Co-Founder/CEO of Vujà Dé Digital, on a mission for conscious capitalism and reinventing the media agency model.
Somewhere along the way, the fact that consumers are human beings has been lost. Let’s look at what automation has done to marketing and consumers, and some steps to take to humanize your efforts.
Marketing should be a blueprint for how to find and meet your customers where they are, not reduce them to 1s and 0s. At its core, marketing is the practice of telling a story that resonates with consumers. The purpose of telling that story should not be to trick or manipulate them, but rather to identify the people who can truly benefit from what your brand is selling and convey the right message to highlight the value of the product or service.
Unfortunately, a fundamental problem with most digital marketing is that it’s lost its connection to “real people.” For most, marketing has become a numbers game on paper — trying to drive data and outcomes rather than seeking to create meaningful connections, convey value and influence human behavior.
How has automation dehumanized marketing?
Automation has broken down human behavior into data signals. It has caused many to lose sight of why humans do the things they do and how to deliver value in marketing, and instead focuses on how to extract value.
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If your marketing is being run by machines and optimized solely for data, it will eventually run into a cul-de-sac it can’t get out of. A small shift in the market can represent a disaster, such as if Facebook becomes less efficient or if Google alters its algorithm. The house of cards can come tumbling down.
What is contributing to consumer desensitization in marketing?
• A sea of sameness. When brands use cookie-cutter approaches, it leads to the same delivery and exposure across hundreds and thousands of brands. People can’t differentiate between the ads they see or why they are seeing them, so they start tuning them out.
• Brands manipulating consumers or focusing only on how to get people to buy — not why they should buy or “courting” customers by offering something of real value to help them. Brands have lost sight of their obligation in the relationship by focusing on growth and efficiency over all else. Marketing has become a cost center rather than an investment.
How can marketers do a better job of personalizing marketing?
• Brands need to focus on their “why” and on the value they offer. Craft stories that connect uniquely with audiences.
• View marketing as an investment and as a vehicle for brand growth and customer relationships. Accept and value the consumer journey and nurture customers over time. Seriously consider the time consumers give to consume or engage with your ads. And maximize and reward the value of that attention to deliver as much value as you seek to get in return.
• Invest and reward marketing teams that consider the entire marketing journey. Do not break down media into pure efficiency plays, but integrate these investments as part of the brand work.
• Focus heavily on who is working on your business as much as the systems or outcomes. Make sure that marketers and those buying media understand and care about the broader picture and are not merely focused on what looks good on paper.
• Do not expect or require your media to deliver ROI immediately or you can drive the wrong marketing behaviors and undermine consumer response and longer-term potential. Look at the full user journey and identify where it makes sense to invest over time as well as the right success metrics to measure real incremental influence and outcomes.
• Truly look at the relationships between different media formats. For example, how does video exposure help drive Facebook response? How do Facebook ads drive search volume? Touchpoints are valuable, but it’s about the entire journey, not just the last step.
How can automation be used with a human touch? Is this even possible?
Make sure your team knows how to properly evaluate success outside of looking strictly at numbers. Make sure they know how to use data effectively to understand the full journey and know how to marry media investments to creative, user experience and the full user journey.
A team that has the time and expertise to consider why media is being purchased beyond just automated KPIs is crucial.
Use automation to scale efforts once they have been tested and proven as an effective brand driver. Automation is great for scale but is less effective at discovering the right places to scale.
Most reputable brands did not get into business to trick consumers; they got into business to provide a product or service of tangible value. Marketing should evangelize that value to the right people.
Optimization should be done to reach people more efficiently while delivering the best possible message to convey value as concisely and clearly as possible. This allows the consumer to make an informed decision about whether or not the value exchange for the product or service is worthwhile for them.
Overly focusing on data and looking at marketing as a zero-sum game shifts the focus of marketing from consumer value to a “drive transactions at all costs” focus. This may be beneficial to short-term gains but detrimental to long-term brand health.
Consumers are savvier and more conscious of what they want than ever before in history. Take the time to ensure a more humanistic marketing approach and you should start to see big dividends.
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Author: Todd Juneau, Forbes Councils Member