Sick of scouring sector landscapes with thousands of vendor logos organized into loosely defined categories? I mean, do you really need to know the names of 150 programmatic display advertising vendors out there? What’s the total Martech ecosystem going to tally this year – 7000+ vendors? Actually, yes. Yes it is. As my colleague Joe Stanhope said in his work on the convergence of Martech and Adtech – it’s hard to remember a time when there was such an unhealthy and unsustainable technology ecosystem.
At Forrester, we’ve covered marketing technology and the now overused term – “left-brained marketing” - for nearly fifteen years. We've come a long way as an industry since then, and today Forrester's marketing clients now enjoy step-by-step playbooks like the Enterprise Marketing Technology Playbook, and the Lead-To-Revenue Management Playbook that help them get more out of their technology investments. This is becoming more important every day. Why? Because marketing technology now commands one-fifth of overall marketing budgets for B2C marketers. That’s already a sizable chunk, and we expect it to climb quickly because 41% of these marketers tell us that they still lack the technology they need to grow their business.
If Thursday morning’s controversial tweet from McDonald’s is any indication, brands are no longer safe. I’m not just talking about the threat of a data breach or hack — I’m talking about the threat of consumers who force brands to expose their ethics and beliefs or remain at the mercy of consumer perception and interpretation in a polarized environment. As we’ve seen with other examples of ubiquitous and once universally loved brands like Kellogg’s and L.L. Bean, consumers increasingly judge companies on the basis of their values — and while customers are skeptical of firms that stay silent, they open their wallets for those that champion appealing causes.
Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data reveals that this is hardly a passing cloud; customers are becoming more aware of — and sensitive to — social issues overall. For instance, more consumers regularly follow politics, read about science, and identify as being environmentally conscious today than in 2014:
Intuitively, it makes sense that if a consumer engages with a brand’s ad or marketing message, this should count as a positive outcome. Yet, we’ve spoken to a number of marketers and measurement companies that found that optimizing for engagement ultimately did not help them drive positive business outcomes – instead leading them to waste time and media dollars on the wrong users.
The issue we keep encountering in discussions around engagement is that advertisers count interactions – clicks, shares, likes, comments, views – as proxies for engagement. There’s no clear link between these individual actions and what they are really trying to measure: are their messages moving consumers along their path to purchase, by driving either brand preference or sales?
Few topics get more air time in marketing circles than adtech and martech convergence. The commentary spans a spectrum ranging from attempts to agree upon the deceptively simple semantics of adtech and martech (which usually ends when everyone throws up their hands and concedes that it is simply madtech) to existential examinations of the future of marketing itself.
Some reactions to looming convergence approach satire, sometimes even intentionally. Like the war room bound leaders in Dr. Strangelove, we wonder: Are we heading for mutually assured destruction? Is somebody harboring a doomsday device? Have our deterrents been rendered useless? Which side will strike first? Who’s really in charge?
Yet these questions are surprisingly apt in the context of convergence. It should surprise no-one that adtech and martech convergence evokes strong feelings. Modern marketing is a technology-driven discipline, and any widespread change will reverberate throughout the ecosystem. Convergence impacts the future of thousands of vendors (and their investors). It affects day-to-day marketing operations for tens of thousands of brands (and their agencies). The excitement, mystery, and controversy surrounding convergence speaks volumes about the marketing industry’s collective aspirations and fears.
Happy 2017! Settling in to the New Year often renews hope and excitement for the future, and rekindles anticipation for the brands, products, and experiences on the horizon. This year, it’s hard to think about imminent innovations without considering a modern imperative that is rapidly moving to the forefront of conversation: customer empathy.
We are barely three weeks into 2017 and already the cry for customer empathy – and brands’ responses to it – are popping up frequently. At the Consumer Electronics Show, the “insanely cute” Kuri personal robot stole consumers’ hearts, and took the notion of “tech love” to a whole other level. The progression of Artificial Intelligence is sparking public debate about the role of compassion in human connection. And people find themselves seeking meaning, purpose, and understanding over happiness.
The need for empathy affects how customers evaluate brands too: Consumers increasingly prefer companies that resonate with shoppers’ personal values. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® social listening data shows that consumer buzz about company values is on the rise:
Black Friday approaches. I should be breathless with anticipation. You see, I’m a brand strategist. To me, the prospect of millions of people reveling in thousands of brands and turning the bottom line from red to black is brand nirvana. It’s like Christmas came early. Which it does, in a way, on Black Friday.
Yet, the tendrils of self-doubt infiltrate my exuberance. Must a weekend so treasured for time spent with friends and family be ruined by being pepper-sprayed at Walmart, by being gored in the Pamplona bull run down the aisles at Best Buy to save 50 bucks on a TV I don’t need? Do we really need to spend any more time glued to our devices buying more clutter?
Maybe you feel this way, and maybe you don’t. But you would expect brands to be cheerleaders for Black Friday, right? Wrong.
