While companies are going ahead with new digital marketing tools, they must not ignore the fundamentals. Justin Halim, expert principal, Asia-Pacific (APAC) digital marketing, Bain & Company insists that foundations of marketing are equally important. That includes knowing who your target customers are, their value to the firm and how they behave. In an e-mail interview Halim, who worked at Facebook, LinkedIn and other firms before joining Bain & Company, discusses new trends in digital marketing, role of influencers,social media marketing and more. Edited excerpts:
What impact are Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) having on digital marketing? What are the kind of RoIs for companies?
Many companies are deploying new marketing and advertising tools, and technology to drive greater personalization of marketing at scale and to drive efficiencies in their media investments.
However, what is equally important and still remains relevant today are the foundations of marketing – knowing who your target customers are, their value to the firm and how they behave. We have found that marketing leaders today not only start from these foundations, but direct their marketing technology investments in accordance to customers of highest lifetime value.
Which are some of the companies making good use of digital platforms and how?
We believe that driving true digital marketing transformation is much more than a simple reallocation of marketing budget to digital.
We have advised many clients across a range of industries from consumer products, retail, e-commerce, telecommunications and technology to help them accelerate their marketing transformation, enabled by digital. What sets them apart is, they take a holistic view to digital marketing, solving for five critical questions.
First, what are my “future back” growth platforms five to 10 years from now? Growth strategy today requires consumer products companies to look “present forward” and “future back”—to create a faster horse while envisioning the car to define new growth platforms beyond their current products, business model and capabilities.
Second, how will I build the right product or brand portfolio for those platforms? Third, how do I deliver best-in-class performance marketing? Deploying real-time test-and-learn efforts to redefine the “who, where, what, when” of marketing at a time where the consumer’s buying behaviour is increasingly complex and they are more knowledgeable and informed in their purchase decisions (across screens and devices), making choices at speed.
Fourth, what is our data and technology strategy and roadmap? Our survey of more than 500 CMOs showed that the marketing leaders own their digital destiny and are 1.6 times more likely than the laggards to understand systems and make the integration of tech platforms a top priority. They test for results repeatedly with a higher likelihood of refreshing data weekly (1.7 times more likely) and using data to inform decisions (1.4 times more likely).
And lastly, what operating model do we need to recapture the benefits of scale? Marketing leaders are making honest evaluations and embarking on development of their organization, capability and partnership requirements to succeed in a digital and mobile-led world today.
Are influencers playing a significant role in digital marketing? If so, can you share some examples of influencers and the impact they created for brands/companies?
Influencers have been increasingly deployed by marketers as enablers to connect the values and image of a brand (using fans and follower counts as a proxy metric) and to garner mass outreach to their target customers. Deployed correctly, influencers can be a powerful source of content to promote your product or brand.
However, what is often overlooked is how an influencer drives true accountability to the business, versus using these proxies as measures of effectiveness. Studies have shown very little correlation between ‘vanity’ metrics’, such as fan and follower counts, and engagement rate to true return on investment. In the quest for reach it is very difficult to ascertain whether the large fan and follower sizes are indeed on target relative to your target customers.
From a platform perspective, Instagram’s recent tests to hide follower counts from posts has the potential to further accentuate the accountability consideration; while at the same time the introduction of Instagram Shopping may present an opportunity to test for leveraging influencers for driving performance marketing and online sales.
There are newer platforms like TikTok which offer short duration videos. Are these also becoming significant platforms for digital marketers?
People in India are increasingly using mobile phones, with smartphone penetration expected to reach almost 80% by 2022. Further, the time spent is currently dominated by social networking and messaging where mobile video consumption on news feed formats and the even faster emerging, stories formats is core to the experience. As people in India have gone mobile, and as attention on mobile is centered around newsfeeds and stories, video and in particular short-form video becomes an incredible opportunity to capture the attention of your target customers on a device that is with them all the time.
Not only have short-form videos become an important platform, equally critical is the execution of short-form videos to achieve your marketing objectives while being empathetic of viewing behavior on mobile: where videos are viewed in vertical formats, often with the sound off, and where it is critical to convey your brand message as early as possible.
How effective is social media marketing? What are key ingredients for its success?
The proliferation of mobile, and the time spent on mobile being dominated by social media usage, has made “social media marketing” an essential part of a brand’s marketing strategy and is being increasingly used as a channel to achieve mass reach for their target audience to achieve brand objectives – all the way down the funnel to driving leads and online sales.
However, as has always been the case the foundations of marketing still hold true – understanding who your target is, who your most valuable customers are, how do they behave, and how can you measure success related to true business outcomes as opposed to vanity fan, follower and engagement metrics. This will help establish accountability and clarity of the role social media marketing plays, in your marketing mix, relative to other digital channels, and its role alongside traditional media investments such as TV which is still significant among marketers in India.
Are companies doing a good job of harvesting and analyzing data to evolve effective digital marketing campaigns? What are the challenges?
Marketers have a sea of data to work with. The challenge is to connect different data analyses so that they generate insights that advance business goals.
In collaboration with Google, we have recently surveyed 622 marketing executives in the US, UK and Canada to understand their level of measurement maturity. Our analysis found that the 100 most mature companies are four times as likely as the 100 least mature companies, to exceed their business goals, grow revenue and gain market share.
This is being driven by the following:
First, having metrics across all channels aggregated to a single view of their customers across all touchpoints. Second, using this data to understand which customers have the most value to the company on a lifetime basis. Third, accessing this data in real-time to earn customer loyalty and improve business outcomes and finally evolving their way of working, moving to more agile methods and enrolling more cross-functional teams beyond marketing and shifting from channel-centered structures to more customer-centered teams.