Digital marketing has created an extremely fragmented ecosystem for modern marketers. Brands are using a variety of marketing services -- advertising networks, social platforms, and more -- to communicate with a target audience. Some of the activities and their related data are managed internally, while others are managed externally by agencies -- sometimes by multiple agencies. This has created a multi-layered, and often slow, decision-making environment that is less than ideal in today's fast-paced world, where it is absolutely critical to be agile.
As marketers deal with the fragmented marketing ecosystem, five core marketing trends will emerge in 2016.
Brands will take control of data
Brands will place priority on owning data, much of which is currently managed by agencies. Owning all of the data -- performance, targeting, audience, etc. -- will enable brands to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. By measuring performance on their own, marketers will make better decisions much faster. The ability to make corrections throughout the course of a campaign rather than waiting for a post-campaign analysis will allow them to drive improved results by understanding what works and what doesn't as a campaign evolves.
Having ownership of the data will also let marketing organizations combine datasets to gain insights that are not possible when just looking at individual silos of data. For example, datasets must be combined to deliver an understanding of the effectiveness of cross-channel campaigns, the impact of marketing activities on sales, or the synergies of online and offline initiatives.
Brands will bring key functions and related systems back in-house
In addition to data, brands will bring certain key functions that are currently managed by agencies in-house to become more efficient and effective. One prime example is programmatic media buying. Media buying has increasingly become a commodity and can no longer be considered a value-added service. As a result, it no longer makes sense for brands to pay agencies to be responsible for this function. Bringing media buying in-house will also give brands more control over the data, giving them the ability to define their own audiences on the fly.
However, to bring key functions in-house, marketing organizations will need to become technology savvy and implement more enterprise-ready software solutions. As an example, when it comes to media buying, brands will have to implement their own data management platform (DMP) and demand side platform (DSP) rather than relying on third-party services, as they have in the past. This trend is very much in line with Gartner's prediction that the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO by 2017.
The brand-agency relationship will be rooted in the creative again
As a result of brands taking control of data and functions that have been managed by agencies, the relationship between them will change. While brands may have less of a need for agencies to actually execute campaigns, agencies will still have an important role. There will be a critical need to develop creative content across a variety of formats -- one which agencies will have the capacity to fulfill.
Brands are realizing that it is not enough to take a single piece of content and distribute it on different social platforms, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Content needs to be optimized for the audiences and characteristics of each platform. If they want to maintain relevance and possibly drive bigger revenue streams than ever before, agencies will need to reinvent themselves by focusing on the opportunity to create and scale creative content for the various platforms. It is time for a renewed focus on developing incredibly creative content -- that is where agencies have always and will always shine.
Mobile will reshape brand-to-consumer interactions
According to a recent comScore report, mobile is the leading digital platform, with total activity on smartphones and tablets accounting for 62 percent of digital media time spent.
As the time spent on mobile devices versus desktops continues to climb, brands will transition away from email as the primary communications mechanism. A good example is the recent holiday season: Mercedes-Benz ran a Secret Santa campaign. Mercedes-Benz sent direct messages to its Facebook and Instagram followers, giving them a chance to win gifts that can be sent to others. In the year ahead, more marketers will capitalize on the rise of mobile and rely on text messaging and mobile app notifications as the predominant means to interact with consumers.
Marketers will demand more tangible results from measurement methods
As marketing organizations become more focused on determining which activities drive business results, they have spent a tremendous amount of energy (and budget) trying to pinpoint return on investment -- from attribution and marketing mix modeling to focusing on big data technology. However, it has become clear that the benefits do not always align with the investments. Marketers will rethink the importance of attribution and marketing mix modeling as new methods emerge to better measure effectiveness and drive tangible business results -- quickly.
Marketers will also realize that big data does not solve problems on its own. A centralized big data platform for marketing data is simply not enough. In 2016, marketers will need to be more focused on deriving value from all types of data (both big and small) by generating business insights -- storing it is just one piece in the data puzzle.
While 2016 promises to be yet another interesting year for marketers and agencies, with change comes opportunity. As the pace of marketing continues to quicken, brands will need to find innovative ways to not only be more effective, but also more efficient. This will force brands and agency partners to reevaluate the roles it plays in the marketing mix.
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