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CMOs

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’.

34% of CMOs ‘don’t trust’ their marketing data

Over a third of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) don’t trust their marketing data, rising to 41% among their data analyst colleagues – posing a challenge for the C-suite charged with driving marketing results.

That’s according to research from leading marketing data analytics platform Adverity. What’s more, there is a growing divide between data analysts and marketers when it comes to trusting their data.

Yet, the very same divide deepens at the leadership level—with 51% of Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) & Chief Data Officers (CDOs) lacking trust in the data compared to 34% of CMOs.

The new “Marketing Analytics State of Play 2022: Challenges and Priorities” research commissioned by Adverity surveyed 964 marketers and data analysts across the U.S., U.K., and Germany, identifying the key strategic challenges faced by marketers and data analysts as well as their priorities for 2022.

For businesses, such a trust divide that becomes greater the more senior you go should cause significant alarm. Teams are failing to communicate mistrust, which results in key strategic decisions regarding spending, budget allocation, and campaign optimization being made without accuracy or confidence, potentially resulting in huge amounts of the marketing budget being misused or ultimately wasted.

One of the most likely causes of the distrust in marketing data and the number one challenge cited by both marketers and data analysts (42%) is the time being wasted manually wrangling data. At the C-level, this jumps to 54%.

“Modern marketing can’t afford to wait three weeks for someone to sift through a spreadsheet. By manually wrangling data, businesses not only open themselves up to human error and inefficiency but also commit themselves to a reactive strategy,” said Harriet Durnford-Smith, CMO at Adverity. “Those who cannot keep up with the evolution or aren’t willing to embrace the new ways of working will ultimately be left behind. Moving away from manually wrangling data is the first step to becoming a data-driven business.”

As marketing spend continues to recover to pre-pandemic levels and marketers are challenged to demonstrate the Return on Investment (ROI) of their campaigns, being able to demonstrate the business impact of marketing is imperative. However, 38% of data and marketing professionals state the inability to measure ROI on marketing spend is one of their biggest challenges. Combined with a lack of trust in the data, this can cause significant problems for businesses.

Looking forward to 2022, 65% of marketers and data analysts state that audience-building and targeting along with personalized content delivery is their most important strategic focus. This is unsurprising given concerns around third-party cookie deprecation and the increasing strictness of privacy laws. Content in the future is likely to have to work harder for businesses to gain access to customers’ zero and first-party data. Creating a tailored and transparent value proposition is an essential strategy for achieving this.

However, businesses need to also invest in their campaign reporting capabilities. Respondents that already have strong campaign reporting are three times more likely to be strong at audience-building and targeting and delivering personalized content/customer experiences.

Shockingly, businesses that already have strong campaign reporting are also three times more likely to invest in it than businesses that said they need to improve. Meaning that the divide between those who are garnering greater insights from their reports and those who are not is only widening.

UK marketers ‘stuck in the past’

Almost a quarter (23%) of UK marketers say their approach to digital marketing and delivering digital experiences is stuck in the past.

That’s according to new research from Optimizely, which also found that the majority of marketers (61%) don’t believe their teams are progressive or willing to try new techniques when it comes to digital experiences.

The Culture of Experimentation report, based on a survey of 200 UK in-house marketing executives, assistants and managers, reveals that 27% of UK marketing teams take a fixed approach to delivering digital experiences, with a further one in ten having no digital experience strategy in place at all.

The report also reveals the extent to which marketers are using experimentation to drive continuous improvement for the customer experience. One in five (22%) marketers say they use experimentation all the time and around half (47%) say digital experimentation plays a key role in their marketing strategy. However, when asked about how experimentation is implemented by their marketing teams, around two in five (37%) admit to taking an ad-hoc, unstructured approach.

Looking at the overarching goals of marketers, the top drivers for focusing on digital experience strategies are linked to overall business success: increasing market share, changing brand perceptions and creating a more customer-centric business.

According to Kirsten Allegri Williams, CMO of Optimizely, more needs to be done to formalise and streamline the use of techniques like experimentation to help them achieve these ambitions.

“Marketing teams are under pressure to stand out from their peers, but current strategies aren’t set to deliver against their ambitions to increase market share and change brand perceptions. Embedded into the marketing strategy, continuous experimentation can drive informed, data-driven decisions that will create stand-out digital customer experiences.”

Marketing directors ‘bullish’ about post-COVID outlook

The UK’s top 50 chief marketing officers are bullish about the growth of their organisations as the country emerges from lockdown, according to new research from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).

CIM’s latest report, ‘The CMO 50’, reveals that 71% of marketing leaders believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a positive impact on the perception of their brand, despite more than half (57%) having seen marketing budgets cut over the last year.

