Blog

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Why Context Is Digital Marketing's Next Frontier

Since the dawn of digital marketing, practitioners have hailed personalization as the ultimate in sophistication.

Calling customers by their names and knowing a lot about them — their ages, genders, birthdates, interests, purchase histories — enables marketers to deliver more relevant, meaningful content that helps win new conversions and engender their long-time loyalty.

Beyond one-to-one marketing

But personalization is no longer the be-all and end-all, as it’s now being overtaken by technologies that allow for the establishment of even more profound relevance and connection — both in marketing and in the overall customer experience.

These technologies provide marketers with insight into context — a largely untapped element that can provide such an in-depth understanding of customers that marketers may then begin to anticipate people’s needs, wants, affinities and expectations. These insights — which may take into account the device in use, the channel, the location and the particular brand — can then be put to work to power improved marketing in every situation.

Context, in other words, takes into account not only the Who, but also the When, Where, Why and How. Simply put, it’s deeper targeting and more on-point messaging.

It’s about so much more than just who

My soon-to-be-published current research looks at marketing beyond the right message, to the right person at the right time. Contextual marketing goes further by considering a variety of factors: the platform consumers are using; their physical location (perhaps, using beacon technology, down to the store-shelf level); real-time information such as atmospheric conditions (Is it raining?), or even geospatial movement (whether they are in a vehicle, and if that vehicle is stopped at a red light, for instance).

These types of campaigns aren’t just fantasy, they’re reality. Maille Dijon mustard used beacons to target customers who had food-related apps installed on their phones in supermarkets. Waze teamed with Taco Bell to send a coupon to drivers who were near a restaurant, but only when drivers were stopped at a red light (safety first!).

I recently talked to an audio technology manufacturer using Internet of Things (IoT) data to target offers to their customers based on the data related to how those customers actually use the product. That company boasts a five- to seven-percent conversion rate from its email marketing campaigns. This when email open rates often run in the minus-one-percentile range.

How to think about context

Contextual marketing raises questions around contextual content. What type of coupon should a customer receive? When, and for what offer? MGM Resorts makes these determinations contextually — sending offers to guests’ smartphones based on where they are on the resort property (which restaurant, shop, show or casino), as well as in the context of their individual loyalty member status, past purchase history and stated interests.

Context can also drive the strategy behind information and other types of content, whether it’s via smart packaging (Think nutritional information, which one CPG giant is looking into) or apps that are content-centric and location-aware, such as REI’s smartphone app that provides a brand-relevant concierge service for American National Parks.

Context in marketing can only be employed with the use of powerful integrated technologies. Its components range from semantic technologies to machine learning and predictive analytics, customer data, product/service data, flexible, dynamic content and journey-mapping.

Without a doubt, context is complex. Moreover, it is growing in importance, not only because it’s increasingly technologically feasible and effective, but also because newer technologies (the IoT and beacons, for example) will enable additional layers of context to meet consumers’ growing expectations for contextually relevant experiences and messaging from the brands they interact with in an increasingly digital world.

Start with baby steps

How best to get started in contextual marketing? Think small, say the overwhelming number of executives I’ve interviewed for my research. Begin with small pilot projects. Think about the data you have and how to leverage it. Often, brands find partners to team up with: retail outlets, cinemas, dealerships or other physical locations.

These partnerships, or even solo campaigns, can require a lot of back-end platform integration to join up disparate data sources — CRM, location, content and myriad other campaign elements — but, when planned effectively, the ROI can be great, and it can arrive very quickly. An entertainment conglomerate that teamed with a theater chain to send video offers to moviegoers saw ROI in only three months, and that after a significant platform build.

Teams, technology, privacy and permission concerns are other significant factors in contextual campaigns, as is a solid foundation in content strategy. But there’s perhaps nothing more important that creating a value exchange, especially given that you’re asking a customer to let you engage with them anywhere at any time. Without your offering consumers something of value — monetary, convenience, information, experiential — there’s no reason for them to listen. Or participate.

