With Consumers Spending More Time on the Web, Has Your Media Mix Changed?

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At Byte Interactive, the challenge that gets the strongest reaction from our clients is when we ask them: How would you compare your marketing mix to what it was five years ago?


Many of the companies say that they maintain the same basic breakdown among print, broadcast, promotional and direct mail advertising. Of course, they also tell us that they developed great-looking Web sites. But once we visit these sites, we often can categorize these as no more than the equivalent of "brochureware" -- Web advertising that passively presents product features but does little more.


We then ask these corporate executives how much their own lives have changed in the past five years. How many different media touch points do they use compared with five years ago? Along with suggesting that they are likely to be using a host of new devices, including PDAs, cell phones and digital cameras, we're willing to bet that they're spending a lot more time on the Internet than they were five years ago. So when we ask how their marketing mix has changed now that consumers spend more time on the Web, we get their attention.


If you're spending the same marketing dollars on print and broadcast that you were five years ago, you're missing something. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, an organization that promotes the use of online and interactive advertising, a host of research and case studies have shown that integration across multiple channels can increase the effect of almost any marketing message.


The IAB's Cross-Media Optimization Study shows that marketers need to think differently today. Any company whose media mix looks the same as it did three to five years ago is not being responsive to consumers. To be competitive, a company must find ways to intersect with consumers who are spending increasing amounts of time on the Internet.


Let's first look at how digital marketing differs from traditional advertising:


1. Unlike advertising, digital marketing is a vehicle of two-way communication. Most mass media is one-way communication and passive. Traditional ad agencies accustomed to print, radio or TV advertising often think of Web marketing as just another kind of passive media, and model it on one-way directional media. For example, brochureware doesn't do anything, it just exists to tell about the product or company. But the Web is a powerful way to enable a consumer to immediately communicate directly with the company.


So think of Web marketing not as the equivalent of a brochure or print ad, but with the functionality of a telephone. Except that it does not bother you at dinnertime!


2. Digital marketing is a powerful tool for the consumer. Unlike advertising, online media is a tool. It is a two-way vehicle that lets consumers do something. People go to the Web consciously to accomplish a task, whether that is to read about a product, get a coupon, enter a contest, try to get a free sample or even complain.


By enabling consumers to accomplish a range of activities from downloading a recipe (which is likely to eventually lead to the sale of the recipe's ingredients) to actually ordering the product, it lets the consumer take an active role in the marketing process.


3. Digital marketing has the potential to provide the company with certain powerful business tools. If used correctly, the Web provides a tool to help a company target its marketing with precision. For example, even brochureware can be used in a functional, behind-the-scenes way.


When a consumer simply looks at a Web site -- any Web site, anywhere -- that information can be captured. Once that occurs, we can immediately begin to build a profile of that consumer to be used in subsequent marketing.


Let's say a consumer looks at camping equipment on the Web. You can make a lot of assumptions about that consumer. And the next time you "see" them elsewhere on the Web -- for example, searching for a recipe -- you can immediately serve them a marketing message about a sale on camping equipment.


Comparing this with newspaper advertising, imagine being able to capture what ads your reader actually stopped to read, as opposed to those he or she passed over. That is the power of the Web: the ability to capture vital marketing information about potential customers, gleaned not from their demographics, but from their behavior.


4. Consumers can be "valued" based on Web behavior. Metrics can and are being developed for what level of behavior the consumer enacted. We create tools by characterizing certain Web behavior such as applying for a coupon or searching for a particular type of recipe. We call these "high-value tasks." We can put a value on that consumer by tracking his or her Web behavior, generating what we call a "success metric." We now have a more useful and precise way to track the success of a marketing campaign on the back end -- again, not by measuring customer demographics, but by behavior.


5. Digital marketing must be first, foremost and always, "consumer-centric" marketing. Even with the most highly interactive, sophisticated Web marketing campaign, complete with leading-edge Flash technology and state-of-the-art graphics, basic marketing principles apply.


This means that just as in traditional marketing, the goals of a digital marketing program must be defined by the consumer's needs. We do not ask our clients "What kind of Web site do you want?" but rather, "What does your consumer/customer need?" Digital marketing campaigns still begin with basic questions such as: Who are your consumers, what are they doing and what are their needs?


In the end it is still first, last and always about the customer.


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