‘Crassmas’ Messages Show the Strengths of Snail Mail, the Weaknesses of Poor Digital Personalization

Even if the old-fashioned way of choosing, inscribing, and snail mail posting greeting cards has given way to “eCards,” the good intention is the same. It’s a reminder that someone is actually thinking of you. Which is why I was annoyed when I recently received cards from friends sent using the Jacquie Lawson platform.

Seasonal greeting cards are many things to both senders and recipients.

Starting at the top, they can be very personal communications of greetings, reminders of friendships often left to lapse during our busy year. At the bottom, they can be nothing more than purely commercial direct mail — with a bough of holly or a reindeer to give them a seasonal scent.

Either way, they are big business (estimated at 6% of the $7.5 billion greeting card market).

And even if the old-fashioned way of choosing, inscribing, and snail mail-posting them has to a great extent given way to “eCards,” the good intention is the same: If absence makes the heart grow fonder, the reminder that someone is actually thinking of you and expending time, effort, and money to send a greeting should be at least heartwarming, even if the non-digital examples have become somewhat anti-environmental.

Which is why, despite this un-Christmas like critique, I became really annoyed when I recently received cards from friends sent using the Jacquie Lawson platform. However brilliant the superb graphics (and they are truly beautiful) the gross commercialism of the accompanying messages totally detracted from the personal richness of the senders’ intent.

The notice in my inbox was straightforward enough. It said that my named friend had sent me an ecard. The “Correspondent” was simply, “Jacquie Lawson ecards,” a name I may or may not have known. And when, for no good reason, I had not opened the original missive, the day after Christmas I received a reminder. (Identification of the generous sender in the illustrations has been surpressed: what might her husband say?)

personalization absent
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

What Bothered Me?

These notices, instead of keeping the focus on my friend’s message to me and the hope that it would be something pleasurable, instead were Jacquie Lawson branding-dominant. Using the next-to-last paragraph of the reminder, right after “You can view your card here” to invite the reader to “learn more about us here” may be someone’s idea of a good promotional ploy. But to me, it was a rather good example of turning Christmas into “crassmas.” Can you imagine receiving a seasonal gift with a promotional message in the box?

Lest we have missed the Jacquie Lawson come-ons and just enjoyed the animated card, after the greetings message from the sender, at the bottom of the card this line with its links reminds us not of our friend’s greeting but of, you guessed it, Jacquie Lawson.

personalization absent, branding present
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

Perhaps this is a singular example, but there has been a growing tendency this past year for marketers to forget that “personalization” — the heart of truly successful targeted marketing — needs to stay focused not on the super technologies that make personalization and the accompanying graphics possible, but rather on not letting anything get in the way of truly personal interactions.

Sure, Jacquie Lawson has every right to promote the beautiful work done by her team and, no doubt, I’ll be receiving plentiful invitations to know more about it and purchase new designs from the company.  That’s the business we are in.

But in this New Year, let’s not let our desire for growth and profits outweigh the personalization sensitivities of our messages

Where Do You Start? Teaching Direct Marketing to College Students

What’s the best approach to engage college kids in understanding direct marketing? Principles first; metrics second? Or Metrics first; principles second?

What’s the best approach to engage college kids in understanding direct marketing? Principles first; metrics second? Or Metrics first; principles second?

I remember sitting in the parlor of a Catholic parish rectory in North Jersey while my wife was participating in a wedding rehearsal. The Mets game was on TV. The brother of a parish priest who was visiting from Ireland asked me to explain baseball. Explain baseball?!?! Where do you start?

Despite all of the professional speaking and training I’ve done in direct response marketing, the first time I taught a college course devoted entirely to it was last spring. I started with the fundamental concepts of media, offer, and creative. I had them write about each of these concepts from their own experience. We went over the various targeting opportunities marketers have online and offline. And at the end, we covered measurement and metrics.

At the end of the course, I asked the students to tell me what worked, what didn’t, and what should be changed. The most insightful comment was from a student who said:

“I wish you had covered all that measurement content at the beginning of the course. It made me realize why all that other stuff was important, and how it fit into the big picture.”

HELP!

Now, as I embark on teaching a course dedicated to Direct Response Marketing at Rutgers School of Business Camden, I’m looking for advice about how to sequence things.