Whilst 52% believe that the marketing sector is stronger than five years ago. Only 20% believed it was weaker.

The research shows CMOs are optimistic about the post covid economy with levels of confidence rated at 81 out of 100. In comparison overall business optimism was rated at just 62 out of 100.

Marketing leaders identified four clear themes underpinning their future plans to adapt to the needs of the post-Covid economy:

  1. Adaptation to changes in technology and data;
  2. Motivating, retaining and managing people;
  3. Recruitment and development of the right skills;
  4. Demonstrating the value of marketing investment vs. expenditure.

The research also identified a desire to address regulatory issues affecting marketing. Just 26% of the CMOs believe the current regulatory regime for alcohol, gambling, HFSS (high fat, salt and sugar) products and environmentally damaging goods is fit for purpose, and the majority would back rules equivalent to those for cigarettes to restrict the marketing of potentially harmful goods and services.

  • 76% back marketing restrictions for products that damage the environment, keen to see limits similar to those for cigarettes.
  • 72% back restrictions for gambling, 58% for products aimed at children, 54% for unhealthy HFSS foods and 34% for alcohol.
  • More than half (54%) of marketing leaders think there is currently too little regulation of social media, and just 44% feel it is not the responsibility of marketers to protect the users of their social media channels. 

Chris Daly (pictured), chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing said: “Marketing leaders calling for restrictions on marketing may seem counterintuitive, but it reflects a clear shift in our society towards purpose driven marketing. Marketers have been at the forefront of helping the nation adapt to the strictures of lockdown, and in doing so have built stronger relationships with consumers. That hard-won reputational boost has the potential to accelerate economic growth as we emerge from lockdown, and professional marketers are rightly wary of loose regulatory controls allowing a few bad apples to sour the trust of consumers.”

The acceleration of structural shifts in society’s use of technology is reflected in the views of marketers. 92% of those interviewed, believed that brands had a direct duty to pull advertising from social media platforms that failed to protect users. Just 44% felt that the protection of social media users lay outside the responsibility of marketers. In contrast, 86% agreed that professional marketers should encourage social media platforms to do more to protect users.

Daly added: “To prosper, a professional marketer needs clear parameters within which to work. Give them the rules and a level playing field and marketers will adapt and deliver. Having accommodated the necessary changes of GDPR, the UK’s most senior marketers are right to be wary of the dangers that poorly policed social media platforms pose to the long-term growth of their brands and the wider economy. The UK marketing community has an opportunity to build back better by targeting spend and training on marketing channels and products that deliver greater value to our society.”

Content Management

Content marketing ‘providing increased value to CMOs’

Over a third of CMOs believe establishing a thought leadership position provides best results for sentiment and relationship building.

That’s according to the findings of iResearch Services’ thought leadership research, which asserts that content marketing, supported by issues-led thought leadership, is the way forward for CMOs.

The research gathered insights from 500+ CMOS/-1 professionals spanning the UK and USA. The aim of the research was to establish how, when and where marketing budgets are being allocated and through which brand channels the majority of effective content is being published.

The survey asked experienced marketing professionals to choose which form of marketing engages best with their audience and the budget allocated to each area; share their preferred techniques they use as a marketer to research their target audience when creating their marketing strategy; and analyse what types of content they believe provide the best engagement.

Key findings include:

  • Content marketing receives the biggest marketing budget allocation (23.5%) compared to just 10% spent on product marketing and social media marketing separately.
  • On a scale of 1-5, most marketers believe that content marketing delivers the highest levels of audience engagement compared to other forms of marketing.
  • One third of marketers believe opinion based content provides the best engagement and almost three quarters (71%) believe thought leadership provides the best results for sentiment and relationship building, yet two thirds (66%) of marketers still believe advertising is an effective element of a marketing strategy. 
  • 61% of marketers believe that issues-led content that shows an understanding of the audience’s business or industry challenges receives higher engagement.

The research shows the way people are consuming content is changing, with more CMOs utilising content marketing (23%) as opposed to investing in event marketing (11%), as the remainder of the calendar year will continue to focus on virtual events as a result of Covid-19.

Yogesh Shah, CEO of iResearch, said: “It is important for us to continue to address the needs of CMOs and to ensure they can effectively communicate with their target audience and therefore strengthen their sales pipeline. Creating relatable, issues-led content is key to this and it is clearly a form of content that is an integral part of all marketing strategies. Organisations need to position themselves as industry leaders by sharing their expertise, and a data-driven thought leadership strategy is exactly the way to do that.”

For the full research findings, click here.