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Make change management your marketing superpower 

By Genefa Murphy, CMO at Five9 

“There is nothing permanent except change.” When the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus uttered these sage words, it’s unlikely he had the world of customer experience in mind.   

However, this universal wisdom has specific resonance for businesses  around the globe who are trying to navigate the rapid consumer shifts brought about by the pandemic. Expectations have soared, and consumers are more demanding than ever before. They expect seamless, personalised interactions from brands that can quickly respond to ever-changing market conditions.   

At the same time, customers  are calling on brands to demonstrate corporate change. 

Customers want to see demonstrative action on sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and social responsibility. As consumer demands grow and evolve, businesses must reinvent internally, not just respond externally. And, as marketers, it’s not enough that we simply respond to and accept this change. We must drive it.     

We are change-makers, at our best, creating real impact based on real insight. 

This means the CMO of today is more than just a marketer. They are also a Chief Customer Officer. Today, successful marketing teams are not simply lead generation machines; they are customer experience experts relentlessly focused on uncovering and understanding new customer needs and expectations. The goal for marketers is to be the champion of the customer. We are the customer’s voice into the business. 

The worlds of marketing and customer experience are now one, and marketers must embrace our role as agents of change and be willing to bring the wider organisation with us. 

While change can be exciting, enlivening, and invigorating, it’s not always easy and can be uncomfortable, especially when we are called on to respond to such a broad spectrum of factors – not least the rollercoaster that is the ongoing Covid crisis. 

The starting point for any marketer seeking to drive customer-focused change is to begin within your organisation. Get out of your comfort zone and explore experiences in a function outside of marketing. Join sales, spend time with support teams or engineering. Take the opportunity to deepen your diversity of thought and gain different perspectives that will give you the tools and understanding to move from a ‘service’ marketing model to one that drives purpose, fostering relationships that make change happen.  

As Forrester analyst Katy Tynan recently wrote, marketers “must embrace continuous transformation on their way to becoming customer-obsessed and be ready with the resources and recognition to sustain the energy required to drive successful change.” 

Change is what we do best 

So how can marketers help lead collaborative change in a way that inspires enthusiastic buy-in? The simply titled ‘Get Stuff Done’ process, outlined by Kim Scott in her bestselling book, Radical Candor, could prove a helpful starting point. 

Essentially, this process puts communication – listening, debate, discussion, story-telling, and honest learning – at the heart of change management. As Tynan advises, “The number one obstacle to business transformation and change in most organisations is resistance. Anticipate employees not agreeing to get on board, challenge yourself to develop the best case for change, anticipate where resistance might emerge and why and then address it.” 

As marketers, this focus on anticipating resistance and understanding our ‘customer’, coupled with a focus on communication should play to our strengths. It is just one of the reasons why we are a vital asset in driving forward any change focused on the customer – and really, shouldn’t customers be at the centre of all decisions? 

Of course, for marketing leaders, there is a fine balance of moving fast and bringing people along on the journey. The fast-flowing current of external uncertainty may lead even the most resilient teams feeling tossed around by the rapids.  That’s why I am a passionate believer in the model of aligning, amplifying, and accelerating. It’s a simple model that can be applied to any marketing strategy but is especially relevant when dealing with change. Our mission as marketers is to align our colleagues and stakeholders within a customer-focused mission, amplify impact through innovation and accelerate transformation by showing demonstrable impact.   

True leaders don’t dictate. They influence, inspire, and motivate. The same characteristics are found in great marketing teams and marketers. No matter if you are starting your journey in marketing, or are stepping up to lead the marketing function, now is the perfect time to harness change to prove yourself as a leader. Not only will this lead to personal career satisfaction; it will also ensure success in your most important mission: serving your customers. 

Why marketers need to think ‘Human to Human’ rather than ‘Brand to Consumer’

2020 & 2021: the years where digital kept us connected – not just internationally, but at regional and even very local levels. For many businesses, digital was the saviour, ensuring business could continue – even grow.

Yet, while it may have initially seemed important for retailers to digitise their brand strategy, ploughing efforts into everything from social media to website tools, so the brand would translate in a completely digital world, the fact is that people have realised more than ever the value of human interaction. How easy has it been, therefore, to remain truly connected to the people your brand speaks to?

A brand is not just what you do through your marketing tactics. It’s a feeling it stirs, an experience it creates, and a story it tells. While there are many amazing things brands can do in the digital world, to be a real success, brands need the human element to sit at the heart of their digital brand strategy, as Neelam Kharay, Chief of Staff – GTM, Acoustic, explores…

The new marketing playbook

It’s safe to say that 2020 was a year like no other, and 2021 certainly has not reverted back to the ‘old normal’. In fact, the age of COVID-19 has upended the marketing playbook, challenging conceived truths and redefining the rules. Whilst digital strategies were accelerated across all industries during the start of the pandemic as a matter of business survival, customer expectations have changed. Forget the slick digital journey and the ability to deliver exactly what a consumer wants, when they want it – that is now a given. Instead, customers expect their relationship to matter to you; and they expect your brand to stand for great values they can resonate with.

