When brands get personal

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Ryan Joe, senior editor, Direct Marketing News
Ryan Joe, senior editor, Direct Marketing News

Successful marketing is about continual evolution. It's about being flexible with constantly changing consumer preferences, whether that means altering one's message to stay current, overhauling a marketing strategy in order to reach out to a new customer base, or pushing new strategies into new communication channels.

The most prominent instance of this latter example: Facebook commerce, informally known as f-commerce — the parameters of which are still being defined by analysts and marketers. Yet, the advent of f-commerce marks a clear transition in the way brands now approach social media. Whereas just one year ago, enterprises tentatively set up Facebook pages simply to indicate their presence on the site, now there is legitimate debate, reported on in-depth by staff reporter Erin Dostal, around using the social network as a medium to drive sales. The question of Facebook as a legitimate e-commerce platform isn't without its nuances. It's notable that while established brands, like JCPenney, might have limited use for Facebook as a sales channel, smaller companies like Hari Mari, a Texas-based flip flop company, has had 40% of its e-commerce traffic originate from its Facebook page.

Dostal writes that the small companies that benefited from a sales standpoint did so because they can interact directly with potential customers. It's a message echoed by Steve Thomas, CMO of Edible Arrangements. Thomas oversaw new marketing initiatives that sought to build continuing relationships with clients — one that allowed customers, in his words, “to connect emotionally.”

That a company like Edible Arrangements benefits from more personal customer connections is not a surprise. However, there's also a shift, as noted by staff reporter JoAnn DeLuna, as health insurance companies seek to reach out directly to consumers. The catalyst in the case of health insurance is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that requires uninsured individuals to meet basic coverage standards. This means that insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield, which devotes the bulk of its marketing efforts on b-to-b endeavors, now must become more adept at reaching out directly to consumers. As such, they're investing in data to learn more about customers at an individual level — from basic demographic information to behaviors and lifestyle decisions.

The ability to reach out to customers in as many places as possible, and backing that outreach with analytics, is key for marketers going forward, said Yuchun Lee, VP of enterprise marketing management at IBM Industry Solutions. Featured as our Q&A in The Work, Lee detailed another key emerging channel marketers must account for: mobile. He discussed why it's crucial that brands leverage mobile buying tendencies and how those tendencies can possibly contribute to sales in brick-and-mortar outlets. 

All of this ties in neatly with our Agency Business Report, in which we discovered that the availability of data positions digital and direct marketers advantageously. Brands might have access to data, but they need help structuring it and turning it into actionable intelligence. However, while copious data may be great, it's also important not to overlook the importance of creative.

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