Last year, when I bemoaned the lack of an appropriate up-to-date textbook for this discipline in this column, Dave Marold and Harvey  Markowitz stepped up and recommended the Fourth Edition of “Direct, Digital, and Data-Driven Marketing,” by Lisa Spiller. (Thanks for that Dave and Harvey; I’m using that book in the Fall).

What Do You Think?

Now I see the benefit of stressing measurement early. Even though I told the students every class that the coolest thing about direct marketing is that you can measure it, apparently the mechanical reality of measuring something like search engine keywords was not real for them. So:

  • Do I incorporate some form of measurement into every lesson?
  • Do I introduce a comprehensive measurement unit early in the course? (Spiller’s book does that early on, in Chapter 4).
  • Or, do I go full-on “math course” at the beginning, and thin a 40-student class down to 20 students after two weeks? (Just kidding).

Opinions welcome. (Actually, encouraged.)

Media Outlook 2019: Spell Marketing with a ‘D’

The January marketing calendar in New York has included for the past decade or so a certain can’t-miss event of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. In 60 fly-by minutes, 100-plus advertising and marketing professionals hear a review of the previous year in marketing spend, a media outlook for the current year and macro-economic trends driving both.

The January marketing calendar in New York has included for the past decade or so a certain can’t-miss event of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. In 60 fly-by minutes, 100-plus advertising and marketing professionals hear a review of the previous year in marketing spend, a media outlook for the current year and macro-economic trends driving both.

Bruce Biegel, senior managing director at Winterberry Group, keeps everyone engaged, taking notes and thinking about their own experiences in the mix of statistics regarding digital, mobile, direct mail, TV and programmatic advertising.

“We will be OK if we can manage the Shutdown, Trump, China, Mueller, Congress and Brexit,” he noted, all of which weigh on business confidence.

Suffice it to say, marketing organizations and business, in general must navigate an interesting journey. Biegel reports estimated U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 2.3 percent in 2019 down from 3 percent in 2018, while total marketing spending growth in 2018 had dipped below its historic level of exceeding two times GDP growth.

In 2019, we are poised for 5.3 percent growth in advertising and marketing spending a slight gain from the 5.2 percent growth of 2018 over 2017.

Watch the Super Bowl, By All Means But Offline Dominance Is Diminishing

Look under the hood, and you see what the big drivers are. Offline spending including sponsorships, linear TV, print, radio, outdoor and direct mail will spot anemic growth, combined, of 0.1 percent in 2019. (Of these, direct mail and sponsorships will each post growth of more than 3 percent, Winterberry Group predicts.)

But online spending growth display, digital video, social, email, digital radio, digital out-of-home, and search will grow by 15.5 percent. Has offline media across all categories finally reached its zenith? Perhaps. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1.

Credit: Winterberry Group, 2019

Digital media spend achieved 50 percent of offline media spend for the first time in 2018. In 2019, it may reach 60 percent! So who should care?

We do! We are the livers and breathers of data, and data is in the driver’s seat. Biegel sees data spending growing by nearly 6 percent this year totaling $21.27 billion. Of this, $9.66 billion will be offline data spending, primarily direct mail. TV data spending (addressable, OTT) will reach $1.8 billion, digital data $7.85 billion, and email data spend $1.96 billion (see Figure 2.)

Figure 2.

Credit: Winterberry Group, 2019

Tortured CMOs: Unless She’s a Data Believer

Marketing today and tomorrow is not marketing yesterday. If marketing leadership does not recognize and understand data’s contribution to ad measurement, attribution and business objective ROI, then it’s time for a new generation to lead and succeed. Marketing today is spelled with a D: Data-Driven.

Unfortunately we don’t have all the data we need to manage Shutdown, Trump, China, Mueller, Congress and Brexit. That’s where sheer luck and gut instincts may still have a valid role. Sigh.

Vote for SOW Reform to Stop Agency ‘Manslaughter’

Even as digital marketing was born — websites, search, email — were often described, rightly so, as “direct marketing on steroids.” But Google didn’t invent analytics.

SOW reform
Credit: Clipart Panda

The 1991-92 recession was a boon to database marketing. Fed up with ad spending that wasn’t producing results, many brands — advertisers — turned to databases and data-based marketing to deepen their understanding of customers, and learn how to attract new customers who looked just like them.

