A Bottom-Up Approach Can Balance The Tension Between Brand And Performance

For many traditional advertisers, the old ways of planning and executing marketing remain as entrenched as ever. The mindset of spray-and-pray persists with the stubborn focus on volume of impressions instead of conversions.

To complicate this further, some digital players retrofitted their value narratives and based them on metrics such as viewability or reach. Now that audiences are ubiquitous and mobile video is a mainstream medium, brands feel an ever-pressing need to be visible everywhere.

What was traditionally one campaign has now evolved into 20 different ones, trying to achieve various and often disjointed objectives. And since we have the ability to measure everything, everything needs to be measured. As a result, we constantly see and measure noise – everywhere and nowhere, measuring everything and, in the end, nothing.

To overcome this complexity, change management consultants preached the silver bullet of digital and organizational transformation. The strategy is based on a pivot to a single technology stack to realign the entire organization around the first-party consumer and CRM data.

While this approach seems to make sense in theory, this vision is overly simplistic and ignores the difficult reality of legacy and data integrity, including sharing business intelligence with a third party, legal compliance and costly integrations. Marketers from large organizations face overwhelming complexity and cost blowouts in implementation, which require ongoing staff resources to manage the platforms. What was originally promised as marketing automation ends up being a costly mail program.

What is the solution then? Another, hopefully simpler way is emerging, and it is rooted in gradual, bottom-up evolution rather than a top-down revolution.

For example, marketers should start by assuming that all media, at some point, will be addressable and bought in a biddable auction. Based on that premise, marketers can “walk back” to their current position and see which parts of their marketing strategy are future-ready and which are not.

Running efficiency analyses to determine the point of diminishing returns for each channel is the next step. From my experience, clients overspend on average between 20% to 30% per channel.

By isolating the addressable, digital channels, it’s possible to zero in on the accountability (ROAS) and impact from marketing investments on the bottom line.

Since most of marketers’ budgets are already flowing to online, everyone should approach planning with a digital-first mindset, using traditional channels to complement rather than drive the overall communications strategy. As the true digital-first brands and direct-to-consumer disruptors prove, success is achieved through a singular focus on ROAS.

This brings me to another point: Knowing what to measure is the single most important thing, since everything is measurable, and the ultimate success is a consequence of this single decision. Media metrics, such as impressions or click-throughs, detract from what’s truly important and obscure the often-difficult reality of business performance. Measurement and KPIs can be drivers of sustainable business change, and a focus on true performance helps to clear the noise.

If the industry begins to approach the transformation challenge from the bottom up, we will arrive at a point where the transformation becomes an output, rather than the often-seen, top-down mandate. It’s a more sustainable and impactful way of transforming the marketing function and one which finally may overcome the ever-present tension between brand and performance.

This article was originally published by Adexchanger on May 3rd, 2019.