While delivering on these experiences requires organisations to place technology and data at the core of their marketing delivery, to sharpen their decision-making and drive greater relevance in their customer interactions to build stronger, more relevant connections, they also require something more. They require the ability to engender trust – and that, in itself demands authenticity, integrity, and humanity.

So how do brands become human?

Building human engagement 

We must remember that our target consumers are not just defined by demographics or psychographics — they’re defined by their intent, and by countless other indiscernible or unquantifiable factors. In essence, our prospective customers — just like us — are more than what meets the eye. Brands must ensure they’re both representative, and fully aware and understanding, of the most important issues and key drivers influencing all consumers’ behaviours.

By building teams that are as diverse as your customers, and by ‘stepping into the shoes’ of your customers as often as possible, brands can help account for their many perspectives and needs, bringing a more authentic voice to all marketing communications and content.

Indeed, authenticity is critical when it comes to forming connections between brands and consumers. With 86% of consumers reporting that authenticity is a deciding factor when determining which brands to support, the more authentic you are in your communications, the greater the sense of transparency and trust you will engender with them, which will lead to loyalty.

C-suite agenda

During the pandemic, marketing was elevated within the C-suite as the voice of the consumer. Without understanding the zeitgeist of the marketplace, in good times and bad, the C-suite cannot adjust to the threats and opportunities at hand and successfully navigate the future.

One of the new ‘rules’ of post-COVID marketing is, therefore, C-level engagement. In order to be authentic in your communications as a marketer, you need a deep understanding of who your brand is: what its values are; what its tone and voice are; who its key customers are – all of which are of paramount importance to other functional leaders.

From there, you can craft authentic communications that accurately reflect your brand personality while uncovering the pain points of your target audience. Everything from style to word choice to the visual elements you include are part of what gives a brand personality, and should be carefully crafted and honed in order to connect with your target customer(s). Moreover, developing a personality that responds to how customers are feeling and acting in the moment, and is authentically reflective of that across every touchpoint a customer has with your brand, is key to developing trust.

Consider, for example, how a company like Bombas has made improving the lives of people facing housing insecurity a key element of its brand ethos and product strategy, or how Old Navy has made all clothing styles accessible to people of all shapes and sizes with no change in price. During the pandemic, the British Heart Foundation also demonstrated empathy by offering COVID-secure collection of donations normally dropped off at collection points, for those who perhaps didn’t want to, or couldn’t, leave their homes. These are brand personalities with an authentic vision and a clarity of purpose behind them to which consumers can align their own values.

Conclusion

Ultimately, becoming ‘more human’ starts with being human and therefore having a point of view; a tone; a look and feel. In essence, in today’s climate, marketers need to think ‘human-to-human’ instead of ‘brand-to-consumer’.

Email Marketing

Top tips for better email marketing

By Adam Oldfield, CEO at Force24

Email marketing has been around for a quarter of a century – and it shows no signs of slowing down. Not only does it provide a powerful way for marketers to tell recipients about promotions, brand messages and news – it’s a versatile, low-cost, and efficient tool helping marketers to deliver hyper-personalised comms that are measurable and create positive ROI.

This can certainly be the case if an industry professional chooses to use an integrated email marketing platform that supports their brand in customer engagement.

Of course, the next email campaign will go somewhere as soon as the organisation clicks ‘send’ – but how do marketers know if they’re sending the right message to the right person, at the right time? Plus, modern-day marketers are today battling with privacy and data protection pressures which have come to the fore following the introduction of GDPR so the vital nature of ensuring every piece of comms is compliant has never been more important.

What that also means is that there’s an even greater expectation for brands to only send hyper-personalised content to individuals who have consented to receiving it. With that, the power is ultimately with the recipient and – with data protection regulations and the ability to hit ‘unsubscribe’ at any given time at their fingertips – they truly have the sender right where they want them.

However, marketers are also in a powerful position if they couple email content with an intuitive marketing automation platform because it’s soon to become their most cost-effective, efficient marketing channel. When brands plug in automation too, it can help to understand the audience on a more granular level – resulting in professionals sending relevant digital comms as a result.

So, what are the benefits of email marketing platforms, and what should marketers be looking for when they’re ready to buy a savvy tool that could help transform their customer conversations and empower email deliverability?

  1. Liberating email marketing

As an email marketing tool, it’ll be able to take on the mundane and time-consuming everyday tasks that industry professionals end up putting to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list – such as retrieving data from each campaign which, when manually carried out, can take several hours to collate, and something that won’t ever be entirely complete.