The economic growth of the 1990s only solidified database marketing’s reputation, with its ability to produce and refine predictive models, enable better A/B and multivariate testing, and bolster acquisition, retention and loyalty business objectives. These were the days when direct marketing agencies, many acquired by the ad holding companies in the 1980s, were — at last — the rising stars of holding company stables.

Even as digital marketing was born — websites, search, email — were often described, rightly so, as “direct marketing on steroids.” Google didn’t invent analytics.

Yet how many of the traditional direct marketing methods of data stewardship, testing, research, response analysis and data-derived strategy were really ever adopted by the earliest digital darlings — with their appetite for speed, scale and Super Bowl ads? Living on VC riches, the first wave of dot.com e-business held some spectacular fails.

Enter social, Big Data and “walled gardens.” The second wave of digital disruption has indeed been successful as it basks in the spotlight — with scale, testing and ROI analysis discernible (or seeking to be) on each new wave of innovation (not always successful). Digital has been growing its share of marketing spend without interruption, at a quickening pace — displacing or discounting print, direct mail and broadcast. Ad tech, marketing tech and data are indeed today’s advertising stars.

But for how long?

In this brave new ecosystem, are brands performing much better in their business results, overall?

Michael Farmer, author of “Madison Avenue Manslaughter,” who spoke at a recent Marketing Idea eXchange event in New York, says they are not — and their ad agency partners, alongside CMOs, are paying a dear price for this lack of achievement. This domino effect screams “help!”:

“What’s going on with advertisers? Since 1980, advertisers have been governed by ‘increased shareholder value,’ which means executives must deliver results or find another job. CMOs jumped on the digital / social bandwagon and migrated media spend. At the same time, they significantly increased digital / social SOW workloads for their agencies, reasoning that digital / social work was either cheap or free compared to TV / print / radio. Lurking in the background, though, were the non-consuming Millennials, who became the largest demographic group; e-commerce (i.e., Amazon); and the financial melt-down of 2008. The net result: brand growth ceased, and digital / social spend did not provide a solution. CMOs lost credibility, and their job security declined to 3-4 years.”

So where do we go from here? How well do we advertise and sell to Millennials, Plurals and the diversity of America today? Well many brands have turned to consulting companies who have the C-suite relationships, hardly bastions of creative genius, but perhaps more understanding of how to make all this technology, process and content connect best to customers.

Can agencies get back to performance? Farmer believes scope of work reform is one place to start for agencies: they must say “no” to transactional tasking, and “yes” to strategic ideation — and insist on being compensated for it. Even if this means firing clients who balk at paying up. The race to the bottom has served no one.

“What’s going on with Scopes of Work? Digital / social marketing altered Scopes of Work significantly. A 1993 “traditional” SOW requiring 50 creatives contained about 400 executions – 8 per creative per year. By 2013, the count would increase to 600 executions, 12 per creative per year. By 2018, the integrated SOW could contain as many as 15,000 deliverables – involving email marketing, Facebook posts, and a variety of little social executions that would see a typical creative cranking out 300 deliverables per year, or one per day, with little strategic content. Predictably, few clients think that they need high-cost agencies to do this kind of work, so the SOWs are migrating elsewhere, particularly to in-house agencies and to low-cost countries like India. High-priced Chief Creative Officers have no obvious role in this high-volume world, so agencies may begin cutting them out.” 

Perhaps, maybe a little direct marketing discipline needs to be discovered (or rediscovered) by brand chiefs here — who learn to become unafraid of data, data insights, data testing, data quality, data stewardship, all working in tandem with creative storytellers to produce the “big idea.” Creative storytellers working alone — without data — may produce some gems, but without achieving business objectives, these ideas are simply creative but unproductive.

Accountability in ad spend should never be out of style. It’s time for agencies to regain the strategic mantle, or indeed rest in peace.

Parting tip: Do you want to see some agency and client work that is producing business outcomes. Become an International ECHO Awards judge. Currently the Data & Marketing Association has an open call to recruit agency, ad tech, consultant, and brand professionals for judging this year’s competition (online and in New York). If you love data-driven marketing and the business results that can be achieved, then the ECHO judging experience can give you a phenomenal idea store of what’s working now, and likely tomorrow. Consider the 2018 judging application here.