Black Friday 2011: Patagonia buys a full-page ad in the New York Times and instructs readers not to buy its jackets. That’s right, they pay good money to tell folks not to buy their stuff. Citing the “astonishing” environmental cost of making jackets, they encourage people to reuse and recycle. Fast forward to Black Friday 2016. This year, Patagonia is donating 100% of Black Friday sales to grass roots organizations "working to create positive change for the planet in their own backyards." Yes, you did read that correctly. 100%. And sales, not profit.
Black Friday, 2015: REI decides to remain closed that day and give all its employees a paid day off. No, their P&L does not self-combust. Instead, they choose to close shop again for Black Friday 2016. REI’s CEO says that this “reinforces both REI’s culture with employees and the message that resonates with the company’s core customer base.” About 2 million people plan to #OptOutside with REI.
Wally Ollins, of Wolf Ollins fame and a legend of sorts in the branding world, didn’t look too kindly upon brand measurement. "There are too many people," he said "... who are fed the rubbish that if you can't analyze it - if you can't chew it up into numbers - it doesn't exist." Not one to mince words, he continued, "I deeply reject all that and find it to be a contemporary version of witchcraft." It's hard to argue with Wally; somewhere along the way doctrine and data have dulled the notion that brand is, to quote JetBlue's CEO, "the way we feel."
The Inevitability Of Measurement
David Aaker is a legend of sorts as well in the branding world, and a lot of his work centers on brand equity. David writes of brand as an asset. And as an asset, it is must withstand financial scrutiny and ROI justification. CMOs may know it in their hearts, but CEOs and CFOs must see it on paper. That leaves us with the unenviable task of calculating the incalculable. Many have rushed forward to meet this challenge. I describe various measurement techniques in detail in my new report for Forrester clients: Branding Never Sleeps; a brief summary appears below.
Four Measurement Streams
The nitty gritty of brand performance is relatively easy to measure using survey, operational, and transactional data
Near-real time brandsentiment can be captured by social listening, although skewed samples and lack of established frameworks muddy the water
Perception can be surveyed, but traditional ask-and-tell tracking of emotions is fraught with problems; neuromarketing offers some emerging and exciting avenues
It's not about whether brands have value. It's about how to manage the value.
Twilight Of The Brands
In early 2014, our profession faced an existential crisis. The end was near, said James Surowiecki, in his New Yorker article, "Twilight Of The Brands." Look at Lululemon, he cried. The cult-like athletic wear brand was reeling from product failure and leadership indelicacies. And he referenced new research that said consumers were "supremely well informed," and did not need to "rely on logos" to determine value.
In The Pink Of Health
Turns out Surowiecki wasn't so well informed after all:
More is not better. It is true that the digital age brings with it more information about brands. More than many would care for, really. And therein lies the rub – this tsunami without filter or curation does little to clarify and more to confuse.
Brands signify more than information. The idea of brand as a signal of value is valid, although simplistic. More information may bridge quality and trustworthiness gaps, but a brand is much more. It conveys an emotional connection. Information plays no role in sipping a Coke or running in Nike.
First, this is my inaugural post since rejoining Forrester Research in May. I’m a boomerang in Forrester parlance — a former employee returning to the company — and it’s been wonderful to immerse myself in the marketing world and reconnect with so many clients, vendors, and colleagues. In the time since my first tour at Forrester, I’ve held several executive roles, spanning global marketing technology, adtech, and SaaS technology. One of the interesting aspects of being a boomerang is bringing my range of experiences back to Forrester, which I believe will make me a better analyst and resource for clients. I am partnering with my colleague Rusty Warner to cover enterprise marketing technology. It’s a big topic! By teaming up, Rusty and I are in a great position to maintain the Enterprise Marketing Technology playbook, extend coverage of marketing technology into new and expanded topics, and work closely with Forrester clients on a global basis. In particular, I’ll be focusing on the future state of marketing and advertising technologies.
The battle over ad blockers has never been fiercer: Their popularity with consumers is skyrocketing across the globe. Ad blockers offer a better online experience and have become easier to use. But consumers like them as a way to protect their privacy and their data from being misused. Firms increasingly think that their best bet is to block the blockers. But a recent study has shown that this strategy is just a losing game, as it has contributed to the deep decline in traffic figures. And the problem doesn’t end there; the EU recently made its voice heard by saying that blocking ad blockers is a practice that breaches EU privacy rules.
But what about your customers? If you use ad blockers, just think of the last time you wanted to check out an article online but were asked to uninstall your ad blocker first or, possibly worse, to fill in your details to “freely” enjoy your read.
Security, risk, and privacy professionals must be mindful that the privacy practices that they design and enforce have a direct effect on the customer’s interaction with their firms. As much as they think about compliance, they must consider the privacy experience of their customers too. And this is one of the examples where the collaboration with marketing leaders, including customer experience, customer insight, and the marketing leadership, becomes extremely important.