With marketing automation, brands can disconnect from the wheels of the marketing machine as it’s able to manage those routine jobs. And the result? Organisations can spend more time focusing on strategy, creativity, and customer conversations and continue to ensure their brand is engaging the right people, at the right time.

2. Email marketing platform integration for multi-channel journeys

For comms to work in harmony and drive real results, companies need an email marketing platform that can segment audiences and talk to multiple groups of recipients at the same time – all from one email build.

A savvy email marketing platform enables teams to create hyper-relevant landing pages, microsites, newsletters and email journeys – in minutes. And if a marketer is saving hours each week thanks to automation, just think how much time they can spend creating their next campaign!

3. Measuring the metrics that matter

What is being monitored to discover whether the latest email campaign was a success or failure? Are brands analysing what improvements they could make? If they’re only looking at email open and click through rates, it’s vital that marketers delve even deeper into the data because these ‘vanity metrics’ don’t tell the full story as to howengaged a recipient was.

For example, a reader could’ve accidentally clicked on an email and discarded it seconds later. And unfortunately, not only are they not interested in what that piece of content has to say, but the organisation itself is getting skewed data as a result.

However, any savvy marketer will know that they shouldn’t ignore them altogether – it’s just a case of not relying on them as the only form of measurement. Instead, using an email marketing automation platform can monitor each campaign alongside what the lead scoring data is telling marketers about every individual’s interaction in their brand, and where they are in the buying funnel.

And, if marketing departments are  unsure as to what lead scoring is, imagine numbers above each recipients’ head based on how engaged they are in the organisation. The higher the figure, the more these individuals should be targeted with hyper-relevant content they want to consume.

4. Unlocking personalisation using email marketing platforms

And speaking about ultra-individualised digital comms, if brands are sending the right content to the right person, at the right time, email campaigns will be far superior to those of a manual send. That’s because customers are being targeted with the type of material they’re interested in, and it goes a long way towards showing that they’re the onlyperson in the room that a company is talking to (even when the businesses is speaking to multiple recipients).

Consumers no longer want bland, irrelevant ‘batch and blast’ emails because the overall message will be loosely received by all. An audience needs to be segmented into specific groups so they can receive tailored sends that show the brand understands their of-the-moment interests.

Plus, when marketers plug in an email marketing platform, they can help to guide audiences through their customer journey and support conversion thanks to their hyper-relevance.

Setting the bar as a trusted brand

By Cyrus Gilbert-Rolfe, CRO, EVRYTHNG

The consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry is a tough one. Highly competitive, crowded, and frequently driven by price. Now producers are being put under even greater pressure, as consumers increasingly only want to buy from brands that they feel align with their own values.

With people becoming more aware of what they are putting into their bodies the focus on health issues is intensifying, coupled with sustainability and inclusivity being taken more seriously (particularly by millennials and Gen Z). This means that brands that want to retain, or even gain, a share of the market need to be seen visibly contributing to these causes.

Consumers are increasingly holding brands to account, wanting more information than can be delivered on a label or billboard. Businesses must now be able to show that their products have been sourced, produced, even transported, in a safe and sustainable way – along every step of the supply chain.

These demands for data are too important to ignore, with 99% of consumers saying that transparency is important in fresh food products, and 75% of consumers stating they would switch to brands offering more complete information[1].

With the addition of regulators requiring enhanced transparency and accuracy around Environmental Social and Governance (ESG), it’s more important than ever that companies seek to establish a reputation of trust.

True transparency

It’s no longer enough to simply state that a product is Fairtrade/organic/non-GMO. Consumers want to see the proof of this. They want evidence that a brand is treating its workers fairly and behaving in an ethical and safe manner – and this expectation extends across the entire supply chain. As younger generations gain more buying power this demand for rich information will increase, and brands need to adapt to this market now.

So far, gaining this full visibility across the whole supply chain has been difficult, with data being disparate and inconsistent across suppliers. However, with the ability to mass serialise products, digitally print unique identities onto goods on a mass scale is becoming more affordable. Coupled with the computing power and cloud capacity to share, process and store these massive amounts of data from each product, true end to end visibility is within reach.

This stands to revolutionise the CPG industry – enabling consumers and businesses to access all the information around a product’s life cycle by simply scanning a code – delivering true end to end visibility for the first time. It also provides businesses with both the challenge and opportunity of finally being able to meet customer expectations of transparency. Consumers will expect it, and it will be up to businesses to ensure they deliver it – or risk losing market share to those that do. Done successfully, this provides a chance to build trust, even generate loyalty, across a customer base that can be engaged with both pre and post purchase on an ongoing basis.