In Praise of a ‘Workhorse’ — by Identifying One

The real workhorse of data-driven marketing — and perhaps soon all of advertising (or branded storytelling, some industry folks now eschew the term “advertising”) — is neither digital display, television or direct mail at all … it is data itself, as in data-driven.

workhorse
Painting: Working Horse, Hauling, 1994 | Credit: Kate Javens

What’s a workhorse?

I found this reference in a 2016 article on tech startups and private finance:

“Workhorses are smart, tough, sturdy, dependable, docile and patient. They are strong, even in the presence of a storm. Workhorses are durable and adaptable. Oh, and workhorses aren’t mythical.

Think of the workhorse as an evolved unicorn. The unicorn is of mythical value. The horn was useless and the magic isn’t real. Workhorses are evolved in that they are producers of fundamental value. They do real work and solve real problems.”

In aviation, for example, the “workhorse” of global and transcontinental passenger travel just had its U.S. retirement:  the only Boeing 747 still at work with a U.S. carrier is Air Force One. As much as I love 777s and Dreamliners, I’m actually going to miss the iconic jet. Check out this experiential marketing event in December from Delta, that’s quite a sendoff.

Jump to advertising — and we’re quick to see last night’s televised Super Bowl and this month’s Olympics as workhorses for mass marketing … even as they have their more targeted digital and social brand extensions.

Then there’s data-driven marketing.

According to eMarketer, digital overtook television in total media spending for the first time in 2017 — with digital capturing $4 of every $10 spent on all media … and what’s the “new” workhorse within digital?

Well, if measured by total spend, the answer is display advertising — which overtook search spending as the largest digital format last year. Both display and search are data-driven, with behavioral and contextual data providing the targeting parameters, but video display has come on the scene fast and is three-fourths as large as banner display.  Mobile is also a significant driver — mobile spend is twice as high as desktop/laptop, says eMarketer. Programmatic drives the bulk of digital display purchasing.

Media spend on digital display also will overtake total direct mail spending this year, says Winterberry Group — with $42.3 billion to be spent on mail advertising, and $47.2 billion to be spent on digital display. Debates are welcome on which of these categories produce greater response, greater ROI and more efficient cost-per-action.These metrics matter — so test, test and test.

My take-away from all this media-this-and-that is that the real workhorse of data-driven marketing — and perhaps soon all of advertising (or branded storytelling, some industry folks now eschew the term “advertising”) — is neither digital display, television or direct mail at all … it is data itself, as in data-driven.

Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. Media preferences may come and go, ebb and flow, but a reverence for data keeps the whole industry flying high, getting brands and customers from Point A to Point B, together, and creating value and experiences in the process. Like a Boeing 747.

Yes, data is today’s — and tomorrow’s — workhorse. And workhorses demand recognition and respect. The entire advertising ecosystem must embrace this concept, protect and preserve how and why data serves the customer, build and protect consumer trust, and prevent artificial barriers that impugn on the brand-customer value exchange.

Let workhorses work.

A Revenue Marketing Journey: The Conclusion

Sixteen months ago, we started the revenue marketing journey together. We defined revenue marketing as the combined set of strategies, processes, people, technologies, content and result measurements across marketing and sales.

Sixteen months ago, we started the revenue marketing journey together. We defined revenue marketing as the combined set of strategies, processes, people, technologies, content and result measurements across marketing and sales.

What followed was a series of articles that chronicled the major tasks fundamental to transforming your marketing organization to one that influences revenue in a predictable, scalable way. We covered, in the following order, the organization structure, the processes, content, channels, technology and analytics. Links to all 16 posts are provided below.

  1. First Steps in the Revenue Marketing Journey
  2. An Organizational Structure for Modern Marketing Success
  3. Marketing Operations Grows Up: Why Unicorns Rule
  4. Driving Demand Generation: Who Belongs on That Bus?
  5. The Digital and Content Team: Is Splintering a Verb?
  6. 5 Core Marketing Operations Processes to Master
  7. 7 Outrageous Lead Management Errors and How to Fix Them
  8. Is Data-Driven Decision-Making (3D) at the Heart of Your Marketing Organization?
  9. Add Data Operations to Accelerate Your Revenue Marketing Journey
  10. WARNING Don’t Wing Campaign Development: 6 Steps to a Flawless Rollout
  11. Are You Drowning in Content Chaos?
  12. Brilliant Marketing: Why Thomas Edison Was Light-Years Ahead of His Time
  13. How to Formulate Your 2018 Content Marketing Strategy
  14. Your Prospects Are Multichannel. Are You?
  15. How Marketing Operations Chooses Wisely Between Bright, Shiny Objects
  16. Get Revenue Marketing Analytics Right for 2018

Now that we have covered the fundamentals of revenue marketing, it is time to discuss how we operationalize a response to the big challenges facing marketing today using our revenue marketing capabilities. How do we help marketing become even more accountable, fully execute a digital transformation, and embrace the customer experience as the dominant competitive battlefield?

