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C-suite executives from some of the industry’s leading digital agencies provide their insights on where the greatest opportunities for innovation lie to improve digital marketing, the greatest challenges involved with digital media, and best practices for reaching stakeholders with key messages using digital media.
Opportunities: The opportunity depends on how one defines the term “digital marketing.” If digital marketing simply means marketing activities across screens, then the opportunities for innovation are somewhat limited to the technologies that govern the experiences on those screens. Better, more interactive mobile content, social CRM, and breakthrough media partnerships come to mind. I’d also include a holistic approach to the data that measure those activities over time, and how they’re moving the business to be quite innovative as well.
However, if one defines digital marketing as the ability to create better, more meaningful experiences that drive customer preference regardless of channel, screen, or touchpoint, then the opportunities are endless. Novel partnerships with digital health startups, connected health products and services, data products that collect real-world data and tell stories can all be considered “marketing,” and will probably do more for a brand in the long-run then an interactive billboard.
Challenges: The greatest challenge to innovation within digital marketing is that we’re still referring to it as “digital” and we’re still calling it “marketing.” Digital is everywhere and in everything. And marketing has somehow come to mean “advertising,” rather than Peter Drucker’s famous view of it: “Marketing is not only much broader than selling; it is not a specialized activity at all. It encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of the final result, that is, from the customer’s point of view. Concern and responsibility for marketing must therefore permeate all areas of the enterprise.” Our inability to “permeate” is an issue. Businesses have become so siloed that it becomes incredibly difficult for us to truly innovate with an idea that goes further than the commercial organization within which marketing sits.
Opportunities: At Calcium we believe that the truly great opportunity provided by digital media as a marketing tool is to foster ongoing, interactive, and mutually beneficial communication between a marketer and his or her targeted customers and to be able to measure the outcomes with great accuracy. But to do this well requires research, planning, and both a deep appreciation of and respect for those customers’ real needs.
The precise nature of this opportunity clearly depends on the precise interests of the target customer. The interests of a director of pharmacy services at a major managed care organization are very different from those of an 18-year-old college student with asthma, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that these people won’t both communicate online, if it is done in the right way.
Challenges: At Calcium, we are increasingly concerned that digital data are so frequently hacked and pirated that many people’s willingness to use digital media to communicate could be seriously eroded, particularly with respect to individual information about health and healthcare services.
The challenge to innovation, in our eyes, revolves more around data security and the protection of such personal data than it does about the opportunity to deliver and receive information. If you can’t feel confident about the security and privileged nature of personal health information, why would you ever be willing to share this with others?
Best Practices: There are several best practices that outline how Calcium operates in the digital media world. First, define your goals and objectives so that you can gain measureable outcomes and data. Define your target audience(s) with care and make sure you understand the real needs of each of those audiences. The medium is no longer the message — the message must be digital platform neutral.
Lastly, don’t think in terms of technologies that can be used to deliver messages; think in terms of how to spread messages across multiple digital platforms using communications strategies and tactics such that your target audiences will have a high likelihood of seeing them, reacting, and responding.
Opportunities: Start with the data. Without a doubt, we need to gain a better understanding of, and genuinely listen to, our end users. What’s particularly interesting is that many acknowledge this need, but few approach it in a meaningful, focused way and truly leverage data to do so. As we move from targeted marketing to personalized marketing, we have the ability to leverage ethnography, the digital footprint, and biometric data generated from the Internet of Things to create a robust digital profile of our end users. As all of our devices work to connect our bodies’ data and our technology creating the “Quantified Self,” we have an opportunity to speak to our end users in highly personalized and relevant ways that can significantly drive impact on health and business outcomes.
Challenges: The irony of innovation itself is a significant challenge worth exploring. Marketers have a tendency to request “innovation” for innovation sake without a strong strategic underpinning of desired measured outcome. At the end of the day, many programs generate fragmented data, a lot of it, in fact. Then there’s the challenge of extracting intelligence from that data to predefined KPI’s that generate business outcomes. Interestingly, when you ask what innovation means to a company, few can align on its meaning.This should be the starting point. What does innovation mean and how should we measure it to know that we have achieved something meaningful. Generating innovative tactics with little result is pointless.
Best Practices: Know your audience. Understand what channels they are engaged in, and which channels will truly drive behavior change. Consider digital as part of the broader ecosystem. We can no longer think of digital as a channel, but as a core component of a bigger net that includes offline channels as well as other key influencers within a stakeholder’s network. Understanding how each channel works together or independently to influence behavior will be the key to maximizing the potential of marketing. And of course, use your data; measure and analyze; then rinse and repeat. (PV)