Maximising engagement to build trust

Up until now opportunities to directly engage with consumers across the CPG market have been limited due to the lack of product registrations in this arena. Product digital identity stands to change all that, as consumers are able to scan a code pre-purchase – giving a line of communication to potential purchasers, and further opportunities to engage post purchase – all with the aim of encouraging repeat or further purchases from the same brand.

Of course, this all depends on the consumer liking what they see when they access that information. As the market matures there is no doubt that there will be an increasing expectation of richer data and superior levels of transparency and authenticity.

Changing the game on product recalls

The benefits of this new technology go beyond meeting consumer demands for information on how a product is produced. It will also make a significant difference to the tricky area of product recalls.

No matter how focused a company is on safety, recalls are commonplace. How this is managed can have a significant impact on a brand’s reputation and the trust its customers place in it. In the CPG arena recalls are frequently done via in-store posters, social media, and email. There is very little opportunity for direct-to-consumer engagement, purely because the nature of the market means that product registration is rare (for example, a consumer would not register a bottle of shampoo, or a tin of beans).

As well as enabling companies to maximise both pre and post purchase engagement, it will also provide a direct channel to issue safety alerts should the need arise. Managing crisis points in this way will go even further in protecting, if not building, that all important consumer trust.

Plan now for the consumer of the future

There is no doubt in my mind that product digital identities are the future. In addition to meeting the ever-growing demands for data from the consumer, it also plays into the ESG movement by providing information on product life cycle, highlighting opportunities to enhance sustainability.

Businesses must start to plan now for the consumer of the future and consider how they will meet customer expectations but also maximise the potential opportunities and establish themselves as a trusted brand. This means:

  • Starting to gather information across the entire product and consumer journey
  • Unifying data from supplier, internal, and consumer facing applications around a unique and cloud enabled product identity
  • Enabling each point of contact with the product to read and write contextually relevant data
  • Let customers know. Highlighting the fact that they are fully transparent, and that consumers can easily access the product life cycle and a full suite of information about its origins
  • The industry as a whole must work together to fully embed this new technology so that everyone can benefit.

It is essential that businesses start taking these steps sooner rather than later and use the plentiful opportunities that end to end visibility and product digital identities offer in order to build a reputation as a trusted brand – ensuring that they are the ones that consumers are switching to, not from.

[1] Response Media Survey & Food Marketing Institute

Life after the pandemic: Navigating the next chapter in marketing

By Esther Flammer –Head of Wrike Marketing at Citrix

There’s no doubt that the last 18 months have proved challenging for marketers. The pandemic created an unforgiving landscape, as shrinking budgets were met with growing expectations. Industry-wide cut-backs resulted in dramatic decreases in spending and marketing leaders and teams around the world were under pressure to do more with less while searching out new and innovative channels in an increasingly saturated digital market.

As we continue to navigate the evolving landscape, we’re starting to see the return of some normality. However, for marketers, not everything is set to return to the way it was pre-pandemic. Fundamental shifts in both consumer behaviour and employee working habits mean that the industry will never be the same.

In order to navigate this new landscape and come out on top, CMOs and their marketing teams will need to adapt and innovate in order to become more strategic drivers of business and revenue.

Prioritising digital

For consumers, the pandemic is set to have a lasting impact on the way that they interact with brands and access services. Whether it’s shopping, entertainment or even just communicating with colleagues, family and friends, many aspects of our daily lives took a digital format even more so over the last year and a half. Whilst initially thought of as a temporary way to limit the spread of the virus and keep the most vulnerable safe, this new online environment has had some unexpected benefits – especially in terms of convenience – and the likelihood is that it is here to stay.

In fact, according to McKinsey, consumers are continuing to shift towards digital and reduced-contact ways of accessing products and services, with 84% of marketers believing that their customers are placing more value on digital experiences than before the pandemic. Whether it’s developing a meaningful brand image, or executing specific campaigns to attract and retain customers, marketing teams need to take this shift in consumer preferences into account.

In this new digital world, marketers need to focus on delivering personalised offers and messages that truly speak to their audiences. In order to know if these messages are landing, they need to be able to measure which marketing channels deliver the best content to the right audiences at the right time. Teams are under more pressure to ensure projects are a success and deliver noticeable return on investment (ROI). Therefore, having an effective multichannel marketing tech stack – to centralise and maximize all of your data and manage complex customer journeys across multiple platforms – will be key. A good system is essential to track all of your leads’ interactions and engagement. It can also help you make better decisions and take action on your leads’ unique paths.

Managing hybrid

It’s not only customers that are increasingly preferring online methods of buying. The pandemic also saw a drastic shift in terms of how employees expect to operate moving forward. Although remote working isn’t a new concept – especially in the marketing industry – since the outbreak of the pandemic, work has infiltrated the home at a never-before-seen scale. Many individuals have embraced the flexibility that comes with this and want it to stay in place permanently. In an effort to attract and retain the industry’s talent, marketing leaders are having to adjust their working practices. In fact, recent research discovered that 82% of marketing organisations have new policies in place around remote work following the pandemic.