The time to consider contextual campaigns is now. Already, brands like Disney, Nestlé, GE and Unilever are developing programs. Consumers will soon expect brands to be there when they’re needed, not just in cyberspace, but increasingly in the “phygital” world we now inhabit.

This post originally published on MarketingLand.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Scaling Content Marketing to a Global Level

Enterprises are only just starting to incorporate content marketing as a discipline into the mix, and as a result, they’re quickly realizing content must permeate the entire organization. This applies globally just as much as it does regionally. Yet scaling content up to a global level brings with it a host of challenges.

Creating a global content marketing strategy is absolutely essential, but at the same time, it’s exponentially challenging. One large global organization asked me to help develop a global strategy, but to do so with two separate teams and in two separate client engagements that effectively bisected the globe (and as a result, the strategy) in two separate meridians.

It was a start.

I just worked with a major global non-profit to develop a content marketing strategy road map that will be applied across no fewer than 31 countries as diverse as South Sudan, Guatemala, the Philippines, the US and the UK.

Without a conscious effort at orchestration, time and money are wasted, employees become frustrated, efforts are duplicative and customer experience suffers, not to mention consistency in brand and messaging.

The need for content is universal, but each region, country and locality in which a brand operates has specific needs that are unique to their language and culture, and often other requirements, such as legal. You can divide these needs into three buckets that are core components of any content marketing strategy:

  • teams
  • tools
  • channels

Teams: Structure your global teams for centralized leadership and local autonomy

Creating content marketing teams and governance is essential. Content marketing requires centralized leadership, but also a substantial degree of local authority and autonomy.

If there’s a parallel editorial model, it would be that of a major international news organization. The New York Times, CNN, the BBC and their ilk maintain bureaus in major regions and capitals across the world.

How leadership is appropriated, however, varies greatly. Very few organizations have formal content marketing departments or divisions. This is no less true of global enterprises which often assign content duties to marketing teams, social media groups or communications and PR staff.

My research has identified six real-world content governance models, all of which are as relevant to global content management as they are to running content strictly on a local or national basis.

Figure3

Content is a team sport, and, as I’ve stated previously, coordinating content on a global scale is sort of like running the Olympic games. Each regional needs to have teams, those teams must have captains, and they must have training, knowledge of the universal rules of the game and the equipment needed to play it.

At the same time, each team will always fly its own flag and proudly wear its own colors.

Tools: Choose compatible tools that serve a global team

The content marketing software landscape is rapidly evolving and shifting. Selecting tools comes with additional considerations and concerns when they must serve global teams.

Does the tool support multiple languages? Diverse alphabets? Can it handle country- or region-specific barriers, such as firewalls or local privacy and data-protection regulations? Will licenses differ on a country-by-country basis? How easy (or difficult) will it be to train and onboard far-flung users? Can it be integrated with other marketing and enterprise software already in use (or planned for deployment) on a global or regional level?

Research on the content software landscape I recently conducted finds 40 percent of marketers say a lack of interdepartmental coordination is leading to investment in disparate, incompatible toolsets — and that’s just on a domestic level. Global requirements demand sharing, collaboration and efficiency.

In 2013, Unilever invested in a single tool to consolidate and coordinate content creation and publishing efforts across just three brands in the dozens of countries in which it operates (not to mention use and collaboration by hundreds of internal and external content stakeholders: staff, agency and vendor partners). The brand realized $10 million in savings in just one year. If that’s not an argument to pay close attention to the efficiency the right tools can create, I don’t know what is.

Channels: Use location-appropriate content and channels

What content should be created? Where should it be published, in what form and for which audience? Publishing on Facebook simply isn’t the same as engaging with social audiences on VK.com, Line, Mixi or Weibo.

Then there are various regional holidays to consider, local sporting events (in most of the rest of the world, “football” means “soccer”), festivals, superstitions, political and news events. If you ignore these differences, you’re an outsider, not a potential partner or a credible source of information.

Local input, knowledge and culture are essential. It’s not enough to translate content into a local language or to push content created at headquarters out to regional divisions.

