to be part of it.
Tech With Purpose = Media With Focus.
Artificial intelligence is all the craze, but are we right to make it the norm? I don’t think so.
In-house media teams and media agencies should be seeking ways to minimize wasted ad spend, improve performance through actionable insights and talk to senior management with confidence about their ad performance.
A combination of SaaS-based solutions and strategic media services allows brands to balance and, more importantly, be empowered by both solutions. This enables brands to better reach people in the places that matter and in the moments that matter. However, this is only achievable through the combination of people and machines — i.e., technology used with purpose, and specialized services that are centered around creativity and precision placement.
The unifying focus should simply be this: Deliver the most creative and tech-savvy media solution that gets the message out correctly. Be truthful. Be honest. Embrace challenges together.
Technology without technique is careless; media without empathy is dangerous.