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Space Rocket

Some people in the digital sector, especially, have ceased to believe in brands. However, I am convinced that in the digital age, more than any other, brands offer precisely what we need in a multi-optional, information-flooded world: orientation. Brands condense a large volume of information into a (hopefully) relevant promise. Of course brands that want to be successful in the future, will also have to adapt to a society in transition. Anyone who takes the following five tenets for the brand management of the future to heart, will have a good chance of achieving this.

1. Viable brands are defined in three dimensions

What is a brand? A logo, a slogan, a value proposition? The appearance and if possible, differentiated positioning are only two dimensions shaping the brand image and consumer perceptions. In the digital age, every brand must prove itself, above all in its direct interaction with people. In order to offer a coherent, self-similar brand experience, the brand must establish rules of conduct which govern how it interacts while defining its stance towards people and the subjects on which it pronounces.

2. Viable brands offer a real benefit

The days when brand communication consisted in stating as loudly as possible why your own brand is so great and why people should buy it, are over. To be noticed for the long term, brands today must not only compete for people’s attention, but also offer content which delivers a noticeable, relevant benefit in the eyes of consumers. Depending on the context and the target market, this can, for example, consist of personalised offers, entertainment, monetary benefits or exclusive information. To enable the brand to develop promising content, the challenge is to put customers and their needs not just at the beginning but at the centre of your own concepts and actions.

3. Viable brands are user-friendly

Our digital devices have accustomed us to getting fast, easy access to everything we need. Usability is the umbrella term for the degree of user-friendliness experienced. This is not primarily about content. From the website via the hotline all the way to local service — every touchpoint with the brand should be intuitively comprehensible, simple to use and capable of being unambiguously implemented.

4. Viable brands communicate personally and in personalised fashion

People in a digitised world expect personal communication and personalised content and offers from their brands. If such offers are tailored to their individual needs, users will reward the brand with above-average response, purchase and loyalty rates. However, it is vital to find the right degree of personalisation: just because it’s technically possible, doesn’t mean it makes sense. Because enthusiasm over the newsletter containing exactly the right offers can quickly turn into a horrified “How do they know that?”.

5. Viable brands offer a consistent, coherent customer experience

Today, people experience brands at many very different touchpoints: in a shop, on the website as well as on social media and through advertising. In the best case, this so-called customer experience will give a consistent, coherent overall image across the various touchpoints. So here is my tip. Place a relevant customer experience at the start and at the centre of your transformation in the marketing sphere. In doing so, you will create a good platform — on the one hand for the greatest possible success today, and on the other, to ensure the viability of your brand tomorrow.

Digitisation, progressing ever more quickly, offers fascinating new possibilities for marketing. Never before has it been possible to get so close to customers outside the POS and reach them without any wastage. But this new digital proximity also requires a change of approach if it is to work. Less promotional, but more appreciative. If you want to reach the final click for a decision, you have to communicate at eye level, take the person addressed seriously and speak their language. That’s why, in addition to smart technology, we also need smart storytellers and visual magicians who, with what they create, hit the emotional bullseye dead on. You can also fall in love with brands at the first click. Whether anything more comes of this is decided by a content strategy that always feels as though it had been developed just for you alone.

Back to the future

When we hear the term content marketing, we tend to think of Red Bull and its stratospheric leap, the Michelin Gourmet Guide, or the John Deere DIY Magazine. Yet do these excellent and all-eclipsing examples of good communication not have a rather abstract effect on our current marketing reality, which is characterised by tight budgets, performance goals and technology? Can we replicate such success under our everyday conditions? Hardly, which is why we have to redefine content marketing, if it ever was defined in the first place.

Content marketing today

Content marketing is an umbrella discipline for a variety of specialist marketing disciplines that are not always so easy to differentiate from one another. Content marketing concerns creative experts, editors and copywriters, performance and e-mail marketing specialists, sales experts, developers and a host of other disciplines too. Each of these disciplines interprets content marketing in its own way, yet all stakeholders agree on the following principles:

  • Content marketing should achieve a return on investment.
  • Users take centre stage in content marketing since their ultimate transaction is what allows a return on investment to be achieved.
  • Content marketing therefore serves to activate users and motivate them to interact with the content producer so they are converted in terms of perspective to customers and disseminators for the producer.
  • Valuable, user-centred contents are therefore produced in content marketing so they can be conveyed to the distribution channel with the highest conversion rates at the most appropriate time.

