We have entered the era of “adaptive marketing.” We need to move from outbound messages to a more holistic 360-degree approach, from campaigns to experiences, from audiences to individuals.
Late last week I got a peek at Forrester’s new report “The Future of Agency Relationships,” a comprehensive four month study based on interviews with more than 50 agencies and advertisers.*
According to the 16-page report, marketers still need ideas (to make emotional connections); interaction (to reach, connect and most importantly be found); and, of course, intelligence (to optimize brand experiences and more importantly predict outcomes). But this is no longer as simple as identifying an insight, translating it into messages, and measuring awareness or transactions.
OK, so that’s not a revelation. For anyone who’s read David Meerman Scott, observed Zappos’ success, or filled their RSS reader with posts from BBHLabs, Faris Yakob or even this blog, none of this is earth-shattering news. In fact much of what’s published in Forrester’s findings was predicted a few years ago in the popular and influential Groundswell, authored, in fact, by two former Forrester researchers. Much of it is already in practice by progressive agencies and clients alike.
But to the credit of Sean Corcoran, Dave Frankland and Vidya Drego, Forrester has produced a focused and actionable report for both brands and agencies, especially those who are still trying to figure out what the heck to do in the age of Twitter, Flipcams, smart phones and crowdsourcing. It lays out some fundamental requirements for any brand trying to navigate the rise of social media and digital proliferation. And it suggests a course of action for marketers to take when it comes to managing their agencies. (Obviously there must be companies for whom this is all still new or there would be no market for this report.)
More importantly, because the report comes from Forrester, it’s likely to get read, followed, or at least quoted frequently, by marketers, CMOs, bloggers and even reporters in months to come.
Obviously Forrester wants marketers to heed their advice. If they do, agencies who’ve been asleep at the wheel are in for a wake up call. But for those striving to keep up with all the change, this could be an advantage.
Here are a few of the recommendations Forrester makes in its report.
Clients should demand ideas that offer versatility
Ideas today have to work across numerous platforms. Creative has to be media specific. There’s no more taking one idea and replicating it on everything from TV to YouTube to mobile. In fact even platform specific content may have to change on the fly in response to the real time web. Marketers and agencies alike should master a new skill: it’s called agility.
Map out all consumer interactions
In the adaptive marketing era, interactions have to generate conversations that stimulate participation. (Or as I like to say, “Advertising used to be about telling stories; now it’s about getting others to tell them for us.”) They should add up to a cohesive experience – listening, connecting, and responding – in a manner that creates valuable, long lasting relationships. And finally any approach to interaction has to stay attentive to the ongoing dialog that takes place with or without your brand’s participation. Forrester refers to the United Hates Guitars debacle, but there are dozens of others — Dominos Pizza, Comcast Must Die, Motrin Moms and most recently Nestle – to remind brands and agencies that interaction is a constant.
Define success through customer intelligence
According to Forrester, analytics becomes meaningless if they don’t understand the implications of every consumer behavior. If a consumer wants you to “know them and be relevant,” it’s essential that an agency use every form of data — structured or unstructured, online or offline — to make better decisions in close to real time. In short, you better know the value of every customer, fan and follower. And have a plan to convert all the charts, graphs, and metrics into action.
While Forrester doesn’t point fingers at anyone, they do make it clear that brands and marketers have to change their own organizations and processes. Among their many recommendations to clients are suggestions that marketers test partners from outside the agency world and embrace more incentive-based compensation models.
As for where this is all going, Forrester goes to the middle of the limb with these predictions:
- we’ll see a new vocabulary (I’ve been suggesting this for the last six months; see slide below)
- media will be managed more holistically (paid, earned, owned working together)
- agencies and outsourced partners will become more important than ever (the world is too complex to figure it out alone)
- the interactive agency of record will die (interactive will be part of everything so interactive and digital shops will have to step it up or fall into a niche role)
It’s easy to agree with Forrester’s findings. (I was fortunate to among those interviewed for the report.) I especially like the idea of embracing a new vocabulary as the words we use actually perpetuate old (or inspire new) behavior. If you’ve attended any of my presentations the slide to the left is, by now, a familiar one. But Forrester’s validation of where things are going has me even more excited about the future and its opportunities.
No doubt you’ll be hearing plenty about Forrester’s report in days and weeks to come. In the meantime, however, I’d love to know your thoughts and reactions. Are you worried? Or excited? Working someplace that gets it? Or thinking it’s time for a change? Leave a comment. And as always, thanks for reading.
More on the Forrester report:
The Future of Advertising in Creativity_Unbound
Memo to Marketers: It’s Your Fault in Advertising Age
Original Report: for sale from Forrester