The Right Digital Marketing Model

The good news for chief marketing officers (CMOs) is that digital marketing can offer detailed data on and analysis of consumer behavior, as well as precise results about a marketing program’s effectiveness, with a degree of detail and precision that previous generations of CMOs could hardly fathom. The challenge is that these new technologies and consumer behaviors are raising the requirements for what will succeed in the market.

Building powerful consumer experiences requires brands to operate outside their comfort zone; for example, they must work with much shorter cycle times, with more rapid and frequent iterations, and through a broader vendor ecosystem than the traditional advertising agency process.

In addition, consumers increasingly demand marketing messages and offers that are highly personalized, relevant, and targeted. Miss the mark, and you risk losing them forever. In that regard, digital marketing offers both greater rewards (in terms of higher engagement and ROI) and greater risk (due to the execution complexity and the need for behavioral changes across the organization).

In this environment, CMOs know they need new capabilities to succeed. In a recent survey of more than 300 CMOs in the United States that Strategy& conducted with the Association of National Advertisers and Korn/Ferry, 72 percent said that building capabilities in the area of digital marketing is vital. The difficulty is that there’s no one set of capabilities that applies universally. Companies must identify what kind of marketing organization they need to make their strategy a success, choose a digital marketing model based on their strategic objectives, and then focus on developing a handful of marketing capabilities that will allow them to bring that model to life and consistently excel.

Strategy& has identified four equally successful digital marketing models: Digital Branders, Customer Experience Designers, Demand Generators, and Product Innovators. A company’s focus for marketing investment might have elements of each, but odds are that one of these models represents the right marketing organization for your company.

• Digital Branders are most often consumer products companies or other marketers that focus on building and renewing brand equity and deeper consumer engagement. These companies are shifting their investment from traditional linear advertising toward more immersive digital multimedia experiences that can connect consumers to the brand in new ways. They are reimagining how they engage consumers, with the primary goal of recruiting new consumers to the brand and driving loyalty through multiple experiences with the brand.

• Customer Experience Designers use customer data and insights to create a superior end-to-end brand experience for their customers. Typically, these companies (such as financial-services companies, airlines, hotels, and retailers) build their business models around customer service. By reinventing how they interact with customers, and wowing them at multiple touch points, these companies hope to create an ongoing dialogue and build a loyal customer base.

• Demand Generators (typically retailers) focus on driving online traffic and converting as many sales as possible across channels to maximize marketing efficiency and grow their share of wallet. All elements of the digital marketing strategy—website design, search engine optimization, mobile connected apps, and engagement in social communities—are tailored to boost sales and increase loyalty. Although Demand Generators also need to leverage content to drive engagement, they’re more focused on driving volume and efficiency than on curating the deep, emotional branded experiences that Digital Branders pursue.

• Product Innovators use digital marketing to identify, develop, and roll out new digital products and services. These companies employ digital interactions with consumers primarily to rapidly gather insights that can shape the innovation pipeline. By helping nurture new sources of revenue, the marketing group increases the value of the company.

These digital marketing models are not industry-specific. In fact, companies in the same industry can choose different digital marketing strategies with which to go to market. For example, in the telecommunications industry, Vodafone aligns most closely with the Digital Brander model, Verizon functions as a Customer Experience Designer, KPN/E-Plus is a Demand Generator, and Orange is a Product Innovator. Each of these companies has focused on a different set of capabilities to bring its digital marketing strategies to life, and each capability entails building the right combination of processes, tools, knowledge, skills, and organization.

There are eight basic marketing capabilities, which are more or less relevant depending on which of the four digital marketing models a company applies. (Of these eight, the first four focus on building insights and the last four focus on activation based on those insights.)

1. Segmentation and needs assessment, or the use of digital research tools to analyze transactions, identify customer pain points, and interpret non-transaction data (e.g., social media). By better understanding how specific subsets of customers assess, purchase, and use products, the company can more directly target advertising, promotions, and content along the path to purchase.

2. Measurement, or the development of consistent metrics across the full path to purchase (i.e., at home, on the go, and in stores). This capability also includes metrics for consumer engagement across paid media (e.g., advertising), owned media (such as the company website), earned media (coverage in other publications), or shared media (e.g., Facebook or YouTube). Implemented correctly, these metrics can help quantify ROI across the digital marketing program.

3. Real-time decision making, fostered by regular monitoring of social sentiment and brand health that enables adjustments during marketing campaigns—including branded media and in-store merchandising—to make them more effective.

4. Personalization and targeting, or the creation of a singular view of the consumer across sales channels and digital touch points through the integration of multiple data sources—including household data, shopping behavior, mobile data, and Web analytics. Companies can also augment customer profiles with social media data to improve target marketing and specific offers.


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