at least online
I was having a great conversation with my dear friend Adam Broitman this week about the strategic process of media planning. We were discussing all the media speak that clients and marketing MBAs like to bat around like SWOT and SCAN. They all have their place and can be very helpful and quite needed when building a strategic plan for your company, brand or offline marketing. Where Adam & I question their value is in the world of online marketing.
All of these processes when used for marketing planning require a great deal of research, understanding of the consumer, their media consumption behavior, the brands desired messaging, available assets, position in the market place – you get the idea. Most of them lead to expensive consumer studies being done to better define and understand the target audience so media dollars are not wasted – or as John Wanamaker so famously said, “I know half of my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” And I believe that is still very true for much of the unmeasurable offline world. It makes perfect sense that you would use a ton of research to back up any marketing decision you make in the very expensive world of Television, Print or OOH.
But let’s stop for a minute and think about how the online user interacts with the medium. Online by nature is traditionally a very “sit forward” medium. You may be web surfing, but that is very different from channel surfing. Advertisements don’t load on the page when the user is in the kitchen getting a drink and then disappear two seconds before they return to make room for the “real” content. Instead they are integrated into the landscape, with more presence and visibility then the best brand placements in the Sex and The City movie. If that is the case then we have an extremely engaged users. (yeah, we know that already) So then I ask you, why would we not let their actual behaviors dictate where and how we spend our marketing dollars?
I’m not trying to dismiss the strategic planning process. I think it’s a great exercise that we should all go through to get the campaign ready to launch, but as one of my clients said a month ago, “I know we are not going to get this plan done so that it’s 100% efficient right out of the gate, but this process is going to get us to 70% and we can optimize on the other 30%.” And you know what, she is absolutely right!
The strategic planning process all of the Marketing MBAs learned in school can help get an online media plan really close to perfect, but the real learning and planning starts once the campaign has launched. It is then, and only then, that we fully understand how the customer responds to our messaging, which sites they find us to be most relevant on, what keywords they are actually clicking to purchase from and how they want us to interact with them. Once we launch the campaign we are able to optimize to peak performance, follow the trends, continue to the reSearch (the process of constantly buzz harvesting and tracking results) and refresh and re-optimize as needed to maintain or increase performance.
Ah the beauty of online marketing – we have real time focus groups with live data for all of our potential consumers and if we are smart we will stop trying to tell them we want them to hear and shut up and listen. They will tell us exactly how and when they want to hear from us.