The impact of specialisation on customer focus
Editorial

The impact of specialisation on customer focus

Marketing executives could be forgiven for being in a spin about how to reach their target audience. The media world appears to be more fragmented than ever.

Indeed, some see marketing as quite separate from software development, or media buying. But, as social media and smart devices reshape consumer habits, marketing teams have had to adapt to an ever-increasing array of responsibilities.

Are we seeing fragmentation or a new era of multidisciplinary marketing?

New skills are being shoehorned into marketing practices. That means some people are unsure where their scope of understanding should start and end. Is this fragmentation or the dawn of a new age of multidisciplinary marketing?

Michael Brenner, head of strategy at New York-based content marketing firm NewsCred, believes that within three years, marketing departments will have become transformed. He sees them realigning along four ‘pillars’: data – emanating from digital and offline consumer touchpoints; content – to attract, engage and retain current and future customers; channels – managing the shifting landscape of options to reach an audience; and technology – to manage all the data and content.

“Marketing leaders will need to understand consumers that are digital, social and mobile,” he says. “They’ll also need the skills to analyse massive amounts of data from those channels and produce the right content, for the right consumer, at the right time.”

Broadening the chief marketing officer’s role to encompass new models 

David Court, director at McKinsey and Company, believes the chief marketing officer’s role should be broadened. “Digital forces are making companies transform everything from corporate affairs and product development to distribution and manufacturing models,” he says.

Even creative directors will need to be more tech-savvy, confirms George Penston, vice president of San Francisco-based creative management platform Flite. “Campaigns will need to comprise variants for hyper-targeted audiences – it’s not enough for creative directors to come up with one fixed-layout ad. They must work with the analytical and research areas of marketing departments… and understand the specific needs of an interactive digital campaign.”

The reshaping of marketing teams is already underway according to Charles Wells, CMO at fundraising service JustGiving. His team comprises data scientists, engineers, developers and ‘user experience experts’ working in small teams to try and create growth. That format allows creative and analytic thought to cross over. “Data strategists are some of the most creative people in the building,” Wells says.

Tricky technology means marketers face a steep learning cove

It needs the best brains to try fathom out ad platforms such as Google’s AdWords and Facebook. “These are becoming too complex to analyse,” says Fabrizio Fantini, co-founder of digital marketing firm Expressly. It’s having a knock-on effect on marketing team structures. “And it is one reason marketing has become fragmented – the steep learning curve makes specialists necessary.”

Although Google and Facebook control around 60% of digital advertising, Fantini claims both are off-target when it comes to budgeting, targeting and the ‘customer journey’. However, he predicts a sea change as competitor platforms seek to restore power to core marketers.

In Expressly’s case this means presenting ads through partner eCommerce stores that sell non-competing brands. Co-founder Andrea Tricoli says that if adverts are to be truly relevant – to individual consumer needs or wants – businesses should shift their digital marketing budget to somewhere they can control the placement of their campaigns. 

Too many specialisms can become a barrier to fulfilling customers’ needs

Jonathan Birch, creative strategy director at Newcastle-based marketing agency Glass Digital, says that while marketing professionals are united by a common goal – “getting in front of your audience, differentiating your brand from the competition, and fulfilling consumer needs” – too often they get caught up in their own specialisms.

“We can all learn by working together,” he says. “By having social media marketers that look into print performance, and copywriters who pay attention to the figures, brands can maximise the potential of their marketing resources. There's huge potential to replicate the success of one campaign on another platform.”

Amid the babble and complexity, basic principles still hold well, according to Felicity Hardley, senior lecturer in marketing and business strategy at a business school in London.  “Brands and products need to be reliable – messaging needs to be consistent and engaging,” she says.

“Regardless of dramatic shifts in media landscape and consumer behaviour, marketing still has to analyse, create and deliver.”  But that comes at a price: “It needs more resources… more agility to respond to evolving markets… the careful coordination across functions”.

Follow your customers’ needs – even if they lead back to traditional channels  

Antony Prince, co-founder of Harrogate-based Extreme Creations, which has been running for 15 years, was quicker than most to embrace the new digital world. That’s where the company’s heart remains but, he says, ‘we’ve added more to the mix’.

Extreme Creations now employs a team of 30 – with an emphasis on flexibility. “We started with website design and search optimisation… but our journey has been to pick up offline branding and PR. We’re doing things in reverse. Where clients like what we do digitally, it seems a logical progression to say ‘can you make that into a leaflet?’ Print certainly isn’t dead – we have more and more requirement for it.’

While going into reverse has stopped short of dabbling in such fields as events management, Extreme has grasped the possibility of creating ‘virtual excitement digitally’ – which amounts to creating a micro-site to secure advance publicity. Prince has experience of customers spending lots of money on exhibition stands abroad “that attract only a few dozen people”. 

“We’re integrating what were perceived as traditional marketing channels,” he says. “It’s all about knowing your audience.”

Andrew Mourant Journalist
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