When we transitioned to remote work, organizations made sure we did not lose something that we all took for granted in an office environment – the benefit of face-to-face communication. When shifting to a more flexible, long-term model, marketing departments need to ensure that they do not lose something that we might take for granted – visibility. Relying on chat platforms and video conferencing tools to collaborate could make it more challenging to keep track of projects happening on other platforms.

One way of creating visibility in a hybrid environment is through the use of collaboration software. These technologies make it possible for information sharing and greater transparency across marketing teams. Tasks are easily accessible to everyone, meaning fewer mistakes, greater consistency and a shared knowledge of what others are working on. This not only helps encourage a certain level of transparency and accountability within teams, it also promotes a culture of open communication.

Through increasing visibility, you can ensure that each individual is aware of exactly how they are contributing to a project and their role as part of the wider team. If a certain element of a campaign is delayed or not where it should be it quickly becomes apparent, and can easily be picked up on before it has a knock-on effect. This helps marketing teams keep things on track and swiftly spot mistakes, leading to an overall increase in productivity and results.

The role of the marketing team has never been more important. In today’s uncertain climate, innovation  is essential and implementing the right tactics at the right time could be the difference between an entire business surviving or collapsing. By focusing on digitally-driven multi-channel strategies and leveraging technologies that can facilitate communication and collaboration amongst employees, regardless of their location, marketing leaders can set themselves up for future success, regardless of what comes next.

OPINION: Don’t rip up the UK’s data privacy rules

A major announcement earlier this month of a consultation on overhauling current data legislation made by the former Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden, has been questioned by a leading expert in data privacy regulation. Privacy expert Nigel Jones (pictured), Co-Founder of the Privacy Compliance Hub and ex-head of legal for Google in EMEA, urges against ripping up the UK’s privacy rules…

The stated aim of the consultation is to drive greater innovation and growth in the UK’s data sector and better protect the public from major data threats.   However, there are a number of issues with the announcement. While I broadly welcome some aspects of the consultation, there is actually little by way of explanation in the announcement as to why the UK’s current data rules and regulations are insufficient to enable all these things to be addressed without the planned reforms.

The stated aims of the proposed reforms – to boost international trade; reduce burdens on business; deliver better public services; drive economic growth; boost innovation including reducing barriers to responsible innovation; protect the public; and strengthen public trust in use of data are ones that most organisations – as well as the general public – would agree with.

However, my view is that there is little, if anything, in the current legal framework that is stopping the UK from executing the aims of this consultation now, and there is insufficient detail in last week’s announcement to explain why such a consultation is necessary. Changes to the current agreement may threaten the very important adequacy decision that the UK has with the EU.

The announcement last week contains many references to science, healthcare and research and how the use of data in these areas needs to be simplified.  It is unclear what the Government feels is wrong with the current rules as they apply to science, healthcare and research.  It refers to advances made by Moorfield’s Eye Hospital and University College London in identifying eye disease by making use of AI, but those advances were successfully made under the current data framework using the power of Google Deepmind.  What exactly do they think is wrong with the status quo?”

The announcement also claims that there are plans to impose tougher penalties and fines for nuisance calls and text messages. My view is that there is nothing in the announcement that explains why this is necessary as current penalties are already very stringent.  Under the UK GDPR, the current maximum fine is already up to £17.5 million or 4% of worldwide turnover – that this is sufficient deterrent.

The announcement refers to disproportionate burdens for compliance on many organisations. While it is logical for the announcement to claim that a hairdresser shouldn’t have the same data protection processes as a multimillion pound tech firm, this ignores the fact that the current regime doesn’t require a hairdresser to have the same processes as Facebook. Also, how many hairdressers do we hear complaining about the burdens that the current UK data framework places on their business?

The consultation states that a shakeup of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is proposed, to include an independent board and chief executive.

The tenure of Elizabeth Denham, the current Information Commissioner, comes to an end this year.  She has come in for criticism during her time in charge from those that feel that, as a heavily funded regulator, the ICO should be able to achieve much more, especially in the area of enforcement.  Perhaps the government feels that by taking power away from the Commissioner and putting it in the hands of an independent board which it can appoint, it will be able to ‘take back control’ of data regulation.

However, I’m very much in favour of the statement in last week’s press release that the government plans to “replace box ticking with common sense.”

We couldn’t agree more. Data protection has never been about box ticking and it never should be. It is about creating a culture of continuous compliance and we take great heart from the government’s apparent enthusiasm for what it calls ‘Privacy Management Programmes’.  All companies that process data should build a culture using such a Privacy Management Programme which makes all its staff understand privacy, care about it and do their bit to use data wisely and securely.”

