Understanding the new "moments of truth"

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As the former CMO of OfficeMax, Target, and Sears, Bob Thacker knows a thing or two about the various "moments of truth" throughout the marketing funnel. In his roles, Thacker generated highly successful, highly efficient marketing campaigns, including standout campaigns such as "The World's Largest Rubberband Ball" and "ElfYourself," a viral marketing phenomenon that remains a holiday tradition six years later, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of millions of consumers worldwide and now available in the app store.

Media has been a huge part of Thacker's career. Having overseen billion dollar media budgets, he has an interesting perspective on consumer engagement and how departments and teams should work together to reach the right consumer at the right time with the right message.

In February, Bob will share his expertise while hosting the iMedia Brand Summit. I had a chance to sit down with Bob and ask him a few questions leading into this highly anticipated event.

The theme of the upcoming iMedia Brand Summit that you're hosting in February is "Moments of Truth." What does this mean to you?

Bob Thacker: I love the idea. That's what our lives are about every day. As marketers, we are constantly in the "cross hairs" making decisions that shape the destinies of products and brands. I think the key is to keep cool and not think too much about the consequences.

Google's Jim Lecinski says, "Whether we're shopping for corn flakes, concert tickets, or a honeymoon in Paris, the internet has changed how we decide what to buy." Most people wouldn't disagree. How much importance should marketers put on this online decision-making moment, or the "Zero Moment of Truth" -- or simply ZMOT.

Thacker: ZMOT? Isn't that a little Swiss town at the base of the Matterhorn? Oh wait, that's Zermat! I think it's really important for marketers to take into account this critical point in the decision-making process. It's like we've moved all of marketing into full disclosure. Reports, reviews, comments from consumers -- it's all there. The good. The bad. The ugly. If we can't manage this part of the process, it will definitely manage us.

The first moment of truth is "the time it takes shoppers to make up their mind about a product," according to The Wall Street Journal. It's a tight window at three to seven seconds, so P&G considers it the most important marketing opportunity for a brand. Do you agree or disagree?

Thacker: I agree completely with P&G. That's why so much rides on the last three feet and the last three seconds. We're seeing more and more online retailers truly focus on what the whole experience is. It isn't enough to just put stuff on a page. We're actually seeing savvy online retailers use true visual merchandising more and more. Look at Fab.com or Uniqlo or Bludot. They are making it all work beautifully.

How have smartphones changed the consumer decision journey, and should marketers invest more than they have so far?

Thacker: Smartphones have and will continue to change everything we do. Knowledge is power. Smartphones put knowledge literally right in the hands of the consumer right at the point of sale. Companies who aren't investing in this area are missing out on opportunity.