Customer-obsessed marketing

What killer app will drive brand advertisers online?

Shar VanBoskirk
Vice President, Principal Analyst
March 4, 2008

Sharvanboskirk
[Posted by Shar VanBoskirk]

Within the last two weeks I’ve participated in digital workshops for two different globally recognizable CPG companies, each focused on promoting awareness and use of interactive channels among their brand managers.  And I’ll tell you, after all we know about the cost effectiveness of interactive marketing and the pervasive use of internet technologies by consumers.  Interactive is still a bitter pill for the brand marketers to swallow.  Now don’t get me wrong, these firms were definitely bought into the theory of interactive (I mean, they were hosting several day workshops just to promote its use within their companies).  My take was beyond the theory, interactive is just a tough, tough business for these types of firms to execute.  Specifically:

  • Its hard to stop with the TV.  You know that I believe television maintains a crucial role in the marketing mix even as we add more and more interactive channels to it.  Yet, there is also no denying that the role of television as marketing channel is drastically changing.  Accommodating this change is tough for brand advertisers who have been doing TV and doing it really well (both of the firms I met with are the number one companies in their respective industries in the world) for 30 odd years.
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    Current organizational models create inefficiencies.  At one client, both the brand management and interactive teams were bought into interactive.  They even plan campaigns collaboratively for the most part.  However, the interactive team wants to keep an eye on new trends and execute on what is cool, while the brand team is tied to practical matters like media buying deadlines and budgets, sales bogies and staying top of mind in key brand metrics.  Consequently, executions of actual interactive campaigns are difficult to agree on and launch based on the two teams competing priorities.  Layer on here brand managers with different attitudes and skill sets toward interactive and you’ll find a situation similar to what the second client I met with has: a scattershot approach to interactive which is not only inconsistent from brand to brand, but also expensive since multiple agencies and technology partners are used corporate-wide.

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    The value of interactive as a branding medium is not obvious.  Again, I’m the interactive advocate, so I can spout off case studies about the effectiveness of display ads and even search as a branding tool.  But, the reality is, that interactive channels are a lot easier to “get” as direct marketing vehicles (hello CPC pricing model!).  Brand advertisers are rightly trying to understand the best interactive tools and best applications of those tools to help them do what they already know how to do offline.

So, coming out of these meetings, my question is: What is the killer app that will move brand marketers to really embrace interactive?  Is there one?  Is it online video?  Social media?  Is it not an application, but rather a market condition that will act as this catalyst?  An economic recession?  Perhaps additional technology developments?  Or continued competitive movement in the space?  I think it is probably all of these forces continuing to push at all marketers that will foment gradual change – not a sudden switchover — among enterprise brand marketers.  In the meanwhile, I think smaller, local manufacturers with smaller teams, a shorter legacy, and less to lose have an advantage over the big guys as they can easier flex to accommodate new media.

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