There's a look of worried enthusiasm on the faces of marketers these days.
Their profession used to reward individuals whose intuitive decisions somehow yielded higher sales and greater brand awareness. Now marketing's colorful, creative tradition has been exposed by the harsh light of digital data and analytics that deliver black-and-white numerical results.
"You must be able to measure it and see the needle move," said Erin Levzow at Ad Age's Digital Conference at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco this week. Levzow's formal title is executive director of hotel marketing and ecommerce at Palms in Las Vegas, but she calls herself a digital marketer. There is simply no stopping the rise of the digital marketer.
Out With the Old, In With Mobile and Social
Social networks and mobility are at the core of this digital marketing movement. Facebook advertisements and YouTube videos now replace print ads and billboards. Maps apps and location-based searches boasting mighty click-through rates bring buyers closer to sellers. And real-time Twitter conversations amplify television ads to a much wider audience.
At Ad Age's Digital Conference, the buzz was around marketing on social networks. Social media marketing has drawn a lion's share of attention, in part because marketing efforts can be easily tracked. It's not just buzz, either. Advertisers are placing their bets on social.
Marketing dollars are divided into three buckets: paid, owned and earned.
- "Paid" is when a company pays to advertise in someone's media channel, say, a magazine.
- "Owned" is when a company owns the media channel, such as its website.
- "Earned" media is when the consumer drives the action. For example, a company gets its message out through viral sharing on a social network.
"We believe the future is 25 [percent] owned, 25 paid and 50 earned," Lucas Herscovici, vice president of digital marketing in North America at Anheuser Busch, told Ad Age's Digital Conference attendees. "Measuring returns on social networks & we focus on driving sales and brand health."
Art of Marketing Gives Way to Data Science
Measurable marketing is a sea change for marketers. For years, marketing was considered more black art than science. Creative advertising genius David Ogilvy once wrote: "Many manufacturers secretly question whether advertising really sells their product, but are vaguely afraid that their competitors might steal a march on them if they stopped."
With today's data gathering and analysis software, companies don't need to question anymore. Marketing pros from McDonalds to Visa showed attendees PowerPoint slides full of stats proving the effectiveness of their mostly digital marketing efforts.
Executives from Google to Twitter touted their platforms' capability to reach (and measure) the audience at the moments that matter most: when you have their attention or when they're ready to buy something.
For marketers, they'll have to become digital experts.
Today's digital marketer will need to know what works in "earned" media. Short videos (think: Vine) with a personable story to tell seem to have the best chance of going viral and gaining massive Web audience, especially if they attract a social network's top influencers.
The digital marketer must also know how to find the right customers and how to reach them. In today's data-driven world, companies have more information about prospective customers than ever before. And so consumers' digital footprints and location-based searches make them ideal targets. Not only must digital marketers identify the right customer, they need to reach out at the precise moment over the most effective digital channel -- and do so quickly. "You have six seconds to influence a consumer," says CMO Kevin Burke at Visa.
This is where creativity in marketing comes in; creativity is not dead, it's just gone digital.
Case-in-point: In Tokyo, people emerge from a crowded train station onto a busy street. Many are holding a camera-equipped smartphone. An aquarium lies almost a kilometer away. Aquarium officials worried that customers were losing their way or getting distracted en route.
To address that, digital advertisers built an app that guides people to the aquarium using augmented-reality penguins. Signs for customers to download the app were posted on the station's walls. In theory, the aquarium can track the number of users and the app's effectiveness in getting them to the ticket gate.
Digital marketers have their work cut out for them; they must become technically literate without losing their creativity. With data analytics, they can choose what platforms make the most sense. Most importantly, they can show the business that certain marketing decisions do move the needle. By embracing digital, marketers at last can prove their value in a concrete way, says Palms Levzow.
Tom Kaneshige covers Apple, BYOD and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org