Q&A: David Brown, Meredith Integrated Marketing
David Brown, Meredith Integrated Marketing's EVP and GM, discusses the importance of building brand awareness and channel evolution
Q: Meredith has made a number of acquisitions recently. What are advantages to acquisitions rather than organic growth in a particular service area?
A: We have acquired six companies in the past few years, and I've worked on several of those to evaluate the type of service and company to acquire. The main advantage to acquisition is speed, though there's also an element of credibility. Any agency can say in a presentation that they have a leading mobile-services division, but it's different to say you have a mobile-services division with 100 people already in-house.
Q: Since publishers like Meredith are not traditional creative, digital or marketing-services agencies, which types of shops are you competing against in pitches?
A: We have a broad set of competitors. We don't compete against general agencies or media agencies that develop advertising. We're more a marketing-services company, so we compete against the Harte-Hanks and Merkles of the world, as well as other agencies in the CRM community like Wunderman and Rapp.
Q: Do you consider technology a core competency for any business or is it just an enabler for other channels?
A: Companies need to have enough technology to facilitate the conversations they want to have and be flexible enough to deal with how rapidly channels are evolving in what we refer to as a hyper-connected world. Whereas five or 10 years ago, the main channels were direct mail, email and call centers, we're now dealing with SMS, mobile and social, and technology can bridge those channels.
Q: What role does content play in companies' strategies?
A: Content plays a role for any company that has story to tell. It's a great way to engage, inform and educate customers on how to use a brand's portfolio. Financial services, automotive and pre- or post-natal products are conducive to long-term, content-driven stories rather than a single-minded brand promise. Many clients' digital and technology infrastructures are becoming more stable, so the question is how to use that infrastructure across channels like social, digital and traditional direct to develop content and deliver it at scale across channels.
Q: Do you think there is a lack of talent in the industry?
A: We haven't seen a lack of talent. I think one lesson bigger agencies have learned is if you over-integrate, you can't attract talent within each discipline. My guess is it's hard to attract talent into a general agency and easier into a social agency.
Q: Does channel evolution change the traditional path to purchase and advocacy?
A: A brand still has to build awareness and consideration and turn those into desire and then action. You can't sell a product someone isn't aware of. The way a customer receives input or builds desire is more complex but the core goals hold true: Build awareness, convert that to action, purchase, and then advocacy.