Traveling at the speed of culture: can marketing automation keep up?

Our latest marketing meme, driven by “war rooms” and 24/7 trendspotting teams, has data-driven marketers using insights to create memorable customer experiences that are linked to topical, cultural moments. These are not just a brand promise and not only singular interactions, but a combination of several relevant moments of truth (or MOTs) – the kinds of engaging moments of truth popularized by Google in 2011. Each touchpoint is personal, customized, and responsive of the actions and interests of the individual.

While it’s certainly possible to do true one-to-one marketing, most of us are still doing segmented mass-marketing, with some personalized elements. This is partly a function of how marketing automation technology processes and manages data, and partly the reality of marketers who are so overwhelmed with the practical effort of getting campaigns into market, that they can’t adapt fast enough.

Through the acquisition of Conversant last year, Epsilon now claims to process 1.5 million data log lines per second. Whoa – that is as scary as it is exciting and exhausting. How will marketers ever keep up and make this volume of big data useful in the quest to engage and delight customers?

With a combination of systems, agility, and human talent, some brands have mastered the art of conversation and subtext, a requirement of data-driven content marketing in real-time. The Oreo “SuperDunk” Tweet is commonly used as an example.

But I like to think that success is built from something greater than a one-time event; rather it’s from a commitment to understanding consumers not just in real-time, but also overtime.

It’s a conversation, not a billboard

Pantene’s sketches of the runway during the Oscars is another success story in which a war room approach during a specific, high-profile event generated a lot of buzz that was followed-up through rigorous commitment to ongoing social conversation.

This intersection of content, culture, and data is the basis of what is often called, “marketing at the speed of culture.” The trick, however, is to keep the engagement going overtime; which is why we have marketing automation technology and why marketing automation vendors must continue to innovate, making real-time listening and response integral to campaign management. Brands needs to balance long-term relationships with “big idea” events, and take a continuous approach to analytics-driven creative.

Evolutionary approaches to customer engagement are much harder to pull off, and, of course, quotidian results are not always as motivating to the team, or as celebrated as the “Dunking in the Dark” Tweet.

oreo-convo

What can marketers do now to embrace the opportunity?

Three things must be in place:

  1. The intersect between retention – which is managed through marketing automation technology, and acquisition – which is managed through an advertising data services platform – must be in place. Data lets us better personalize experiences for various demographic segments, life-stage segments, and interest segments. Operationalizing this across the lifecycle of the customer is an imperative – the landing page form doesn’t end one type of brand relationship and start another. The best nurturing programs start at the banner ad.
  2. If you want to participate in the digital culture of your customers, you must accept that much of what drives culture is out of your control. Not all cultural events are right or appropriate for your brand participation. Every content marketing plan should include a “cultural response” component to accommodate unplanned events. Being “of the moment” might be the sexy part of digital publishing, but it’s also the most difficult and distracting. Take the time to anticipate good and bad types of opportunities, before you are caught up in the moment.
  3. Test and iterate your processes to become more agile. We all need to adapt our structures – people, process and technology – to operate in this high velocity world. Automation and programmatic technologies give us great advantage in being responsive, but unified marketing is still driven by a strong and immutable creative voice. The codependence of content, data, and technology has never been more important. It’s why more and more marketing organizations are hiring or promoting marketing technologists to keep track of both possibility and performance.

How are you adapting to the speed of digital culture? Are there compromises you need to make on engagement and reach, as you iterate technology platforms and team readiness? Please comment below and share your ideas.

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