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. Read Part I: Beaks, Islands and Analogies.
Part II: Survival, Suggestions and Cross-breeding
When we last left off, our wandering Darwinian metaphor had established that there were two distinct islands whose differing sources of sustenance necessitated the evolution of two distinct species of “birds”, specialized in form and function, in order to survive on them:
1. Advertisers, who reside on the Island of Media and have powerful “beaks” designed to drive efficiency from massive scale in a harsh, unforgiving environment.
2. Marketers, who live in on the Island of Customers and have “beaks” designed for precision and nurturing lifetime value in a land rich with data, but limited in scale.
Then came people-based marketing, forming a landbridge between the two islands, connecting what had been two very isolated worlds for the first time in decades.
But this was not a natural phenomenon. It was put there purposely by enterprising entities that control large swaths of land on the islands and saw an opportunity. The largest of these entities being Google and Facebook, who control over half of the market on the Island of Media, and Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle, who control much of market on the Island of Customers.
They had a theory that if marketers could use what they’ve learned on their island to transform the wasteful wasteland of the Island of Media into a land of fruitful customer engagement, their property value would skyrocket. All they had to do was provide a means for marketers to get to the Island of Media, and the rest would take care of itself.
But that’s not how evolution works. You can’t just drop a creature in a new environment and expect them to instinctively know how to survive, let alone thrive. That takes time and years of trial and error. Which is why, even though this technology has existed since Facebook (and soon to be shuttered ad server, Atlas) coined the term “people-based marketing” back in 2014, it has not become the utopian landscape they’d dreamed of as quickly as they had hoped.
There are still several pitfalls that need to be addressed before marketers can truly thrive in this new environment, some of which can only be addressed with more time and experience, but there are a few that marketers, agencies and tech platforms can start to address now to speed the process:
1. Find a Common Language: The language of the Island of Media and the advertisers has always been transactional, with heavy emphasis on the phrase “Cost Per.” Everything is measured by a Cost Per Click (CPC), Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), or Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM). It is also very mechanical. They impress through the speed of their algorithms, the processing power of their machine learning engine, or the efficiency of their auction dynamics.
This can be a very new and intimidating language for many marketers, who speak a language of measuring customer lifetime value (LTV), reducing churn rates, maintaining data cleanliness, and mapping customer journeys and lead lifecycles.
For marketers to understand the value of the technology now available to them, that value has to be translated into terms they understand in relation to metrics they value.
2. Automate the Process: It’s not enough to build a bridge, you need to make finding and crossing that bridge as clear and easy as possible. Marketers have already invested huge sums of money, time and effort into understanding and mapping customer journeys and customer relationship management (CRM) and the technology that goes into automating campaigns based on that data.
One in four marketers already leverage between four and ten buying platforms or partners to market their brands, and the customer data they want to activate across these platforms is siloed across several additional platforms.
Asking them to add another that involves a very manual process and is entirely outside their normal workflow is asking too much. True adoption will only come when they can easily and seamlessly create audience segments and activate across all channels.
3. Share the Data: Advertisers are used to a one-way data flow. They spend budget, strip a fertile landscape of everything it has to offer, then move on when it stops producing. Marketers are used to a richer data feedback loop. They want to understand the journey and how it affects behavior in the long-run and in the larger picture.
And currently, they’re not getting it. Only 3% of marketers say all of their automation, engagement and deployment tools are fully connected, with data, metrics and insights traveling freely between different technologies. Walled gardens like Google and Facebook only exacerbate this problem.
So while 79% marketers take advantage of the people-based marketing with Google and Facebook, 84% of marketers want to unify their people-based marketing strategies across all digital channels, they can’t because these platforms don’t share the data.
These issues need to be addressed if marketers are to be expected to thrive within the wild jungles of the Island of Media. Otherwise, they will simply die off slowly, choking on jargon and suffocating due to a lack of transparency and data sharing. We cannot force the evolution by adapting some of the environment to meet their needs, rather than vice-versa.
And finally, what of advertisers? How do they evolve as marketers invade their lands?
It only stands to reason that as marketers become more adept to the Island of Media, the two species rejoin to become one and the islands stay forever linked. We have already seen several brands start to bring media buying in-house, and while the increasing complexity of the landscape has slowed the full adoption of this trend, the advantages to consolidating or bringing this part of the business closer to the teams that manage customer relationships are evident.
Imagine a hybrid species that values data quality and has a long term view of success metrics, but has the freedom to apply they data however and wherever they want; one that leverages powerful algorithms and machine learning engines not to find nuggets of value in mountains of crap, but to improve and personalize customer experiences across every device and channel.
It would be unstoppable. Like a cockroach. Only less gross.