I also agree with the aim outlined in the plan to mitigate the risk of bias in algorithmic systems. This is a hugely important objective but it will be interesting to see how the government proposes to improve the current framework which exists under the UK GDPR.

It is intriguing that the government feels that the UK’s current data legislation is in some way holding the country back in areas such as international trade, public services, innovation, research, healthcare and hairdressing.  While of course any improvements in these areas are to be welcomed, we should bear in mind that the current rules are based upon a framework that has been in place for a very long time and that those rules already allow for much flexibility.

The government should make changes at its peril, and be careful to make sure that any planned amendments don’t threaten the very important adequacy decision that we have in place with the EU, our largest trading partner.  In our view, it would be better to make use of the existing flexibility we have than to suggest ripping up existing rules and starting again.

What modern marketing can learn from the entertainment industry

By Glenn Gillis, CEO of Sea Monster

People don’t go to the cinema for the previews, and they don’t watch their favorite show just for the ads. Why then, do marketers expect them to watch an ad before watching their favorite Youtuber or engage with a shampoo brand in the middle of their Instagram feed of selfies and vacation pictures? Why should they be forced to sit through advertising just so they can continue playing their mobile game for free?

Traditional advertising forces a message on the individual by interrupting the thing that they actually came there for. Marketers would simply buy media space, smack in the middle of people’s favourite TV show, magazine, newspaper, or news and shout their sales pitch to passive consumers who had no choice but to wait until it’s over.

But thanks to digitalisation, consumers no longer have to watch, listen or read an ad, and they’re not. They’re tuning out and skipping past. To combat this, marketers need to start considering the kinds of experiences people are trying to skip past the ads, to get to.

Be it videos, magazines, or games, marketers need to look at what people are engaging with and determine how to give it to them, harnessing the power of voluntary engagement. A good starting point is moving beyond the mindset of ‘what’s in it for us? What actionable item are we trying to achieve?’, and think more about ‘what’s in it for them? What does the customer need in order to have their attention captured?’

The entertainment industry understands this idea of capturing and holding your attention- it’s the ability to hit “next episode” on Netflix to keep watching a series marathon. It’s also the reason why the Superbowl half-time show is a multi-million dollar production. An engaged audience is the best audience for entertainers and marketers alike.

Marketing content should be relevant and applicable to what the consumer is interested in. Take sponsored Youtube content for example. In a video on DIY interior design, a sponsored message for a relevant product integrated into the video itself adds value to the viewer’s experience, as it’s directly related to what they came here to see. This is far more valuable to the viewer, and is more engaging than the same product being tacked on as an ad at the beginning of the video.

Getting even more creative, brands should experiment with developing games that deliver marketing messages. For the production and placement cost of one 30-second ad, brands can deliver hours of engaging, educational content that drives brand value. And critically this engagement is voluntary, creating a much higher value relationship.

As marketing messages compete in increasingly congested and expensive channels, what we know is that voluntary engagement is key– whether it’s the choice of what show to watch on which streaming platform, or people opting out of certain digital content because of the barrage of ads and other interruptions. People are no longer captive to marketing content, their time and attention matters to them, and brands should use that time wisely.

Glenn Gillis is the co-founder and CEO of Sea Monster, a leading animation, gaming and augmented-reality company. Sea Monster utilises games to increase engagement, improve learning, and strengthen the impact of learning outcomes for corporations across Europe and Africa. 

Email Marketing

5 insights into email marketing from 2020

By Michael Trapani, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Acoustic

Benchmarking an unexpected year, like 2020, can be a significant challenge. With so many factors affecting your company’s performance, how do you go about it? Comparing your performance in 2020 to 2019 (or any other year) will hardly account for the outsized influence a global pandemic had on your business, and the market as a whole.

Our newly released email marketing benchmark report, though, showcases the influence that the pandemic has had on email marketing based on data from thousands of marketing teams.

This benchmark is an indicator for your performance through an unprecedented year and a source of insight into consumers’ responses to the pandemic, current events, and how email marketing prevailed. These metrics uncover five primary insights:

  1. Pandemic lockdowns drove a huge increase in email engagement by consumers.
  2. It wasn’t just the pandemic — other global events impacted performance of email engagement.
  3. Email has further established itself as consumers’ preferred channel of engagement.
  4. COVID-19 messaging grew tiring and drove unsubscribes.
  5. Key industries were affected in different ways as a result of the pandemic and current events.

Let’s take a closer look.

  1. Pandemic Lockdowns Caused a Spike in Engagement

In March and April of 2020, the world entered the first wave of pandemic lockdowns and most of the in-person economy paused. However, while in-person shopping came to a halt, digital soared, leading to a surge in engagement with email marketing. Email marketing open rates increased 31% from January 2020 to April 2020.