Next month, we will start with accountability and how to shape those quarterly and annual goals of the marketing organization.

Europe’s Forthcoming Data ‘Freeze’ and Why We Need to Care

European policymakers are transfixed with setting personal information controls on the private sector, and — beginning May 2018 — will give its citizens “default” power to shut down all such data usage for advertising purposes unless consumers provide affirmative consent. It’s called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its companion ePrivacy Regulation.

Paris
Eiffel Tower” | Credit: TOUREFFEL.PARIS THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE EIFFEL TOWER by Eiffel Tower

There was a modicum of good news recently when the U.S. Department of Commerce’s “Privacy Shield” program was given a passing grade by the European Union, enabling private-sector cross-border data flows on European citizens between the U.S. and Europe. Thousands of U.S. companies participate in Privacy Shield. They rely on the program to help collect, process and transfer responsibly information for more relevant advertising, human resources, and other commercial and operational purposes. (It applies to charities, too.)

European policymakers are transfixed with setting personal information controls on the private sector, and — beginning May 2018 — will give its citizens “default” power to shut down all such data usage for advertising purposes unless consumers provide affirmative consent. It’s called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its companion ePrivacy Regulation.

In the U.S., much digital information about consumer devices and browsers — such as their browsing history and app usage — is painstakingly “anonymized” by companies according to industry-wide self-regulatory codes. [Disclosure: One of my clients is the Digital Advertising Alliance.] Sweat equity through independent accountability programs safeguard such data from being used without proper consumer notice (transparency) and opportunity to exercise control through an easy-to-find, easy-to-use “opt-out.” However, in Europe, any digital information that “could” be used to re-identify an individual — even if anonymized from a U.S. perspective, such as an IP address — is considered personal by definition. Affirmative consent — most likely an “opt-in” though “consent” details are yet to be articulated — will hold sway. Common U.S. notice-and-opt-out regimens won’t suffice.

Imagine all the responsible data flows — even those clearly beneficial to consumers and the global economy — that will simply stop May 25, 2018, in Europe because of a hugely stricter consent mandate. American companies can only watch and wait to see who may be called out by EU data protection authorities, eager to fine a company up to 4 percent of its global returns, as provided for in the law.

Good policy? Or good politics. In reality, EU lawmakers are asking its citizens to pay a huge price. And that’s not my opinion as an American — it’s a fact in a Europe-born study. Look at what’s at stake:

  • €535 billion of the European Union economy benefits directly and indirectly from digital advertising;
  • 66 percent of digital ad spend depends on data, and 90 percent of digital advertising growth depends on data;
  • Ad units tied to data are 300 percent more valuable than standard run-of-network ads (because they are more effective)

That’s part of the economic argument. But there are social and political ramifications, too.

  • Much like U.S. consumers, Europeans prefer data-supported ads to paying for content — eight in 10 report such a preference;
  • Fully 68 percent say they would never pay for online content or use services such as email if they had to pay for it;
  • And 92 percent would stop using their favorite site or app if they had to pay for it;
  • Even 42 percent are “happy”: to see data used to deliver personalized ads.

European businesses, agencies and publishers have gone so far as to press policymakers that their respective countries’ own democratic and economic health is at stake — inherent in the power of data used in advertising:

  • Up to 50 percent of advertising growth will simply disappear if data cannot be used to make more relevant ads;
  • 70 percent of European citizens would abandon the Internet for news if they had to pay to replace the news content financed by digital advertising;
  • Internet usage would crash by 88 percent if EU citizens were forced to pay for online content and services;
  • And what of competition, diversity of content and innovation? The impact on small, independent publishers would be five times more pronounced than the impact on large media companies.

Yes, American companies are in the cross-hairs once GDPR and ePrivacy take some combination of enforcement effect next May — perhaps bad policy for seemingly good politics. Yet Europeans themselves are challenging such an objective — overreaching data controls punish consumers, employers and even democracies.

