The challenge in digital marketing is not the adaptation of technology trends, but the competition for users with platforms, the replacement of consumer and user relationships as well as reliable results in the interaction of marketing channels. The advertising industry is not sufficiently prepared for any of these points. It benefits from increasingly generous budgets and acts as if there is no tomorrow. If it goes on like this, this will even be more accurate.
Just as car dealers desire more horsepower, online advertisers love everything that blinks and clicks. They want a little bit more of everything so that everything stays the way it is. This year’s trends include influencers, story formats and voice marketing, and together we are waiting for chatbots, AI, VR and IoT. Yes, these are nice trends.
However, it concerns completely different topics. The advertising industry must finally tackle the reform problem created in the boom years. After all, let us be honest, the impacts are not only coming closer, they are hitting now.
“More and more media budget” means “less and less effectiveness”
Media budgets are rising again by more than 15%. In this context, “more and more” essentially means “less and less effective”. Advertising continuously loses its impact, which even the widespread pseudo-personalization cannot compensate. Users are increasingly reacting to media over-stimulation with ad-blindness. Operating systems and browsers assist with their own ad blockers. In the US, one third of users in the advertising industry are already lost. Favorite partners such as Facebook are drowning in data scandals, falsified reach data and fake news, and all of them are struggling with click fraud, which now constitutes 40% of internet traffic. Influencer marketing has also long been out of order. While influencers fake their reach data or entire campaigns, an egg becomes a post-ironic advertising hit. Something is really going wrong.
There is a lack of vision for direct customer relations
Lack of advertising efficiency is only one problem. In the competition for customer access, brands are becoming more and more dependent on these platforms. Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Baidu, Spotify, LinkedIn – the list of companies with virtually limitless user numbers, data and marketing formats could be extended indefinitely. In addition, almost every one of these platforms could appear on its own market and completely turn it upside down. The question, moreover, is no longer how this superiority can be prevented, but how it can be used without becoming a victim. Above all, this requires differentiation. Companies too often lack a modern vision for direct customer relations. And there is a lack of personalised added value, from which the customer relationship thrives.
The challenge of the subscription economy
The shift in user behaviour, caused by platforms, puts additional pressure on the marketing sector. We live in an Airbnb, take an Uber to our workspace, where we work with cloud software. We are using instead of owning items, thus a purchase is no longer a purchase. It is replaced by subscriptions and pay-per-use. Turnover is not made in the magic moment of the purchase, but over the entire life cycle of the customer relationship. Availability, automation and scalability, loyalty as well as recommendation and network effects displace the actual acquisition in their significance. Volkswagen is currently introducing its Moia driving service in Germany. Whoever will be using it, is not interested in the technical intricacies of the vehicle, but rather focuses on how easy the booking process is, who else will be on the ride, or how good the Netflix reception is on board.
How to fix it? 5 proposals against the reform stagnation
1. Brands are also platforms, stupid!
Because of “platform occultism” it is better to not lose sight of one’s own strengths. Every brand is a platform that brings together people with common interests. It is mind-boggling that only few brands make use of this. Own customers are a great resource with which brands can grow stronger. Instead, marketing relies completely on content marketing and promotes mechanisms from analog times that degrade the audience to the silent recipient that is fed ever good news.
Yet the customers themselves are the brand. They are sender, message/content and recipient in one person. “Youtuber”, “Twitteree”, “Ebay-Powerseller” – platforms treat their users as partners and professionals, and that is exactly what they sometimes become. GAFAs have become big through this form of user centricity. It is time to learn from them. Marketing has the task of defining experiences, collecting user stories behind them and sending them through its own formats. Marketing departments of all countries, unite in the fight for an exciting customer experience and spread the word on what your customers experience!
2. Brands are places of trust
Trust is the second big chance. Trust becomes the most important USP, especially when it comes to platforms. 60 percent of all users see the brands as natural allies against the overexploitation of their privacy. The first Facebook-free companies are already emerging. Time for the brands to place their own trust factor at the centre of the customer experience. What does that mean? Brands (naturally) use platforms for marketing and sales, but they also show how they collect user data responsibly and only in connection with a specific benefit. This also applies to “personalized advertising”, which only works if it creates a relationship with the user. Too often, the target group is targeted too precisely, but is then being sent boring mass goods.
3. Marketing-Fix: The promise of a better self
If consumer data is the famous digital fuel, then the brands are not the refinery, but rather the machine manufacturer who helps the customer to find his sources. User data is not their property but a commodity, a currency. In return, the customer receives added value and the supplier can improve his performance in exchange. This is how the company should appear: As a promise of a better self. Apple now sees itself as a healthcare provider, Adidas as a fitness coach. Volkswagen wants to be a mobility partner, Zalando is on its way to becoming a fashion consultant. Why? Because a better “I” is always a better proposition than personalized advertising.
4. Chat is eating Content
Content is great. Marketing as well. Content marketing is rather not. The latter is actually an administrative monster that is expensive to plan, expensive to produce and expensive to market in order to realize that nobody is interested in the end. Those who have followed the trend of storytelling and then turned from the right path of information towards self-fixation will acknowledge this. “If it looks like marketing, it is marketing” – this sentence is still valid. What follows? Authenticity in real time. People also want digital attention. When it is no longer from his real environment, then at least from other real people. It may be that at some point the bots will be added, but we have not come that far yet. Our forecast: Live and chat formats will change marketing more than banners. Whatsapp is more popular than Facebook nowadays. You can chat not only with employees, but also with other customers. It’s time to turn brand appearances into live events.
5. Marketing platforms are allies against internet platforms
According to Google, it takes more than 400 searches in search engines, websites, booking systems and social networks to find a holiday destination. Even shampoos are only bought according to the “Best Choice” strategy. Google calls this back-and-forth between, inspiration, research, use and opinion forming “Micro Moments”. The term captures how automized customer journeys are today. In real life, companies often lack the technical infrastructure for the small-scale tracking of all commitments before and after the purchase. Therefore, the centralization of user data and the automation of pre- & after-sales processes is the most important structural challenge in the digital business. This marks the beginning of the big marketing platforms from Adobe, Salesforce or Microsoft. They still promise more than they can deliver, are expensive to implement and even more expensive to maintain. Yet once they are operational, companies benefit significantly from the power of automated standard processes and dynamic customer communications.
And what will happen if nothing happens? Then what is taking place now will continue to go on. The users stay with the platforms, data has to be bought at a high price per ad playout, and missing insights in the production have to be compensated. The greater the gap between users and brands, the more expensive it gets. At some point, acquisition costs will become a barrier to growth. And that does not have to happen. It is still 2019. The year in which everything might change.