Digital Media Trends and Challenges

Posted by Kate Jurras on Fri, Jan 14, 2011

Adapted from this interview with MITX board member Sarah Fay. This is one of several guest posts in the MITX 2011 Perspectives Blog Series. Stay tuned for more posts by Boston's most influential thought leaders.

What trends are you seeing in the digital media space?

Consumer behavior continues to progress and change at an astounding rate in the way people are incorporating technology into their lives. This has had a significant effect on media usage and purchasing behavior. As fast as it all seems to be moving, we are still in early digital times. According to Emily Green, Author of the book, Anywhere, demand for network capacity will continue to rise exponentially through the next decade, creating trillions of dollars in value to the global economy. So marketers have before them an enormous opportunity to reach, influence and serve consumers who are becoming more tech savvy and more empowered to get and pay for what they want, when they want it.

Some resulting marketing trends that are addressing the ever-more empowered consumer include:

Retail Engagement Marketing – Ask anyone in the sales and marketing division of a manufacturing company about which direction their retail support budgets are moving and the answer tends to be “up”. Today’s consumer is less brand loyal than ever before, and is using technology to point to the best deals and opportunities – even in the last steps before check out. There are a number of nascent mobile scanning technologies (such as Red Laser, PushPins, AisleBuyer, Scanbuy, MobeStream Media, and many more) all of which can engage the consumer by offering discounts and information when he/she is close to making a purchase – right in the physical store.

In the online space, manufacturers are also nestling as close as they can to where transactions are taking place. Behavioral targeting allows advertisers to know when a consumer is in the market for the category of products they sell. In addition, advertisers are placing their product messages right inside eCommerce sites to get closer to consideration when consumers are in buying mode. Have you checked out Walmart.com recently? There is product advertising on just about every page, and other retailers are starting to create similar promotional environments for the products they carry.

Getting Creative with Data – Data strategies and campaign automation are increasingly being used to drive program success. While the traditional approach has been to develop a media plan that addresses several buying segments, data planning has become much more intensive. Some advertisers are targeting a wide variety of niche audience segments with distinct messages targeted to each, and often hundreds of variables to measure and optimize against. For this kind of program, there needs to be a data strategy and an automated mechanism for measuring and optimizing.

In the performance marketing space, this kind of campaign management has surfaced millions in budget margins, and is having a huge impact on the industry (in ways that are both positive and negative). Performance marketers are becoming ever more efficient in maximizing their budgets and knowing exactly which audience segments will perform. But the FTC is getting itchy about data collection and protecting consumers’ privacy. The industry is under significant pressure to self regulate on demonstrating best practices in data collection in order to avoid government regulation, which could hinder progress and innovation in campaign data usage. Keep your eye on this space as it continues to move and change!

As social media represents a huge behavioral shift across the general population, brand marketers and agencies alike are working to figure out their social media strategies – at the direction of their senior management, so the spotlight is shining onto this space. 

I was present in a “town hall” discussion at the iMedia Brand Summit which included some of the biggest digital advertisers in the country, and the topic of debate was “Which person within an organization should own the social media strategy?” Answers ranged from “the Web Master” to “the CEO.” Not only was there very little agreement on where social media should sit within a company, there was nothing close to an agreed definition of what a social media strategy looks like. So the market is in a very early phase of development.

Marketers are after a new Holy Grail: The Momentum Effect (some people call it “earned media” where the brand provides something that is entertaining or interesting enough to be shared, therefore “earning” the consumer’s advocacy). If you get the combination just right, the consumer will do the work for you, and boom! you get a whole lot more media than you paid for. But it’s tricky. It would be a shame to spend a lot of time and money developing an idea that fails to inspire the consumer to take part in your messaging strategy (which I suspect has happened a lot). Don’t get me wrong – the great examples that show real results from leveraging the consumer’s voice are out there. But marketers need to find repeatable ways to get these results versus taking a flyer on a customized game or web experience every time they want to create a social experience.

A number of companies have developed applications that deliver enhanced audience engagement and social sharing every time, and marketers can buy in using good old media currency (CPM or even CPE – Cost-Per-Engagement) instead of making a big up-front creative investment. As an example, a company I work with called trueAnthem, has created a patented platform for brands to distribute free music to consumers. Consumers post this music player to their social spaces, and brands get carried into consumer streams of communication. It works every time, and if music fits with a brand’s strategy, it is a guaranteed and repeatable method of attaining engagement and social sharing of a brand’s message. Other companies are creating similar platforms, are SpringPad, which works well in the recipe sharing space, and SocialVibe which helps brands into the cause marketing space. Expect to see more applications as a new part of the media diet.

 Did you just discover this series? Don't worry! You can check out our last post, by Brian Cavoli, here!