That’s a mindful lesson for all of us.

In the Land of Shiny Objects

I am honored and excited to become a regular contributor on Target Marketing. I am excited at the prospect of generating vibrant conversations on a set of topics that represent one of the biggest challenges marketing leaders face today. As a marketing consultant at the intersection of data, technology and customer strategy, I have observed — frequently — that there is a vast divide between brand/ customer strategy and data/technology strategy.

shiny object
(Image via The Marketing Moron)

I am honored and excited to become a regular contributor on Target Marketing. I am excited at the prospect of generating vibrant conversations on a set of topics that represent one of the biggest challenges marketing leaders face today. As a marketing consultant at the intersection of data, technology and customer strategy, I have observed — frequently — that there is a vast divide between brand/ customer strategy and data/technology strategy.

Multiple industry surveys report that few executives feel their analytics and technical implementation are well-connected and strategic. Despite the fact that most customer interaction is becoming tech-driven, the abundance of affordable tech options is leading to highly tactical and sometimes confusing customer experiences. The core issue is rarely the technology itself. Most solutions can work just fine at driving greater customer engagement and building brand equity. The real impediments are often organizational and strategic in nature.

The Real Problem in Marketing

Organizational challenges include overall resistance to change, but also the presence of silos where they do not make much sense. Although much has been written about this topic under the umbrella of digital transformation, it’s incredible how challenging the organizational factor remains. I hope to unpack some of the critical underlying factors in subsequent postings.

The strategic issues, on the other hand, are discussed less often. The problem begins with the marketing technology industry, itself. Driven by billions of dollars in investments, the industry has thousands of solutions in the market, each desperately trying to prove its unique value. I refer to this as the “land of shiny objects.” As marketing leaders attempt to navigate this landscape, it is easy to lose strategic focus.

In this blog, we’ll discuss ways in which marketing organizations regain their strategic bearings and leverage their tech stack for both short-term and long-term gains.

The Web is Dying. Long Live the Web!

Will apps disappear as browsers became more capable? Or will apps supplant the Web as the dominant tool of the next generation online?

Email, Mobile and Social Media Marketing: Lessons from top-performing B-to-B and B-to-C brandsTwo recent articles (here and here) got me to thinking about whether “the Web as we know it” is dying or whether “single purpose apps are dead.” These arguments have been around since the iPhone became the next big thing …

And it’s no different in our office, where this has long been a topic of discussion. Will apps disappear as browsers became more capable? Or will apps supplant the Web as the dominant tool of the next generation online?

Clearly, mobile devices are a big part of the equation, since their smaller screens, among other things, all but demanded apps — particularly when the iPhone first came out.

But with the advent of HTML5 and the ability to do all sorts of things in a browser “natively” that used to require plugins and widgets, wouldn’t the apps disappear, replaced by little icons on our phones and tablets that link us to that game’s web page?

Perhaps, though I don’t think we’re close to answering that question. Browsers continue to add great functionality and apps continue to proliferate. Each has it strengths. For example, if you’re looking for a restaurant? You want an app. Whether it’s Yelp, Urban Spoon or something else, one or more of these apps has you covered.

And an app makes sense for most games, of course. Directions? App again, whether Google, Apple or Waze is your preference.

But what about a video? The obvious answer would seem to be the YouTube app, but doesn’t that come with an asterisk? Not every video on a particular topic is going to be on YouTube, even though the overwhelming majority likely are.

And that leads us to other instances where all the answers may not be in one place. For example, information on bike racks for your car? Amazon might list most of the available models, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll get the most comprehensive picture of the market through Amazon.

A search of the broader Web will find all sorts of sites with relevant information on bike racks that just don’t lend themselves to apps — bicycling enthusiast sites, sites that sell trailers and hitches and related car accessories, general fitness sites …

So perhaps the Web isn’t dying but continuing to evolve as a great generalist tool — an incredible repository of information. The place to go when you aren’t quite sure what the question is. Or when the answer doesn’t lend itself to being answered under the wing of a single marketer or other entity.

For us as marketers, this means we need to decide what will work best for our audience. That is true whether you’re considering creating an app as a marketing tool or considering advertising on app or Web networks. Your audience really makes this decision for you, and they make the decision based on what’s most useful to them.