While consumers sat at home, they opened more brand emails. Constantly online, the spring of 2020 was the perfect environment for email engagement. With higher open rates, click rates rose too: from January to April 2020, click rates increased 28.6%.  

2. Email Open Rates Coincided with Current Events

The pandemic wasn’t the only event that impacted email marketing performance. Natural disasters coincided with increased email engagement in the energy and environment industry. Unfortunately, the second half of 2020 saw a historic number of hurricanes, wildfires, and droughts. The industry was a clear outlier in the second half of the year, with multiple months exceeding a 40% open rate as a result — well above other industries measured.

The political arena of 2020 also had an impact on email marketing performance. Government-related emails saw a large uptick in November, coinciding with the U.S. presidential election. Open rates continued its upward trajectory for the industry through December, too, after the election was called.

3. In the “New Normal,” Email is Preferred

Email has always been a popular channel, but in the “new normal,” consumers are favoring this channel more than prior to the pandemic. Across the board, open rates increased since the pandemic’s start. While engagement peaked while we were in lockdown in the spring of 2020, engagement rates, overall, increased during the “new normal.”

In fact, every region measured had a higher click-to-open rate in the second half of the year. Europe saw the highest click-to-open rate in H2 of 2020, with an average of 14.8%.

Globally, consumers are more likely to engage with emails. This signifies a growing affinity for email communications as well as brands getting better at targeting the right consumers with each email.

4. COVID-Messaging Grew Tiresome Quickly, Driving Unsubscribes

While engagement was up, so was the unsubscribe rate. Other than India and Asia Pacific, every region had a higher unsubscribe rate in the second half of the year compared to the first. Overall, unsubscribe rates were 34.4% higher by year’s end, globally.

This could be a result of the COVID-19 messaging sent en masse to “unclean” lists. It was common practice for CEOs and brands to send pandemic-related updates to their entire list about the state of their business, like processes installed that kept employees and customers safe. This likely alerted many customers that brands they no longer shop with nor have affinity toward had their contact information, prompting them to unsubscribe.

5. Industry Highs and Lows Throughout 2020

Not all industries were equally prepared for the rapid digital transformation that took place: some industries thrived in a lockdown environment while others suffered. Unsurprisingly, hospitals and healthcare enjoyed high engagement throughout the entirety of H2, ranging between about 30 to 35% open rates. Because consumers were anxious for COVID-19 updates, they were more likely to interact with related content.

Two industries hit especially hard by the pandemic were travel and retail. Travel, for the most part, came to a halt for much of the year and the pandemic’s impact on the retail industry has been well-documented as dozens of retail hallmarks went out of business. This performance is reflected in their email marketing, as well. Travel and retail were two industries with consistently low open rates and low CTORs compared to other industries, rarely eclipsing 15% for open rates and hovering around 10% for CTOR.  

Getting Back to Basics with Email

While 2020 saw unexpected global changes, the “new normal” demonstrates that email marketing is a reliable tool with staying power. Comparing your performance from before and after the pandemic can signify how your brand is performing in the “new normal” as well as how you stack up in your market. Overall, global open rates increased in the latter half of the year by 6.5%. If you trend under the industry average, you can implement strategies to improve your email engagement, such as more advanced targeting to understand what content your audiences interact with more.

Despite many new marketing technologies and opportunities seeming to emerge daily, email is still growing. Make sure your email marketing strategies can keep pace. 

If you’d like to review the results of the full Acoustic report, download it here.

Three Psychological Pitfalls Marketers Should Avoid In 2021

By Norman Guadagno, CMO, Acoustic

A year in quarantine has changed consumer psychology and the rules of engagement for marketers. From dealing with isolation to significant economic uncertainty,  it is no surprise that depression has doubled for UK adults throughout the last twelve months. 

As the UK lockdown starts to ease, people are grappling with the conflicting emotions of desiring connection with each other on the one hand, yet remaining wary of too much close contact, too soon. 

For marketers, this means both adapting their 2021 plans to today’s “new normal,” contactless world, while ensuring that empathy and connection remain at the core of every communication. To accomplish this, we must all avoid the following pitfalls. 

Don’t mistake empathy for disingenuity 

We’ve all heard the same phrases a dizzying number of times by now: “These are unprecedented times,” “Stay at home, save lives,” and “We hope you’re doing well in these trying times.” For many brands, these empathetic phrases served as a pseudo-obligatory acknowledgement of current events before diving into sales-driven messaging. But for consumers, these messages quickly became white noise, a reason to ignore the communication altogether.

