Introduced as "the man who can get you from the idea of measuring brand engagement to the reality of doing it," Hunter Hastings, CEO of Enterprise Marketing Management Group and author of "The New Marketing Mission," made a passionate and logical case for new marketing standards, and outlined what it will take for the industry to thrive in this brave new consumer-centric world.
Hastings began with a succinct definition of marketing: "understanding people's needs and meeting those needs." He then called out three key developments that are changing the marketing landscape, beginning with the "addressable consumer": Our newfound ability to identify and follow particular individuals -- online or offline -- demands new ways of customizing marketing messages and examining their impact. The second development, consumers' new level of control over content, renders obsolete the old "interrupt and annoy" marketing model. These two phenomena, combined with brands' need to produce ever-shorter marketing cycles, are pushing the drive toward new metrics and new processes in pursuit of marketing's Holy Grail: greater brand engagement.
Wanted: new metrics
As merely gathering eyeballs falls out of favor and brands insist on creating deeper engagement with their consumers, old cost-per-impression metrics become less and less relevant. Hastings described new measurement standards he called "customer engagement points," analogous to traditional media ratings points. A system using engagement points, he said, is the only one that will meet the needs of future marketers for three reasons: it's comprehensive, it uses a single global currency that works across different media and different geographic areas and it can handle rapid, dynamic change in the marketplace.
Under such a system, each customer contact gets an assigned engagement value based on consumers' reporting of which contacts were most important to their purchase decision. Engagement points could measure absolute numbers -- i.e., the effectiveness of a given contact -- as well as relative numbers, such as a brand's share of engagement compared to its competitors. Values would vary by time, geography and target group, to name just a few variables. For example, when marketing a car, Hastings noted that "a lot of contacts might have zero engagement value if a customer is not in the cycle of buying a car," while the same contacts could have great cognitive, emotive or behavioral value to the same customer a year later.
Lest the audience dismiss this engagement principle as mere theory, Hastings pointed to research done by his company showing "a very high correlation" -- in the 80 percent range -- between a brand's share of customer engagement and its share of market, proving that engagement does in fact lead to sales.
The P-word: process
So, once marketers know what successful engagement looks like, the question then becomes, "How can we organize to change the way that we engage? We need what developers call a congruence model"-- one that's better aligned to create outcomes matching the organization's new goal of engaging consumers.
The current culture of "siloed marketing structures" and "managerialism" prevents most companies from taking advantage of these insights, Hastings said. He described a need for a more horizontal organization, as opposed to the current vertical, command-and-control model. In the new marketing process, inputs -- customer insights -- will be the raw material that's transformed into the who, what, where and how of a marketing campaign. The output of such a system will be measurable customer engagement.
As industries move toward this new model, marketing organizations will need what Hastings called an "Engagement Champion" with research, media and communications expertise to manage the process. They'll also have new tools to help them, including software to enable on-demand desktop reporting of engagement effectiveness and efficiency, along with the ability to instantly model tiny changes in strategy ("what-if" scenarios) and their likely effect on engagement.
Winners and losers
Change always benefits some players more than others, and marketing's metamorphosis from its unpredictable, unmeasured and slow-cycle present to an effective, efficient and process-based future will be no exception. Among those left behind, according to Hastings, will be "advertising-centric or marketing communications-centric" organizations, since they're more focused on using familiar tools than they are on the end goal of engagement. But smaller marketers and nimble, customer-focused companies will thrive, because they'll no longer need "huge ad budgets and huge ad agency rock stars" to compete.
And in the end, the very industry itself may be barely recognizable. Said Hastings, "We'll stop being called marketers and all become engagement workers."