Optimizing Your 2011 Media Mix

It’s a new year and a new fiscal budget cycle. Marketers now must turn those approved yet swag numbers into operating tactical plans, purchase orders and cash flow models. This necessitates choices focused on channels, media mix and targeting strategy. Creating the right mix is a puzzle that is unique to each brand.

In approaching the task, several truths need to be considered:

  • Each channel has its identified strengths, weaknesses and optimal uses.
  • Business objectives must drive the process.
  • Clarity is critical. You have to know what you’re going after at the outset.
  • Matching target customers and prospects with media use yields efficiency.
  • Social and mobile media are ascendant.
  • Smartphone penetration, prompted by tablet PCs and Android, will drive use.
  • Search and E-mail are proven performers year over year.
  • Facebook advertising, promotions or engagement is on everyone’s list.

A new way of conceptualizing the marketing mix is emerging that looks at three lines of attack orchestrated to operate independently and inter-dependently. Online and offline marketing are planned together and synchronized to insure that the brand speaks with one single voice to achieve maximum reach, frequency and impact.

Owned Media are brand assets and tightly controlled real estate represented by brand websites, Facebook or Twitter pages, unique games or functionality deployed across the web, a consumer database and its attendant opt-in permissions. These assets become the canvas for presenting the band story in all its nuanced detail and for creating or using content to systematically and continuously engage customers and prospects.

Paid Media are a variety of ad units in a mix of contextual landscapes purchased from third parties, that give brands the opportunity to integrate themselves into customer lifestyles and/or work flow patterns. Paid media can be integrated or interruptive and can use a wide array of tactics, including content creation, to drive traffic to owned assets or engage and enroll customers directly.

Earned Media is the result of consumer engagement and resonance; those added impressions and viral pass-alongs that happen when a brand genuinely connects with it’s customer base. This can be partially planned but is often serendipitous. Earned media is the report card for how well a brand orchestrates its owned and paid media.

This new model is being implemented against a cautious economic outlook for 2011. A StrongMail survey of 900 businesses found that only half expect to increase ad spending in the new year. In a similar survey of agency and client executives, RSW/US found that 56 percent of clients expect spending to be flat or down. In this environment dollars will be shifted from traditional channels (e.g. TV, print, radio, direct mail, events, banner ads) to emerging digital media. The question is — how much and where to?

The disparity between consumer media usage and the flow of ad dollars as documented last summer by Mary Meeker is confirmed by data assembled by eMarketer which shows sharp increases in mobile use (though from a low base), increasing use of the Internet, mostly driven by social networking, and steady but morphing TV/video patterns, especially among Generation Y, 42 percent of whom watch TV, movies and online video on their computers. These patterns are roughly the same whether you count percent of total media use by medium or absolute time spent with each medium.

That said some of the growing channels are not instantly available or fully mature. Mobile access is growing exponentially as is the desire for deals, yet not all audiences are eager to check-in or download coupons and many phones aren’t yet equipped to facilitate these interactions. Demographics dictate mobile readiness. The older your audience; the less likely they are ready for mobile campaigns.

In the same vein, only 5% of Americans have used location based or check-in services so being an early adapter necessarily means targeting a niche. Similarly there is no standard for QR codes nor is there any real penetration of QR code readers so brands using them will trade off first-mover bragging rights against modest reach and uncertain customer experiences.

In the race to grasp new advertising opportunities, the likely reach, frequency and effectiveness must be evaluated in terms of the overlap between channel users and a brand’s most likely customers and prospects. Then the trade-off from what worked in the past to what might work in the future must be forecast. In this context, Facebook, with its enormous reach and selective targeting capabilities, looks like a safe bet in spite of their aspirations for ultimate control of advertising and their lack customer service and data sharing for most advertisers.

As you structure your marketing mix for 2011, consider four vectors for evaluating the effectiveness of your choices.

Business Effectiveness. Nothing counts if you don’t sell what you need to sell. Marketing expenditures need to be measured against business goals by plotting the return on investment, calculating the margins and assessing the cost of sale in comparison to the anticipated profit.

Communications Impact. Is your message getting through? These are the classic brand measures of message relevancy and persuasion, A&U, brand awareness, preference and intention to buy.

Media Efficiency. Are you getting the most bang for each buck?  Measure the effective reach by counting the cost-per-thousand and the click-thru rates. Then calculate the impact by looking at the cost-per-acquisition/retention/sale and by comparing this data ith cost-per-click.

Brand Equity. Are you winning hearts and minds? The Net Promoter Score is becoming the benchmark although many marketers also assess customer satisfaction and calculate brand loyalty based on repeat purchases, referrals or redeemed offers.

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