Data from Acoustic’s analysis of email marketing from January to May 2020 reinforces this. While open rates in the UK and Ireland increased by 19% in March versus January as consumers scoured for information on how to safely buy essential supplies and support their favourite businesses, click-through rates and click-to-open rates, on the other hand, remained relatively flat. This signals that emails with “An important message from our CEO” piqued curiosity but did not incite action or engagement. 

For marketers, the takeaway is clear: Show, don’t tell. Find creative ways to make it clear you genuinely care about your customers, without falling back on the same tired phrases. As marketers, we should emulate rigour. Our messaging should be clear, transparent, and to-the-point. The rest is just white noise. 

Stay connected with your audience 

Regardless of whether you’re a B2B or B2C brand, it’s important to remember marketing should not be a one-way street. The best marketers foster community and connection, which are vitally important in today’s context. For many consumers who are working from home, the marketing communications they receive may be some of the only forms of communication they have with the outside world in a given day, besides work and the news of the day. This gives marketers a golden opportunity to search for ways to spark conversations with and amongst their target audiences. 

After all, the pandemic has all but eliminated the small talk and water-cooler conversations that play a key role in keeping us happy and productive at work. In today’s stay-at-home world, many of us have replaced these innocuous conversations with scrolling through social media or “forced fun” like workplace happy hours on Zoom. We have less opportunity to opt-in to small talk, but brands can change that. Marketers should embrace new ways they can foster conversation and community through social media, message boards, or other means to create a sense of normality for their consumers. 

Don’t get too close 

It’s one thing to leverage consumer sentiment and personal data to make your communication more personal and relevant. It’s another thing altogether to get too granular that you prompt concern about misuse of that data and abuse an individual’s sense of trust. 

It’s a bit like dating in today’s online world, where finding out about someone is seemingly so easy. It’s almost second nature to Google your date or look them up on Facebook or Instagram to find out more about them beforehand. But would you ask them about their holiday to Croatia the year before last that you found out about? Of course not. At least, I hope not….

Marketers face a similar conundrum. We may have psychographic data about our consumers, but should we use it? And if so, how? Marketers should devise new approaches that allow consumers to be more involved in granting permission to use their data on their terms. Allowing them to actively curate information about their likes and dislikes, in exchange for a better value proposition — a better brand experience — a “give to get.” In this scenario, an informed consumer is acknowledging that a brand may want to learn more about them — and then taking things a step further by cultivating information about themselves that is relevant for brand marketers to know. In the coming months, marketers should think about how to tailor this approach to psychographic profiling to keep their communications empathetic and connected to a consumer’s personal identity. 

Ultimately, marketing and dating can be surprisingly similar. Marketers always want to keep consumers engaged and keep them coming back for more, which requires a delicate balance of reaching out to the target audience without overreaching. As marketers plan upcoming campaigns, we must avoid the artificial genuineness, one-way communication, and overt psychographic profiling that can be so off-putting to consumers. If not, those consumers just might say, “This date is over,” stand up, and leave. 

Norman Guadagno is CMO at Acoustic, an open, independent marketing cloud.

Synergy between CTV and digital devices drives ad effectiveness, according to VDX.tv study

By VDX.tv

Your smartphone is a computer. And your TV, too. Nowadays consumers expect that their computers work together and provide a seamless experience, with cohesive and consistent messaging across screens. Marketers need to understand this synergy across screens and start to embrace the opportunity it provides.   

Streaming is an ideal way for advertisers to begin a lasting brand relationship. The big screen offers an immersive experience that helps create brand awareness and association. On the web, consumers lean forward. They’re curious, open-minded, and motivated. Streaming ads prompt inspiration, but they need to be followed by interactive, browser-based ads that facilitate exploration. 

VDX.tv’s research, “The Bigger Picture: Why Effective Video Advertising Requires a Synergy Across CTV, Desktop & Mobile Devices”, found that consumers are 2.5 times more likely to remember a brand advertised on the big screen than any other medium. The research also found that following a CTV impression with a desktop ad caused brand opinion to jump by a third, on average. For carefully considered purchases such as travel, auto, and even mattresses, purchase intent can more than double when CTV impressions are followed by interactive web impressions. A majority of respondents in the study rated these holistic, cross-screen campaigns as being more relevant, informative, and engaging than single-channel efforts.

Overall, the research noted that on average, the addition of CTV to desktop and mobile drove a 149.6% lift in brand awareness versus desktop and mobile alone. Likewise adding CTV to desktop and mobile resulted in a 36.9% lift in brand opinion and a 24.8% lift in purchase intent. 

Altogether, we call this the “Halo Effect”. 

A brand halo is earned by a marketing strategy that includes every screen in the house. A halo forms when computers are used to their full potential and in synchronicity with each other. Having your campaign meet each moment in a consumer journey means planning for consistent, responsive messaging across experiences that are adapted for each screen.

Where is your halo? Closer than you think.

You can download the study here.