Content marketing is therefore first and foremost a strategic approach to achieving corporate objectives. Entrepreneurs plan, forecast, validate, optimise and seek to scale. This is precisely where marketing automation comes into play, since it can do all of this and much more.

Marketing automation: The Swiss army knife

A marketing automation platform is a modular system that integrates a variety of different individual solutions, where Asset Management (the collection of all content assets needed in the marketing process), Distribution Management (control of distribution channels such as SEO, content, e-mail, social, paid and mobile), Data Management (the aggregation of continually generated user data) as well as Analytics (the cross-channel evaluation of all aggregated data at user level) come together in a uniform working environment. Depending on the stage of development, content management systems or testing suites then also come into play. The critical factor here is that the aggregated data describes the individual user behaviour and provides us with information on how we can satisfy the current information needs of the individual user in the best possible way in each case.

Personalisation “to scale”

In keeping with the principles we formulated at the outset, content marketing is therefore a sales-driven communications process in which the individual content is the currency. Because the individual user is the centrepiece of this process, the personalised content is the life force of content marketing. Regardless of whether the user is addressed by name in an e-mail or the website adapts to the individual needs of the visitor through dynamic content: personalising the content is critical if the measure is to succeed. The effort this requires can only be mastered by using automatable environments.

ROI-driven content marketing

The sales process can start in the earliest phase of the customer journey in future thanks to the opportunities afforded by scalable content architectures as well as the holistic analysis of the individual user’s digital footprint – namely when users communicate their individual challenge for the first time and we provide the right solution. The seller becomes a partner. Any company set on achieving a return on investment with its content marketing endeavours will in future have to unify three areas that frequently act as silos: communication, sales and IT. If a company can do this, then sustainable business success is guaranteed.

This article was first published by onetoone.de.

Personalisation is currently one of the mega trends in marketing. In less than two years, the market has developed to the point where there is no avoiding it. For business clients and solution providers as well. On the provider side, almost all industry giants, such as Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft, and IBM are building out their cloud marketing solutions. On the client side, they are increasingly looking for answers on how to use these new opportunities for profit. Finally, as a private user, most individuals have experienced how impressive personalisation and automation can be when scrolling through recommendations on Amazon, or when their own smartphone calculates, unasked, the time it will take to get from work to home. And new capabilities promise that this is just the beginning. It’s high time to use this potential for your own customers. Many of the mentioned cloud solutions now provide hitherto unimagined possibilities. Customers can now find more relevant information and be more quickly and efficiently served and supported, whether it is before or after they make a purchase.

Nevertheless, individual companies should be cautious. Experience shows that, over time, personalisation cannot remain a marketing trick. The decision to adopt these technical solutions is only the beginning. True personalisation means the desire or intention to distinguish one client from another. And you must be willing! This is not just a task for systems and machines, but rather it is a task for people, and, finally, the whole organisation. When companies take the route towards personalisation, they quickly realise where the opportunities lie, as well as the risks. Departmental structures, which for years guaranteed successful business management, now prevent many companies from truly understanding customers’ interests and using that knowledge effectively. It seems logical and paradoxical at the same time: to serve and support customers individually with relevant information, more people and departments in the company must work together without barriers.

This means creating horizontals that include departments such as sales, marketing, customer service etc. When a customer has just signed a mobile phone contract, it doesn’t make sense to them to continue seeing incompatible products from the same brand. Or if the customer is inconvenienced with answering further questions to supplement an online profile, but they’ve been a valued customer in retail stores for a long time. Vertical integration is required as well: areas such as procurement, IT, legal, etc., need to implement the necessary infrastructure, data and systems, as well ensure legal compliance. How should an IT department know which system is the best fit for a certain marketing strategy? The consulting market to prepare companies for the age of personalisation is booming right now. From a conceptual standpoint, but as well from the organisational perspective, removing barriers across departments makes companies more capable of acting.

But the challenge goes even deeper, who says that personalisation is a good fit for every organisation? Who says that it will be the decisive competitive advantage for a company within a sector? Companies should truly consider whether this is a mega trend they need to follow, and if so, how they can differentiate themselves from competitors. Is the desire to serve clients on a more personal level really in the DNA of the company, and therefore a competitive advantage, or is the competition ultimately superior? In the digital age, personalisation and automation mean an extremely fast pace and the ability to interact, which must be overcome in the long run. And this is a question not only for “old” competitors: this isn’t the first time a mega trend brought new players to the field who understand little of the traditional performance-related competitive advantages of an industry. However, recent factors, such as a consistent focus on personalisation as a key success indicator, have made attacks on established industries…