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January 10, 2014
Four Hot Marketing Topics for 2014
 
A new year means new budgets, new priorities, new alignments, and new worries. Here are four critical issues my clients are working on for 2014.
 
Leveraging Loyalty. People with strong connections to favorite brands buy more, buy more often, and influence others to buy. Identifying, engaging with, and motivating these people to serve as vocal advocates are high on every brand’s wish list. Incenting loyal customers to talk up a brand, especially in social media, is an incredibly efficient way to go to market. A strong base of loyalists gives brands added flexibility in allocating trade and media resources.
 
The challenge is that loyalty is a fleeting psychological state, not just a points, rewards, or coupon scheme. The heartiest brand advocate can be eliminated with a single bad experience or an incredible price offer. Today’s tout can be tomorrow’s critic with one click. Consumers are fickle and are constantly being offered new and different deals in the hope to enroll them as loyal customers. The archetypical programs, like air miles, have been consistently devalued and complicated.
 
Getting loyalty right is a matter of understanding the customer mindset, in the moment and over time, and mapping an appropriate series of stimuli and responses to intersect customer behavior and attitudes. Ideally brands can enhance existing consumer behavior by focusing on the most profitable prospects by combining triggered surprise and delight experiences with escalating incentives that can be tracked and quantified.
 
The ultimate solution is a combination of customer intimacy and smart segmentation, regular, genuine, two-way conversation and feedback and a data infrastructure for continuous measurement and improvement. This sounds much easier than it is to execute well.
 
Making Sense of Measurement. Brands have gone statistics crazy. Everybody counts everything. Each silo reports numbers weekly, monthly, and quarterly. Each agency produces a colorful graphic dashboard. Marketers have mountains of data that they can’t make sense of. Brands are missing the big picture and lack actionable intelligence. The search is on for standardized key performance indicators (KPIs).
 
Generally, there are two critical metrics questions. Are we meeting our business/profitability goals or forecasts? And are we using our resources as efficiently as possible?
 
Getting the answers requires brands to break down silos and share sensitive business data with key partners. Centralizing analysis of disparate data with one team, preferably a team without media buying responsibilities, provides dispassionate insights. Developing a reporting cadence that is long enough to see developing trends and short enough to respond to marketplace or competitive developments is critical.
 
Synching Social Media. The role, value, and ROI of social networks have been a mystery since they came on the scene. Now that many brands have considerable followings and social networks are morphing from purely word-of-mouth to paid advertising vehicles, marketers are eager to understand how the channels fit together and how they map to and impact consumer buying cycles.
 
Brands are asking tactical questions. Is Facebook an awareness or lead generation tool? Will carefully crafted or sponsored celebrity tweets impact the top or the bottom of the sales funnel? Can Pinterest drive brand differentiation and preference or accelerate the buying process? Should brands run simultaneous or sequential email, Facebook ads, and broadcast or cable spots to introduce a new product?
 
Independent data is hard to come by, though online retailers know that multi-channel buyers are their best customers. Media mix models rely on assumptions and very fuzzy math when it comes to social networks. Social network sales reps are eager to find numbers or conduct research to justify buys. Trial-and-error is the current state of the art.
 
Maximizing Mobility. Mobile users, the majority of our population, expect to access brands on many devices whenever and wherever the mood strikes. Consumers expect content and sites, no matter what device or form factor is used, to be easy to see or read and easy to interact with.
 
Unique patterns of behavior by segment, device, task, and time-of-day are emerging. Brands must be aware of and respond to these trends and produce content that meets consumer functionality and graphic expectations. That means scan-able and snack-able content, rendered quickly and clearly with easy-to-use buttons and links that require the minimum number of clicks. Similarly, mobile advertising, while still in the early stages, is much more dependent on mood, timing, and device than its digital and traditional counterparts. Understanding mobile usage by brand and by audience is a key research need.  

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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