Marcom: Eyes and Ears Everywhere

Hyper-targeted, individualized marketing sees the marcom industry swimming in regulations, privacy issues, and pools of data

Privacy … “I think we like to talk about it as a society,” says Cat Byerly, director of marketing at Station Four. “Yes, there’s a lot of data … we’re being watched,” agrees Mary Fisher, president of Fisher Design. “Personally, I don’t mind it,” she adds. 

We’ve come full circle at our annual, state-of-the-industry marcom roundtable. The conversation keeps returning to the amount of data produced by laser-focused, multi-platform marketing, and, increasingly, the privacy issues and regulations born of this trend. Byerly is right — we’ve all had a conversation about our phones’ microphones listening to us or cameras watching us, resulting in an all-too-specific ad popping up in our digital world shortly thereafter. On a larger scale, digital data protection issues have led to a list of recent regulatory actions, including HIPPA and ADA compliancy, the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), and the secure-site agreements we’re all clicking. 

In an interesting contrast, hyper-focusing on individualized marketing means the industry has had to throw open its arms to myriad optimization tools and messaging platforms, then encourage specialization in all facets of the business and overlap them seamlessly. Byerly says this makes it harder to prioritize campaigns within the agency. “What used to be in these nice, neat little boxes — marketing, sales, customer service — now is like we dumped the laundry basket out.” There is also difficulty in attributing a customer’s journey to any one advertisement or even a specific campaign. “It’s not a straightforward customer journey anymore,” says Byerly. “Someone could see a billboard, get an email, get a piece of direct mail, and see a Facebook ad before they convert [buy in],” she says. Laura Riggs, media director at Shepherd, agrees, saying this “multitouch attribution … gets in the way of being able to deliver the data to the creative team that they need. What is the actual nugget?”

“Just because data is available doesn’t always mean it is useful,” says Lani Camacho, media director for Brunet-García’s Washington, DC location. “There can be so much data you don’t even know what you have; that’s the problem with big data,” agrees Riggs. “So then you just spent hours mining it to get to that one person ….” Riggs foresees a possible shift away from this model of hyper-targeting everyone. She hopes for an expansion back to more generalized marcom after contracting to the point of the pushback we are now seeing in the form of privacy issues and data relevancy. “We’ve been taking one TV spot and picking out four thousand pieces of content from it,” says Riggs, of the current marcom model. “There’s a fragmentation of message delivery, content, and the number of content vehicles. So you don’t really know whether you’re tracking what [customers are] truly interested in.”

“When reporting on multi-platform campaigns that include several tactics and jargon-heavy reports, we turn the results into a story,” says Camacho. “Whenever possible, we aim to make the data and the story it tells relevant to each client, by comparing historical benchmarks for that client as well as industry benchmarks, so we have a baseline to measure the reach and impact. When we launch a campaign, we are very clear on what we will measure and report on, so that keeps our strategy, tactics and resulting analytics focused and relevant.”

Fisher says that despite these many, many prongs of marketing communications, when a customer is asked what referred them to a company, “at the end of the day they’ll always say a search or website.” 

Byerly began her career in writing for SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which is what gives priority placement in the list of websites that fit a user’s search terms online. In the fragmented market, she sees a trend back to SEO writing as a marcom art form, a forced refinement of one’s message. “Search engines reward being comprehensive, accurate, and well-organized,” she says. There’s also a shift toward a more conversational writing style for SEO, due to the influence of voice search and social media. “That’s where social excels,” says Riggs. “Our search team relies on our social team more for content than they ever have, and when they work together it’s fantastic. From a conversion standpoint, the synergy that we get is much better.”

Read More

By Meredith T. Matthews

Read local marcom experts’ answers to this year’s question: Is the marketing pendulum swinging back toward traditional media, both digital and print, or will social media continue to gain importance? 

Author: Arbus

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