Too much direct response marketing and personal selling, and no one is watering the tree. Too much brand advertising and public relations, and no one is picking the fruit. All parts of the promotion mix are important for long-term success.
You’ll see what I mean. But first, let’s do the time warp back to Sunnydale, California, in 1997.
'Television marketing' is not a 'thing'
Imagine that it is the 1990s and I want to reach the people who watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (The vastly underappreciated show recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and was responsible for the rise of Joss Whedon and the modern golden age of television.)
After putting on my plaid flannel shirt and JNCO jeans, I would go to the office, drink a Surge, and consider three tactics out of the five that comprise the promotion mix:
● Brand advertising
● Publicity (with a product placement)
● Direct marketing (with a direct-response infomercial)
I could run a brand advertisement. I could feature a product in the middle of the high school library where the Scooby Gang researches how to battle the monster of the week. I could hire Sarah Michelle Gellar to appear in an infomercial that would air after an episode.
None of these activities would be 'television marketing' because 'television marketing' is not a 'thing'. No one has ever used that phrase.
Marketing communications is the transmission of a message within marketing collateral over a channel to an audience in one or more of the tactical frameworks within the promotion mix. If I advertise on television, 'advertising' is the tactic, the advertisement itself is the collateral, and television is the channel over which I transmit the advertisement.
In the same way – 20 years later – 'Facebook marketing', 'social media marketing' and 'blog marketing' are not 'things'. Facebook is a channel. Social media are a collection of channels. A company’s blog is a channel. If a marketer creates a video and spreads it on Facebook with the goal of getting immediate, trackable sales, the tactic is direct-response marketing, the video is the collateral and the channel is Facebook. It’s not 'video marketing'.
Marketers who use those phrases are confusing marketing tactics, marketing channels and marketing collateral. Yes, I am approaching Sheldon Cooper levels of pedantry – but it is important. As I frequently explain at event as a marketing speaker, knowing and using precise definitions leads to clarity of thought and the best overall results in the end.
The confusion results from the rise of Google Analytics in the past decade.
Traditional marketers think about the activities that comprise the five tactics of the promotion mix: brand advertising, direct marketing, sales promotions, personal selling and public relations. Google Analytics pushed digital marketers to think about the online channels that form the basis of the platform’s reports: direct, organic, referral, social, paid, and email:
That’s why digital marketers think in terms of such vague, imprecise phrases such as 'email marketing' and 'social media marketing'. But almost any marketing tactic can be done over almost any channel. The problem with Google Analytics is twofold: the platform reports only direct response metrics, and it makes people think that marcom activities are valuable only when they directly result in immediate website traffic and conversions.
To do effective, integrated online and offline marketing today, marketers need to think about both tactical activities and channels.
How to create integrated campaigns
In a prior column for The Drum, I used the recent annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to call for a return to creativity in marketing and wrote that I would address the issue in the context of integrated campaigns in a future column. Here’s that column.
As you go through the 4 Ps, market orientation is the principle to remember that marketers are not the customers and therefore need to do extensive research to establish customer orientation, competitor orientation, and interdepartmental coordination.
Under the 'promotion' part of the 4 Ps, we have the promotion mix (with my addition of SEO). Obviously, the goal of marketing is to sell stuff. The tactics here are a multi-pronged strategy to do that. The first step in integrated marcom is to select which ones to emphasize:
Different times call for each element to have different weights.
Picking the channels
The next part is to decide which channels to use. Here is where many marketers get it wrong. Out of either arrogance or laziness, people already assume they know what channels to use before they do the research – if they do the research at all.
“We need to rank first in Google!” “We need to get thousands of shares on Facebook!” “We need to publish ‘content’ every day!” The digital marketing industry has suffered from 'shiny object syndrome' for more than a decade.
Everyone rushed into online advertising until we discovered how much we were losing to fraud and middlemen. Everyone jumped onto social media until we realised that people do not want to have 'relationships' with brands on Facebook and Twitter. I laughed when everyone said last year that marketers need a 'Pokemon Go strategy'. Today, everyone has forgotten about it.
In the immortal words of Star Wars, stay on target. And that target will be determined by the market orientation research.
Do not listen to people who sell marketing software that does one specific thing. Do not listen to consultants and agencies who are good at using only one medium. These people are biased and will always argue that their tactic or channel preference is always correct to use. Do not listen to me or anyone else. Listen to your customers. They always know best.
Certain marketers, for example, might think that Instagram and Snapchat are the coolest things since beanie babies and Empire Records, but those social media platforms will be useless if you are selling incontinence products to senior citizens.
