Brands Still Think About Digital Marketing Tactically, not Strategically

According to new research from Forrester, there is a disconnect between how valuable marketers claim digital marketing is to their organization and how many marketers have actually developed and implemented a digital strategy. Though the report states that 75 percent of marketers consider digital marketing to be a highly effective brand-building tool, less than 45 percent have holistic strategies in place. With only 14 percent of the budget allocated to digital spending, financial restrictions and a combination of other forces may be to blame.

"In 2015, business-to-consumer marketers plan to spend almost as much on digital advertising channels as on traditional advertising; 13 percent of budgets will go to display, search, social, and mobile; and 14 percent to TV, print, radio, and out-of-home," Tracy Stokes, a Forrester analyst, wrote in the report. "Within these growing digital budgets, marketers prioritize spending on measurable call-to-action efficiency channels like email, search, and display at the expense of long-term brand building," she says. Instead of finding ways to integrate the digital strategy with the overall company vision, marketers engage in "check-the-box digital planning," an approach that treats digital marketing as just another channel that needs to be managed and crossed off the list, Stokes points out.

Marketers also don't always have the digital savvy required to execute an effective digital campaign, the report states. And when it comes to hiring the right talent, the budget becomes a major obstacle—only 43 percent of marketers say they can find and hire people with the right skill set for positions that require extensive digital experience.

To overcome some of these challenges, the report urges marketers to "discover consumers' needs in new ways," by taking on newer customer research techniques such as journey mapping and social listening. This doesn't mean doing away with traditional, tried-and-true research approaches, but blending them with new tools to yield more real-time, contextualized information. Stokes also suggests that marketers align brand experiences with overall business goals, because doing so will make the success of digital marketing endeavors more "sustainable."

Identifying the right digital experiences for the brand is another crucial aspect of developing a digital strategy. "Even in these early days, [digital experiences] come in many flavors," Stokes says. In the report, she identifies the four primary types of digital brand building experiences, namely encouraging conversation, creating a community, simplifying a task, and customizing interactions and emphasizes that it's up to marketers to determine the right experience for their company.

Once the right digital experience has been selected and designed, the last step is to marry it with the physical experience that the brand already has in place. The key here is to think about branding as an immersion rather than a linear process, and tap into customers' emotions to solidify the relationship. "Forrester's customer experience research shows that how a person feels about an interaction with a brand is a key driver of satisfaction and loyalty," Stokes wrote. "This could be as simple as letting customers feel in control of their pizza delivery by tracking its progress or by addressing more deep-seated emotions around losing weight," she adds.

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