Part I: Are Marketers Ready for the Age of People-Based Marketing?

Part I: Are Marketers Ready for the Age of People-Based Marketing?

In the age of “people-based marketing”, technology platforms are asking marketers to evolve faster than possible and dooming themselves in the process. In this 2-part series, we look at why it may not be as seamless an evolution for Marketers as it appears, and what the platforms driving this sea-change can do to help bridge the major gaps that remain.

Part I: Beaks, Islands and Analogies

Don’t you hate it when some technology vendor comes along and takes a super important concept from the pantheon of world-shattering moments and applies it frivolously to their argument in some desperate hope that the gravity of one will seamlessly transfer to the other?

Yeah, me too.

On an unrelated note, let’s consider for a moment Darwin’s finches.

For those unfamiliar, here’s the 20 second oversimplification:

When Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands, he found that 15 different types of finches had evolved to have remarkable diversity in beak form and beak function based upon the food options of the island they inhabited. All so they wouldn’t starve to death.

50 years ago, “advertising” was a subset of “marketing.” Today, similar to the aforementioned finches, a disparity in resources has evolved what was once a singular concept to form into two isolated functions, which, for the sake of this strained metaphor, are islands. And on these islands, we have evolved two very specialized creatures: Marketers and Advertisers.

Advertisers inhabit the Island of Media. There, qualified leads and prospects are what sustain these awkward creatures, but they are buried in tons of inedible garbage, so they’ve developed incredibly complex, powerful “beaks”  that require massive scale in order to sift through the waste and find enough tiny nugs of sustenance to survive.

This is “AdTech”, powered by algorithms, auction dynamics and complex data models that sort, target and optimize against massive, unknown audiences in paid media channels like Web Display, Search, Video, and Social. They are constantly rotating from channel to channel in search of richer soils.

Marketers reside on the Island of Customers. There, customer data is plentiful and rich and so they’ve developed less-advanced, but incredibly efficient, “beaks” that allow for precision and nurture life-time value.

This is “MarTech”, powered by rules-based email campaigns and customer data segmentation. Theirs is a more sustainable culture, in which feedback loops in data are constantly replenishing and enriching the soil.

This isolation has resulted in hyper-specialization of these functions, and both have thrived to the extent that is possible within this isolation. But a sudden sea-change has come in the form of “people-based marketing.” This makes it possible to market to customers outside of owned media in traditional advertising channels, bridging the gap between the two islands for the first time in decades.

For the technology platforms that built this bridge, there is an expectation that by doing so, they have sparked the next evolution of these two disparate groups. But it’s not that simple.

The promise of people-based marketing is a great one. Marketers have invested huge sums of money, time and effort into understanding and mapping customer journeys and customer relationship management (CRM). Since 2014, CRM spending growth has consistently outpaced brand spending growth by around 2 to 3 percentage points. The idea of being able to extend the reach, frequency and scale of these carefully crafted programs across every touchpoint in that journey should have marketers very excited.

Sticking with our metaphor, marketers should be able to use what they’ve learned on their island to transform the wasteland of the Island of Media into one of fruitful customer engagement.

But just because a physical bridge now exists to connect their data to these channels, doesn’t mean there aren’t still several gaps in technology and knowledge that have many Marketers standing on the precipice, afraid to make the leap. Access does not beget understanding, and for Marketers to thrive in the jungles of the Island of Media (and vice versa), they will need the platforms to help facilitate and connect what they have done in the past to what is possible in the future.

In part II, we’ll take a deeper dive into how they can avoid the pitfalls of Language, Technology, and Data.