How Top Marketers will Stay Ahead of the Curve in 2014

Posted by Taylor Haney on Tue, Jan 21, 2014

Continuing on with our January guest blog we have a post from Anne Louise Hanstad, Strategic Lead at Wilde Agency. Anne reflects on Wilde Agency's 2013 FutureM session and adds insights to how marketers can succeed in 2014. Interested in guest blogging? E-mail taylor [at] mitx [dot] org.

Anne Louise HanstadIn her work as Strategic Lead at Wilde Agency, Anne Louise draws upon more than 25 years of experience in working for and consulting to some of the world’s biggest and most innovative brands--spanning marketing and brand strategy in the consumer high-tech, financial services and healthcare industries. With a strong background in both brand and direct marketing and a focus on developing and executing strategies that maximize their intersection, Anne Louise blends deep marketing expertise with strong business acumen. Anne Louise has held C-Level and executive positions with TomTom Inc., National Geographic Personal Explorer, Zeo Inc., and Digitas where she consulted to a number of Internet properties, telecom, healthcare and financial services clients.

Wilde Agency recently sponsored and moderated a popular panel discussion at the FutureM conference in Boston. Our session, “Naked Truth: Top Marketers Reveal How They’ll Survive and Thrive in the Future”, drew a standing-room-only crowd eager to discover what industry leaders are doing to stay ahead of the curve.

Our “Naked Truth” panel featured C-level marketers from Bank of America, The Boston Globe, Yottaa, American Student Assistance, Eaton Vance, and T. Rowe Price. Not surprisingly, many of their key issues were related to mobile.

There’s no question that the proliferation of smartphones and tablets is fundamentally changing the way people consume information, the way they connect with each other, and the way they interact. It is a real shift — so, how do marketers keep pace?

For Peter Doucette, VP of Consumer Sales and Marketing at The Boston Globe, “mobile is everything.” One of Peter’s key responsibilities is managing the migration of readers from print to digital. His team spends a lot of time thinking about how they can effectively take the experience of reading the news in a print format and somehow replicate that experience on a mobile platform—understanding of course that the use cases are different.

A few years ago, they built a responsive design website which made complete sense from the publisher’s point of view. While the site worked great across all platforms, Peter felt it still didn’t deliver the mobile experience that some Globe readers were looking for. “I think we’ve done a good job at transitioning our core sites and experiences to mobile platforms, but the real opportunity is rethinking it from a mobile first perspective and really getting in and building and solving for that.”

Peter’s team discovered through analytics and qualitative research that smartphone users were looking for a different experience than tablet users. By evaluating the trends, working with focus groups, and actively engaging their online communities they discovered that a cross platform experience really wasn’t the right answer. What they really needed was a native solution for a demographic they hadn’t considered — the phone-centric consumer.

For some of the other panel members who work in highly regulated industries like finance, mobile poses a whole other set of challenges. Justine Metz, who runs marketing for the Wealth Management Business at Bank of America, says it’s an uphill battle just to get mobile content out the door. Often the legal risks associated with putting content on mobile devices forces material back to the website. Because a lot of the regulatory statutes and rules are just being written now, compliance folks don’t even know how to comment on some materials.

Yet with the expansion of social platforms — there are now more than 200 — marketers can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. “You have to flex and try new things,” says Metz.

Compliance in regulated industries can be particularly daunting when it comes to outlets like Twitter where content is expected to be free flowing and impromptu. For example, Geoffrey Underwood, director of brand marketing for Eaton Vance, quipped that it took him “21 days to get a Tweet approved by legal.” Now his team is trying to build a library of approved content that advisors can pull from and Tweet at their discretion.

At the non-profit American Student Assistance, managing director Sue Burton says they engage in a kind of Twitter “Mad Libs” with their compliance officer. They get 80% of the Tweets approved and then have the flexibility to insert a noun or a date here and there. It’s not ideal, but it enables them to engage in social with a certain level of spontaneity.

Our role as marketers is changing and to be successful we have to be able to adapt quickly. Ten years ago the marketing group was a team of specialists; a PR person, a direct mail person, events and trade show staff. Today, the most successful marketers are generalists capable of thinking across a variety of channels and initiatives.

Sylvia Toense, Global Head of Institutional Marketing for T. Rowe Price, says she demands two things of marketers on her team:

  1. Be analytical. Before you do anything, make sure you understand what’s going on in the environment, the industry, and the competitive landscape.

  2. Think both vertically and horizontally. That means you need to be both tactical and strategic—understand both the “what” and the “how.”

That’s good advice for all marketers as we head into 2014. Integrated marketing is about presenting and delivering a cross-channel message to your market, but it’s also about understanding how all the disciplines come together from both a strategic and executional standpoint.

So when you craft your message for a particular channel or device, like mobile for instance, the obvious executional challenge is to deliver content that renders quickly and is appropriate to a small footprint device. But don’t forget the strategic component—don’t forget your user. The needs and preferences of an engaged Boston Globe reader are different than those of a thinly stretched college student, or a busy financial advisor.

Consider this. Why is your target consuming this particular content on a mobile device in the first place? Where are they when they’re viewing your email or reading your article or tweet? What do you want them to do next? Answer these questions first and you’ll improve your user experience and ultimately your response rates.

For more insights from our FutureM “Naked Truth” panel, download the recap at http://wildeagency.com/futuremrecap.