Go Native To Strengthen Your Brand Engagement

Digital advertising is akin to a carpenter’s toolbox. Each tool in the box serves a different purpose and was made to accomplish a specific task. Similarly, native advertising, or sponsored content, is a marketing tool that marketers can use as a complement to other forms of digital advertising to achieve a specific purpose.

Forrester defines native advertising as: Any form of paid or sponsored content that directly and transparently contributes to the experience of the site or platform where it appears by aligning with the format, context, or purpose of that site or platform’s editorial content page.

While Asia Pacific marketers have yet to invest in native advertising in a big way, native advertising provides them with an additional avenue to better engage with customers and win their preference. Native advertising is more engaging than display advertising and is also showing early success on consumers’ mobile screens. For example, content marketer Contently saw a clear 10% rise in brand opinion among its engaged subscribers, while Virgin Mobile USA claimed that native ads led to a 200% uplift in the likelihood to consider its brand. Taboola, Virool, and Skyword are examples of companies that can help marketers drive discovery of their content and improve engagement. I discuss how marketers can work with them in my latest report.

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Content Marketing On Messaging Apps Must Follow The Customer Life Cycle

In case you haven’t noticed, the number of smartphone users in Asia Pacific has grown – we estimate that it breached the 1 billion mark in 2014. This is the first time that more people in the region used smartphones than feature phones.

When coupled with the fact that the region is also a leader in innovative messaging apps, such as WeChat, Line, and KakaoTalk, marketing professionals can start to see how Asia Pacific is ripening into a mobile-led commerce and marketing harvest – creating a commercial marketplace where users interact and trade and offering organizations growing sales and marketing opportunities.

However, many B2C marketing professionals today limit that potential by only focusing on promoting flash sales or discounts, as seen on the likes of WeChat and Line. Marketers must consider longer-term use cases to fully mine these apps' potential. Unless a messaging app user is specifically searching for and ready to buy a particular product or service, marketers who continue to pepper the app’s chat room with meaningless discount messages will have wasted their investment. In addition, users will likely move to the next competitive (i.e., cheaper) offering when it comes along, running the risk of marketers facing a race to the bottom with cutthroat pricing.

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Insights From The Digital Gold Mine

Most CMOs today have to close gaps in data collection within and across marketing units, integrate the data to transform it into actionable insights, and foster a closer working relationship among these units to achieve the overarching business goals. Building a command center may be a distant priority.

However,  I have argued that digital command centers are intelligent nerve centers that let brands quickly track digital moments and respond appropriately to manage their reputation, retarget display ads, drive new sales opportunities, and provide customer support. In effect, it’s a marketing organization’s digital gold mine. On a broader scale, this marketing capability will importantly feed into an entire firm’s system of insights.

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The Digital Command Center: The New Must-Have For CMOs

CMOs today are increasingly asked to help their firms adapt to increasingly powerful customers. Those who fail to do this risk affecting their company’s long-term viability. To cope, CMOs must lead the transformation of their firm’s strategic planning process to an outside-in perspective focused on the customer. High-performing companies have learned that as customer behavior adapts, so must their business strategy — and have moved from a yearly strategy exercise to a continuous process with a focus on customer value and loyalty. To succeed, CMOs must effectively harness outside-in intelligence and simultaneously collaborate with key C-suite peers to build unified strategies and a shared business technology agenda to win, serve, and retain customers.

In our view, CMOs have a new weapon in their marketing arsenal to achieve this goal: the digital command center. Digital command centers are intelligent nerve centers that let brands quickly track digital moments and respond appropriately to manage their reputation, retarget display ads, drive new sales opportunities, and provide customer support. Beyond listening to social chatter on digital channels such as online forums and analyzing brand relevance, product discussions, and customer viewpoints, it also pulls in unstructured information that is rapidly shared with other departments in the company. For an increasing number of CMOs, such a center delivers actionable insights to improve market research, better support customers, and drive sales.

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A Formal Social Marketing Structure Is Key To Success In Asia Pacific

Discussing with Asia Pacific marketers, I often hear that they struggle to find and recruit the right social marketing skills, including data analysts. While staffing is important insofar as tactics go, having a proper team structure to execute on these tactics is, in my view, even more crucial.

In fact, they can mitigate some of these HR challenges with a properly structured social team. My report on building a usable social team structure addresses how organizational models will evolve as social marketing matures. These models include the a) Hub, b) Hub and spoke and c) distributed hub and spoke. 

The Hub, for example, is meant to help firms that are starting out on social marketing. This could be a firm that is beginning to get more serious about how social is used strategically to drive business outcomes, or one that operates in highly regulated industries like banking and finance. The centralized hub model puts all of the responsibility (and money) for social marketing in the hands of one small team. This model provides training wheels for marketers for social marketing — especially in learning how to coordinate or test social marketing campaigns in the early phases of social maturity. A centralized hub acts as an incubator for social marketing experimentation and allows other teams to focus on their own objectives until the social program can be implemented at scale with minimal risk. Execution can be in-house, but some marketers partner with an external agency for additional dedicated resources.

