How do you develop distinctive marketing campaigns?

7 June 2023

Marketing campaigns are becoming more standardised and less distinctive due to automation. Today, you have to differentiate your campaigns on a strategic and creative level, where we are still better than the machine. What impact does that have on marketing organisations?

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First of all: advertising via Facebook (Meta) and Google is easy and saves a lot of time. Targeting is taken out of your hands with options based on region, behaviour, family composition and interests. Ad creatives are entered (or retrieved from a Facebook post) and automatically selected for effect. Advertising platforms have become fully automatic marketing machines that you put money into, and the results roll out.

But if everyone does that, you can no longer distinguish yourself with well-designed marketing campaigns. You’ve become one-trick ponies . Thanks to AI and machine learning , every campaign is obsolete quickly. This creates a new dynamic in marketing, and with it a new role for the marketer.

From musician to conductor

Previously, a skilled marketer could cover about 60% of what was needed. Now all kinds of components have been added – all equally important – such as design, analytics, data, strategy, social media, and performance.  Today's marketer has to be able to bring everything together into an optimal customer experience.  Performance alone is not enough; now the musician must become a conductor who arranges and blends all of the components while keeping an overview. And that means, first of all, rearranging the relationship with the advertising platforms, where many companies have a disproportionate share of marketing budgets.

Being able to measure and optimise everything also brings big disadvantages: everyone throws themselves into achieving conversion.  As a result, there is little new growth at the top of  the funnel and conversions become more expensive due to the advertising platform’s auction model. The imminent demise of the third-party cookie means that attribution is becoming increasingly difficult, which will make the added value of the advertising platforms less transparent, and it will become more difficult to achieve marketing objectives. To turn the tide, a new marketing method is needed that is based on first party data.

New marketing requires new skills

The big change is designing the customer relationship yourself, taking control back from the fully automatic advertising platforms. Marketing automation remains important, but now it is necessary to increase the role played by humans. Where machines can optimise and automate in a targeted manner, people can initiate and diverge strategically. The role of the marketer is to feed and control the machine to  prevent garbage in, garbage out. That's why these skills are becoming increasingly important for marketers:

  • Data – Bringing first-party data together into a customer profile is the main challenge for today's marketers. There are all kinds of platform-independent resources available for this, for which you need to have some knowledge of  data warehouses, CDPs, measurement solutions and data analyses. The disappearance of cookies is forcing organisations to adopt a first-party data strategy. It is also necessary to review their MarTech landscape in close collaboration with the IT department.

  • Strategy Looking beyond pre-digested media KPIs and aligning more sharply with the set marketing and business objectives. This requires qualitative and quantitative data that allows you to show that you understand your customers' worldview and offer real value. Solving customer problems is not the same as selling products, especially in the long term.

  • Creativity – Creativity is a distinguishing factor and  should therefore be an indispensable part of the mindset and skillset of your marketing organisation. Because if every competitor has access to the same advertising platforms, you won't be able to make a difference without creativity. As advertising legend William Bernbach once said: "Creativity is the last unfair advantage we're legally allowed to have over our competitors". Channels where you can present your brand more creatively and visually will become more interesting, like TikTok for example. This allows you to market your brand higher in the funnel and build customer relationships.

Brand building during crisis

If you rely entirely on advertising platforms for your marketing, you are optimising on the other side of the decimal point. That creates tunnel vision on conversion. With brand building you optimise before the decimal point. This is where you build relationships with your target group and tell the story of why your brand is worth a premium price. With the new skills you can do this more successfully than your competitor: you can form a customer image faster, create a bond with creative content and offer that added value for which customers come back.

In times of crisis, brand building also requires courage. For many, the focus then shifts sharply towards results, and the marketing budget shrinks despite all kinds of studies advising against it. A strong brand actually encourages growth during a crisis, a finding Kantar  found  in the 2020 BrandZTM Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands Ranking  study. Companies that consistently invested in long-term marketing and brand building saw their overall brand value increase by 9%.

The conductor's baton

Brand monitoring requires cohesion. All touchpoints and expressions have to work well together: the marketer has to wield the baton like the maestro conductor. Coordinating the customer journey belongs in the marketing field but has an inherent digital maturity. This is necessary to be able to collect data and merge it into a customer view, to efficiently try out and link new channels and to convert new insights into customer value. All this becomes possible when the organisation looks beyond the advertising platforms and starts shaping the customer relationship itself.

Digital marketing therefore goes beyond marketing and leads to digital transformation. However, that is a change that transcends the role of CMO. The main challenge for today's marketer is to realise that the executive role alone is no longer enough. In order to remain truly distinctive in the market, you will need to work closely with the other board members and your external partners to increase your digital maturity levels. On a strategic and creative level, with first-party data as your starting point.

Jacob Eeckhout
Center of Excellence Lead Marketing

A representative of Generation Y, Jacob has always been interested in digital technology and the way it changes 'how we do things'. Marketing is a prime example of this change. Today, Jacob shares much of iO’s marketing knowledge to chase after ‘better’ marketing: the type that’s all about establishing authentic connections and solving real-life problems by way of innovative technologies.

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