For Marketers: When Being Different is the Same

Recently​, ​CMO.com posted an article on holiday marketing strategies (see below). In the article, nine senior-level executives were asked their thoughts on what companies can do, from a marketing perspective, to stand out from the competition during the upcoming holiday shopping season.

Of the executives that were interviewed, the majority of them said that companies should focus their marketing efforts on the use of social media, preplanned promotions, consumer and behavioral data and less intrusive advertising, but I question this. First, how are these strategies any different from what a brand should be doing year round? Shouldn’t brands use these strategies, alone or in conjunction with one another, throughout the year? What makes holiday time so different or special? Second, if the vast majority of companies in the marketplace use these strategies then how successful will they be in standing out from one another? Sure there would be creative differences between one company’s less-intrusive advertisement and its competitor’s, for example, but if the same underlying strategy is being followed, how very different can two companies be in the eyes of a consumer?

When people talk about differentiation, breaking through the clutter, etc. from a marketing sense, my mind thinks of zig zags. Why, because when the majority of companies are zigging, I’d rather be zagging and doing something different, whether it’s an overall strategy, tactic, product, service, etc.  To tie this back to the article, there was one executive who said something that no one else did. Cory Finding said that companies need to ensure a great user experience while consumers visit and shop on a web site. Think about it…everyone is so focused on social media, as an example, but what if your e-commerce website was one of the few out there with one-click check out, and you promoted this. Or your company used responsive design to ensure that a consumer can see your website in an optimal way, regardless of the viewing platform.

I was surprised that no one said, create a new, original and/or innovative product or service. In my mind, this is what will always help a company stand out from the competition, during the holiday season or year round.

Lastly, when I see holiday marketing articles like this, I always ask myself, shouldn’t marketers and brands be thinking about holiday strategy and planning months ago? Isn’t the third week in November a little late?

Enjoy the holidays. Thank you for reading.

9 Tips For Cutting Through The Holiday Marketing Noise

by Giselle Abramovich
Senior Strategic Editor, CMO.com

The best Christmas carolers sing in a harmonious union, one voice indistinguishable from another. Marketers, however, strive for the exact opposite, especially during the holiday season–when standing out from the competition reaches fever pitch.

So what’s a marketer to do? For this week’s edition of “CMO Wants To Know,” we reached out to eight marketers to get their advice.

Nathan Jokinen, VP of strategic development, Amobee, told CMO.com:
Social engagement should be constant, not static. Social media and the cross-channel experience has evolved the traditional sales funnel into a 24/7 cycle. We know online conversations, content creation, and consumption spikes during the holiday shopping time frame. Consumers will express their good and bad experiences with their social communities. Knowing this, marketers should harness the power of real-time digital marketing. Actionable analytics can enhance the consumer experience and drive deeper engagement by optimizing preplanned promotions and offers during the holiday season.

Key points: Social media, preplanned promotions, real-time marketing.

Mark Asher, director of corporate strategy, Adobe (CMO.com’s parent company), told CMO.com:
Acknowledge that consumers are now in control. This point of view frees you to think differently and to put yourself in an entirely new creative mind-set. Marketers no longer need to intrude on what people are talking about with advertising; instead, they can provide meaningful editorial that more naturally becomes what people are talking about and embeds the brand. Good examples include BizTech Magazine, published by tech reseller CDW to target small businesses and the technology vertical, and Callaway Golf’s YouTube channel, which offers golfing advice and technique to any golfing enthusiast, whether they are a Callaway customer or not. As people subscribe, share, and comment on this content, it fills a funnel that brands can mine for new prospects.

Key points: Valuable content, less intrusive advertising.

Mark Yackanich, CEO of Genesis Media, told CMO.com:
Data science and quality, and editorial environments, are the powerful combination that is needed to achieve true audience connection with any holiday marketing strategy. Consumers will undoubtedly be inundated with advertisements while online shopping, but those ads are valueless if they aren’t of interest to the viewer. An authentic connection with a targeted consumer can make your holiday ad seem more like a welcomed interruption—the better the connection, the further your last-minute holiday efforts will go. Stretch your digital dollar by capturing the attention of relevant consumers at the right time with ultra-targeted advertisements in professionally produced outlets. Technology and data today can make this happen.

Key points: ​Content, less intrusive advertising , ultra targeted ads.​

Melissa Wallace, VP of marketing, Bitly, told CMO.com: 
Rethink social. Social media is no longer just a channel for consumer engagement, but one that can be held accountable for business success. Especially during the holidays, social media strategy must be optimized for marketing performance. It’s important to match social metrics to results that matter most, such as lead generation, conversation, and ROI. We all know social has become a critical key to marketing success–and it’s not too late to prove it this holiday season by leveraging data found within various social tools and platforms to generate a clear picture of what actually resonates with audiences.

Key points: Social media​.

Ed Haslam, SVP of marketing,PlaceIQ, told CMO.com:

Marketers typically view the holiday season as the last push of the year to increase sales and ROI. The only way to enable success and boost efficiency in spending, however, is to strive for accuracy in targeting and measurability of results. Brands should keep in mind that their understanding of consumer behavior plays a major role in a successful holiday season. Data collected throughout the year, such as previous purchases or frequently visited locations, can be leveraged to reach consumers via mobile devices, influence last-minute purchasing decisions, and even grab business away from competitors using geoconquesting. Understanding your target audiences’ behavior allows a brand to connect directly with a consumer and deliver smart messages, ultimately increasing their ROI.​

Key points: Targeting, understanding consumer behavior. ​

Mollie Spilman, chief revenue officer, Criteo, told CMO.com:​ ​
For brands to separate themselves from the inevitable noise during the holiday shopping season, it’s imperative that they send highly relevant, dynamic messages to consumers that will quickly resonate and elicit a purchasing decision. Ensuring that each message delivered is accurately targeted and personalized will increase ROI for the advertiser, creating a winning holiday season for the brand.

Key points: Relevant, dynamic messages, targeting, personalization.

Henry Kim, founder and president, Symphony Commerce, told CMO.com:
To get the most out of your marketing efforts, focus your promotions on [the] important days–particularly Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Shoppers are cruising for deals, so set up your email and social campaigns in advance and offer your most competitive pricing via your online ads, automated emails, and social posts to highlight your best deals. In addition, all ads, emails, and landing pages should be consistent and aligned with the same messaging. Finally, 71 percent of consumers expect free shipping; therefore, if you can offer it, be sure to highlight free shipping, even if it’s just on these days.

Key points: Preplanned promotions, competitive pricing.

Alexi Venneri, co-founder and CEO, Digital Air Strike, told CMO.com:
Digital Air Strike recently conducted a study that [showed] consumers are turning to social media more than ever before to help inform purchasing decisions. To most effectively bolster social engagement and ultimately drives sales on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and well into the New Year, interact with visitors to your social media pages quickly and genuinely. Our recent studies have shown that Internet shoppers who received a response online within 10 minutes were three times more likely to visit the business and make a purchase.

Key points: Social media​.

Cory Finding, chief strategy officer, WiredViews Inc., told CMO.com: 
Clean up your user experience. Once a customer is on your Web site, make sure they have a great experience by ensuring navigation and checkout is easy and working properly.

Key points: User experience.

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