Create an inventory of the specific media that your target segment actually uses. Use online polling tools and traditional market data. Talk to people in your target segment or hold focus groups.
When they wake up in the morning, do they scroll through their smartphone or turn on the TV? When they eat breakfast, are they reading the newspaper or listening to the radio? What about when they are driving or commuting to work? When they are at work, are they searching Google for certain information? How often do they check various social networks throughout the day? After they eat dinner, do they go to Netflix or turn the TV back on? As they fall asleep, are they reading a magazine or checking their phone?
Go through their typical day and try to document all media use. Talk to enough people in the target segment, and you should see some common themes. At the end, you should have a good idea of the media mix to use. From there, you can estimate the needed budget and everything else.
As I discussed in a column on how TV is not 'dead', the results are usually different than what marketers expect. Too many marketers assume from the beginning that they know the best tactics and channels to use. But just see this one example from Thinkbox in the UK:
Creating the strategy
In marketing communications, there is a set of tactics and a set of channels. The resulting campaigns come from mixing and matching tactics and channels in desired ways based on the goals and research. It’s time to fix the promotion mix by remembering that. Here are some hypothetical examples.
One could decide to do brand advertising on television, at events, and on billboards.
One could decide to do direct-response marketing over postal mail, e-mail, and Google AdWords.
Salespeople could talk to prospects over e-mail and the telephone as well as at conference booths at events.
I argue that SEO should be a new part of the modern promotion mix. The tactic involves the publishing of material that aims to rank highly for relevant search terms.
Under the umbrella term of 'public relations', a person who wants to do community relations could recruit people at events, create a community for everyone on Facebook or Twitter, and mail them presents and branded company clothing or gadgets.
All of these activities work together. GroupM chairman Irwin Gotlieb described it best in an interview with the Globe and Mail:
“If the first time you heard about a Mercedes was when you were 40 years old and finally had enough money to buy one, is there any chance you would buy the car? … People need to have knowledge of the brand and some level of trust. With the availability of granular data, a number of agencies began to push ROI [as the measure of success of an ad campaign]. But ... every time we have seen a client focused on return on investment, you shrink market share. It just doesn’t work as a long-term strategy...
"What you’re doing is using data to identify the lowest-hanging fruit. If I take all my money and use it to reach people who we know are within 30 to 60 days of a new car purchase decision – because their lease is expiring or they’ve paid off their financing on their existing vehicle – I’ll do extremely well, because I’m capturing the low-hanging fruit. But nobody’s watering the tree any more. It’s not going to bear any more fruit, and you’re out of business. Short-termism is a real problem.”
Too much direct-response marketing and personal selling, and no one is watering the tree. Too much brand advertising and public relations, and no one is picking the fruit. All parts of the promotion mix are important for long-term success. (I repeated that once more with feeling.)
Another important thing to remember is that we can no longer separate online and offline marketing. It’s all just marketing. We can do most marketing tactics over traditional and digital channels – we just need to be selective in our choice of them.
The greater context
It also means that marcom jobs need to be assigned by function and not by channel. To say that someone 'does social media' is as laughable as Milli Vanilli’s music career. A direct response marketer who knows copywriting and conversion-rate optimisation should do direct marketing over Google AdWords, the postal mail, and Facebook. A community relations expert should be able to wrangle influencers and create groups of brand advocates at offline events and on Twitter.
In contrast, someone who merely knows, for example, how to post on Facebook and Twitter is not going to be a simultaneous expert on direct marketing, community relations, brand advertising and everything else. He is surely not going to be able to do everything over any given channel. People are typically experts at marketing activities. The mediums usually come second.
“What should we publish on our blog?” is another bad question. The answer depends on the tactic. If it is SEO, it should be material that aims to rank in search engines. If it is external communications to help recruitment, it could be an announcement with a creative video to brand the company in a certain way along with accompanying publicity efforts to get news stories about some original HR practice.
The worst thing a blog can do is to publish anything and everything merely as an excuse to post something around the Internet to get more clicks. It should be more strategic and creative than “Five Ways to Be Very Boring in Your Marketing – Number Three is Extremely Tedious!” The problem with so-called 'content marketing' is that it describes where to publish but not what to publish.
Keep focused on your channel-neutral strategy and use the best tactics and channels. Don’t get distracted by shiny objects – especially if you happen to be patrolling for vampires in a graveyard at midnight.
The Promotion Fix is an exclusive biweekly column for The Drum contributed by Samuel Scott, a global marketing keynote speaker as well as a former journalist, newspaper editor, and director of marketing and communications in the high-tech industry. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Scott is based out of Tel Aviv, Israel.