In fact, often, local content surfaced in far-flung markets can bubble up and be expanded into fodder for headquarters or other markets.

Conclusion

Every organization committed to effectively using content in the marketing mix (and after all, there can be no marketing without content) must consider how to scale efforts, as well as how to establish governance, staffing, tools and technology to create compelling content in the right channels to deliver desired results. This is no small task for even a local mom and pop.

On a global scale, the complexities of creating a global content strategy can often seem daunting. A strategic approach, combined with a step-by-step process, will lead to content that’s effective globally, regionally and locally.

This post originally published on MarketingLand

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Content Marketing and the Silo Issue

Once upon a time (circa 15 years ago), digital marketing had a great big silo chip on its shoulder. “Digital needs a seat at the grown-up table,” the lament went. Traditional media got all the dollars, the love, the attention. Digital, meanwhile, was relegated to the sidelines. Maybe it was a nice-to-have, but never a must-have.

Boy, has that situation ever changed. Spending in digital has surpassed many traditional channels as digital has commandeered the lion’s share of eyeballs and time-spent metrics. No one’s debating digital’s primacy anymore.

But silos? That’s a bigger problem than ever. Digital, which once claimed to be the overlooked silo, used that time to develop more of its own silos than you can shake a proverbial stick at: data, measurement, email, search, social, display, media buying, retargeting, reputation management — the list goes on and on.

In fact, so many digital silos have sprouted up in a comparatively short period that now the grousing is contained under the digital umbrella. Search and email feel relegated to the sidelines. There isn’t enough communication between comms and social media. Assets aren’t shared.

A new silo issue is cropping up in digital marketing that I’m seeing on a recurring basis in companies that I work with. It’s a content marketing issue.

I’ve written in this space in the past about the challenges organizations face when they try to integrate content marketing into the enterprise. Content departments are beginning to emerge, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

While search, social, email and analytics have very rapidly become dedicated disciplines, content remains a bit of a stepchild in most firms.

That’s where the silo issue crops up. In a rush to “claim” content and, in theory, to ensure control of the content that’s produced for marketing purposes, I’m seeing wars (or at least turf battles) break out over who controls content.

These land grabs might be between marketing and the creative department. Product often wants a say. IT might claim a good deal of primacy, because, after all, content demands software and other IT resources.

It’s critical, of course, that organizations develop a culture of content to involve employees, vendors, customers and partners in the content marketing process. However, this is an overwhelminglyinclusive process. When turf wars erupt over who “owns” content, the process is, by nature,exclusive.

Overcoming silos (and turf wars)

The only way to battle exclusiveness is with inclusion. No one ever said it would be easy, but bringing parties (and factions) together is critical for alignment. Easier said than done, right?

A tactic that helps is a collaborative workshop as a prerequisite to content strategy. Representatives of all the interested parties (or corporate divisions) assemble for a full or half day to discuss content marketing.

It’s a forum in which everyone has a voice; where needs, wants and reservations can be articulated; and where a set of goals can be surfaced and, perhaps even more importantly, prioritized.

When I run workshops with the companies I work with, we begin with a crash course on content marketing: what it is, what it can achieve, how it aligns with and affects different divisions in the enterprise, and what the requirements are (e.g., staff, software and so on).

Once a common understanding and vocabulary are established, it’s then much easier to review individual and collective goals. Needs and wants, workflow issues, staffing imbalances and more surface as a result of collective, collaborative conversations.

In larger organizations, a critical part of this process is often conducting deep stakeholder interviews in advance. For really large global enterprises, this can be accompanied by a stakeholder survey (when it’s not practical to conduct one-on-one interviews with dozens of staffers in far-flung regions).

Presenting these findings to the assembled workshop group is a great way to level-set and to identify needs, gaps and priorities that exceed the scope of the gathering at hand.

Siloization nevertheless tends to be a lingering problem. I’d love to hear from readers: How are you aligning people and organizations around content efforts in ways that minimize friction and competition? 

This post originally published on MarketingLand

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.

SEE MORE

Get in touch