Taking Personal Relevance Beyond the Message

Personal relevance is still mission-critical, but in a much different way. We don’t need to have customers’ names in lights or all over a direct marketing piece as much as we just need to deliver information about products and experiences that are timely and meaningful to them via channels and at times that are relevant, as well.

relevant contentYears ago, we got excited when digital printing technology enabled us to personalize direct marketing letters, self-mailers and pretty much anything else that could be printed on a Xerox iGen, which merged individual customer data into the copy and even the graphics of pretty much anything that could be printed. We’d open a #10 envelope and see our name in the header, at least one sentence in every paragraph, and sometimes even in the graphics, like on an image of the product the sender was trying to sell us. It made us feel recognized and valued.

A few years later, we enjoyed getting personalized videos that were “all about me,” too. And then, well, it just became standard to see our names on everything, even M&Ms and the covers of catalogues for our favorite brands. It just wasn’t a big deal any more; and in many cases, neither were the results.

However, personal relevance is still mission-critical, but in a much different way. We don’t need to have customers’ names in lights or all over a direct marketing piece as much as we just need to deliver information about products and experiences that are timely and meaningful to them via channels and at times that are relevant, as well.

This means that we need to have relevant content that inspires consumers to engage with our brands, purchase our products or just have a conversation with us. This content can be ads, promotional offers, white papers, invitations to join a cause and such. And this content must be adapted for every consumer segment or persona we target, and it must be delivered frequently enough to keep our brands top-of-mind, and on the channels that consumers use the most, which are not just a few any more.

Add it up, and we marketers need to develop and distribute a lot of content to a lot of customers a lot of times. And that’s the challenge to personalized, relevant marketing today.

Think about it. You want to promote a special offer for a limited time across all your market locations and you need to use all channels – print, digital, social, point-of-sale displays – and you want to do it in French, English and Spanish. And all elements have to be in place at the same time, as it is a limited-time promotion and you want to measure the impact of various channels and which locations and segments did the most business with you as a result. If you take that promotional ad or digital banner you created and manually adapt it for each segment or persona that won’t respond unless it reflects some aspect of how they see themselves, and you then manually adapt each of those for each channel, format and language needed, that’s a lot of time. And if you use an agency, that’s a lot of billable time. But you have to do it.

In many cases, customizing content such as that described above can increase your campaign costs substantially, according to Perry Kamel, a leader in the content management technology field and CEO of Elateral, a cloud-based content hub designed to manage and deploy content in all formats, digital and print, across all channels.

A key aspect of marketing relevance then is to have a system in place that enables you to adapt your content and get it ready for multichannel distribution in record time, while customers are thinking about your category, product and brand, and before you competitors get their “personalized” content out. Doing both requires content management processes and systems that enable you to create content frequently, quickly adapt to all channels and formats, and get it ready to send out via your CRM platforms quickly.

When you can adapt your content for multiple channels quickly, the impact of your programs go up, and often by a lot. Following are some real-world examples of cost and time savings realized by some of Elateral’s clients:

  • 89 percent unit cost reduction for marketing materials
  • 95 percent faster time to market
  • $5 million savings after first campaign flight

These numbers reflect the reality of relevant marketing today. Content must be relevant, the channels used must be relevant, and the frequency of content distribution must be, too. It’s not just about the message and its psychological or emotional appeal and impact.

Some tips to consider:

  • Time to market is critical for any campaign; just as much as the direct relevance of your offer and message to the persona and segments you are targeting. The more time it takes to get your content adapted for every channel is likely enough time for your competition to intervene and get the sale before you do.
  • Consumers expect messages and marketing images to reflect who they are and align with their lifestyles and aspirations. Content for ads, emails, social posts and point-of-sale displays that don’t line up with who they are or want to be likely won’t influence behavior as effectively, and there simply is not time to waste.
  • Every time you have to manually change a headline, language, image or size of shape of a marketing piece, you spend time getting it done, and that can be costly in terms of paying outside suppliers to do it for you. You need to find a system and process for getting your content adapted as cost-efficiently as possible so you can lower costs and improve your advertising ROI.

Take away: Relevance is not just about the message or offer, or how it appeals to each persona you target. Relevance must address the timing with which your message is delivered, the frequency and the channels that are most meaningful to your consumers.