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Lessons From SingPost’s Social Marketing Strategy

In Asia Pacific, there is growing recognition that the old way of marketing — driving awareness through push advertising — has sputtered and slowed in the wake of media fragmentation and the disruptive power of digital. Marketers need a new framework to align their marketing decisions to the customer’s experiences with the brand to define customer engagement, budget allocation, and organizational skills.

However, many companies are still in the adolescent phase of social marketing; they have crested the initial wave of social likes and followers, but are now stuck on the next steps. Few have managed to crack the social marketing conundrum — that of showing meaningful return on their social marketing investments. Marketers need to understand and map the customer journey — from enabling discovery to supporting exploration, purchase, and engagement. Astute ones will map each stage of the customer life cycle to an objective from Forrester’s marketing RaDaR model. To create discovery, the objective should be reach. To support exploration, depth is the objective. To nurture engagement, focus on relationships.

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Focus Social Marketing On Clear Business Outcomes

Asia Pacific marketers have moved from experimenting with social media in the recent past to integrating it into their marketing mix. However, a large number are guilty of setting and measuring metrics, such as vanity metrics, that do not inform the next course of action.

To increase your chances of social marketing success, you must:

  • Build an understanding of your audience. Brands all too often mistake social media platforms as a broadcast channel and rave about their own products and services without first understanding the conversations going around them. Astute marketers will first deploy listening platforms by studying the social behaviors of their target audiences and the context of their conversations. Forrester’s Social Technographics® will tell you both how social your audience is and the types of social behaviors in which they engage.
  • Invest in social marketing based on clear business outcomes. Many Asia Pacific marketers are still allocating media budgets based on user consumption of media — or worse, on how budgets were allocated in previous years. But this model is obsolete, thanks to new methods of accessing data and harnessing technology. Marketers must be able to answer which specific social activities drive specific business outcomes and boldly reallocate marketing investments based on these. For instance, marketers must show how their Facebook strategy has driven fans to their eCommerce site and helped stimulate them to complete a sale.
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Australian Financial Services Get Going To Improve Digital Customer Experience

I had the pleasure of conducting a Digital Maturity Assessment workshop with a colleague from Forrester Consulting for about 20 companies in Sydney recently. The majority of participants were from the Australian financial sector, with heavier representation from marketing departments than technology management. While the session was an abridged one intended to discuss, understand, and determine where the participants were on their digital business journey, it was productive and revealed that:

  • Participants knew what to do with digital business transformation, but struggled with howParticipants had started on the digital transformation journey, but needed to address cultural and organizational gaps to fully drive transformation. These issues include who owns the digital transformation agenda (does it sit with the CIO or CMO?), how to bridge the communication chasm between the CIO’s department and the lines of business, and how to measure results to drive transformation in a positive direction.
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Digitize Your Business Today Or Prepare To Become Obsolete

In a previous blog entry, I argued that everyone needs to digitize their business, but not every business knows what to do. Transforming into a digital businesses, especially if you’re a traditional enterprise, is hard work. However, we believe that Asia Pacific is already primed for digital disruption.

In my report, The State Of Digital Business In Asia Pacific In 2014, we found that, while the highest-profile digital business pioneers are headquartered in North America, market demand in Asia Pacific is more conducive to long-term digital disruption. Asia Pacific has five times as many Internet users and smartphone subscribers as the US and almost as much online retail spending as the US and Europe combined. You just need to look at regional powerhouses like Alibaba.com and Commonwealth Bank of Australia and their multibillion-dollar businesses to grasp the rewards of digital business success in Asia Pacific.

However, knowing what these firms have accomplished is insufficient; knowing how to get there is more critical. You should:

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Everyone Needs To Digitize Their Business — But Not Every Business Knows What To Do

Every business must transform into a digital business. Digital businesses continuously exploit digital technologies to create new sources of value for their customers and increase their operational agility to serve those customers. In Asia Pacific, CIOs have had limited success in driving digital business transformation. Organizations taking an early lead in transforming their business include Commonwealth Bank of Australia, China’s Ping An Insurance Group, and DBS Bank in Singapore.

A true digital business needs to integrate two sides of a digital strategy: digital customer experience and digital operational excellence. My colleague Nigel Fenwick has written extensively on the topic; this infographic, for example, sums up our thinking. Becoming a truly digital business requires a radical overhaul of organizational structures, technologies, measurement frameworks, and operating models. And it’s ongoing.

The organizations coping best with digital disruption are creating:

  • A digital strategy as a defense mechanism against disruption. The pace of consumer change poses the biggest threat to any traditional businesses that have yet to experience the impact of digital disruption, regardless of whether they’re in the telecommunications, media and entertainment, transportation and travel, or other industry. For example, Australia Post has set up a A$2 billion kitty to aggressively pursue a digital strategy to tap into new revenue sources, including building a new center for the digital delivery of mobile and online products and services.
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