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October 10, 2007
Marketing to the Empowered Consumer – Are You Ready?

Until recently there was a clear line separating the channels and objectives of brand and direct. One focused on creating awareness and share-of-mind via television, radio and print, and the other on inspiring a specific action and share-of-wallet via mail, telemarketing and more recently – email. That line is quickly disintegrating, and it’s no longer a question of traditional brand advertising versus direct marketing. The answer lies in a combination of both skill sets to create and execute relevant campaigns driven by consumer insights.

Today’s reality is that the proliferation of media, channels and consumer empowerment has brought about a new age of marketing accountability, and an increased pressure to demonstrate measurable results quickly to the C-suite. And as this volatile landscape continues to shift, so must our view of how marketing organizations must structure themselves in order to keep pace. So what can we, as marketers, do to adapt and succeed in this environment?

1. Expand the role of the CMO
Historically CMO’s have leaned heavily on traditional advertising agencies to drive marketing and media mix allocation decisions. But as the pressure to demonstrate accountability grows, CMOs are faced wit the need to bolster these capabilities with the advanced analytics and quantitative skills rooted in the world of direct marketing. And while branding and the creative skill sets that traditional agencies bring to the table remain vitally important; they are relying less on mass media channels and redirecting marketing dollars to more measurable, targeted forms of media.

Indeed, one of the most significant challenges that CMO’s are contending with is how to strike the right balance of both the qualitative and quantitative sides of the marketing equation. And as they drive changes internally to better integrate these disciplines, they need to challenge their agency-side partners to proactively change and expand their ability to support this new reality.

2. Adopt a customer-centric approach
Most marketers are still organized around their product lines, markets or technologies. But as consumers continue to adopt the new technologies that give them fingertip control of how, when and if they want to be marketed to, marketers should consider realigning their traditional “Four Ps” focus (product, place, price, promotion) – and engage customers on their own terms.

Achieving customer-centricity requires an organizational philosophy that puts the consumer at the center of campaign planning and execution; and an infrastructure that leverages enterprise-wide intelligence to enables true continuity of the brand message across all media. This powerful combination creates a customer experience that is relevant and consistent – resulting in a customer that is engaged, loyal and a true advocate of the brand.

3. Reshape the planning process
It’s still a surprisingly common practice for marketers to simply hand off the planning process to their advertising agency partner and rarely question the recommendations. Marketers need to take a more interactive, cross-disciplinary approach to campaign planning that brings the full compliment of disciplines together.

A handful of today’s leading marketers are driving this new model of campaign planning - engaging both advertising agency and the database marketing agency to form a truly integrated, enterprise-wide marketing platform. Operating in this environment enables an organization to fully leverage the value of brand and consumer insights as they are infused into the development of all marketing communications.

Consumers undoubtedly have more media, information and channel options available to them than ever before. And although it certainly is shaking up the landscape, consumer empowerment is an amazing opportunity. We as marketers have an unprecedented ability to get closer to the consumer, understand their motivations and respond quickly to their needs. While there is no single “silver bullet” answer, those who are willing to adopt change and commit to a customer-centric view that is supported by an enterprise-wide marketing infrastructure will surely blaze trails that others will scramble to follow.

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Mike Shutty is president of Merkle Agency Services. He is responsible for driving the new Merkle value proposition through the marketplace and commercial markets group clients. Mike’s prowess for long-term strategic planning have been instrumental in establishing Merkle Agency Services as an agency built on a platform of unparalleled service. Prior to joining Merkle, Mike was director of marketing research and then an account executive at Donnelley Marketing. Mike is actively involved in the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and is a member of the Association’s Financial Services Council.

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