Some quotations are timeless because they continue to be relevant through changing times. Shakespeare, Dickens, John Lennon and Rajnikant have all scripted their fair share. Equally timeless is the most-repeated quotation in advertising — “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the problem is finding out which half”.
While the problem exists more than ever even now, it is certainly not due to lack of data. Marketing managers today are assaulted by a surfeit of data every second. Syndicated studies, brand tracks, retail panel, consumer panel, brand spends and activities, competitive spend and activity, showroom traffic data, EPOS data at SKU level and online buzz are just some of the data streams that need to be analysed on an ongoing basis. The Economist, in their “Data Deluge” paper published in February 2010, mentions that the amount of data available in the world is growing at an astonishing CAGR of 60% and has far surpassed available storage capacity.
The critical task therefore is to extract wisdom and actionable insights from this imposing mass of data to enhance the effectiveness of marketing campaigns
There are a few key factors that are driving the need for managing this in real-time:
1. Shortening product cycles, ultra-short campaign cycles: Most marketers today give a wry smile when talking about “annual plans” for their brands. These have become, at best, broad guidelines that define the absolute must-dos for the brand — like launching a product, entering a market, responding to a regulatory change, etc.
In reality, plans and campaigns shift from month to month. Automobile brands attempt to blunt competitive actions by launching “Limited edition” models. Telecom companies re-jig their tariff plans within days. Durable companies pull ahead their festive season campaigns. Apparel and jewelry companies leverage festivals that didn’t even exist in the public consciousness a year ago.
Across categories, we see an increase in marketing effort —both in spend and activity terms — to sustain and grow sales in the face of intensified competition. More consumer touch points are being tapped. More channels are engaged. More partnerships are explored. Marketers need to quickly identify and re-invest in the initiatives that work, and course-correct on those that don’t.
2. Increasing churn of employees and processes: Most organisations have a significant amount of expertise and experience that reside amongst a select few. These people, typically, are repositories of information on specific campaigns/marketing actions and their impact on specific marketing KPIs. They often also create and own processes that analyse and report this information up the marketing chain.
Unfortunately, these pockets of expertise do not always network with each other to integrate the information and analyse the inter-relationship between them. Hence, most of the information and insight are available in silos with very limited analysis of interdependencies. Added to this is the fact that these experts are often susceptible to high levels of churn, which leads to organisations reinventing the wheel ever so often.
The challenge therefore is to (a) institutionalise the processes and insights, (b) understand the interplay across different marketing actions and (c) make it available instantaneously across all key stakeholders in the organisation in a consistent, actionable form.
3. Balance of power tilting towards the consumer: Enough has been said and deliberated on the increasing role of consumers as brand advocates and brand assassins. Their ability and willingness to share their points of view on products, brands, communication and each other provides marketers opportunities and challenges in equal measure.
The biggest shift is probably the acceleration in response time. Most major brands would measure their progress through monthly (or even quarterly) brand tracks and act on strengths and weaknesses they would reveal. Today, the digital domain acts like a 24/7 research agency giving you a shifting brand scorecard every second. While most marketers still look at impressions and click-throughs, they are increasingly looking at search traffic, engagement metrics and social chatter to understand not just the extent of consumer interest in their brands, but also the context.
This leads to entirely new streams of data that need to be managed and analysed, at a volume and frequency that far surpasses anything generated by marketers, agencies or research companies.
Successful implementation of real-time campaign management relies on the following building blocks:
Streamlined and scalable management of data: This is at the very heart of real-time campaign management. The system needs to be able to accommodate multiple data streams from a variety of sources, with different frequencies. It needs to have sufficient levels of automation to ensure timeliness and error-free inflow of data without any dependence on individual skills. It also needs to be extremely flexible and scalable to allow for addition of campaign elements & data streams practically on the fly.
Insightful and evocative visualization: Most managers are as time-starved as they are information-hungry. They are perpetually in search of that perfect “one view” of marketing information that highlights the key actionable insight.
The basic premise of real-time campaign management is the ability to understand and course-correct instantaneously. An intuitive, interactive visualisation of the data is critical to enable this. This also needs to be flexible and customisable to ensure that individual stakeholders see information that’s most relevant to them.
Scenario planning and course correction: For real-time campaign management to be truly effective, we need to go beyond real-time reporting of information. We need the ability to test alternate scenarios on the fly, and understand their implications. Only then can we course-correct in real time and truly leverage the power of the data. The more evolved campaign management systems incorporate insights from analytics and modeling to provide a platform for real-time simulation.
2010 saw a number of product categories display positive intent as they pulled out of the slowdown. 2011 should see heightened action and competition across most categories as marketers expand their portfolios and reach out to new audiences. The need for maximizing efficiency and effectiveness of marketing campaigns would be higher than ever before.
Progressive marketers have recognised the need for real-time campaign management and have started embracing tools and technologies that deliver this advantage. GroupM is invested heavily in this space with the LIVE platform, with which we are implementing real-time campaign management across a set of clients in 2010/2011.
The LIVE platform is modular in nature and flexible to accommodate different business needs and data streams. With the base “Monitor” module, CMOs get a comprehensive view of the health of their brand and the impact of their marketing actions in real time. The “Evaluate” and “Optimise” modules incorporate learning from analytical modeling, empowering marketers to simulate various scenarios on the fly and make informed decisions.
Effective implementation of real-time campaign management will transform the way companies deploy their marketing resources. By providing a comprehensive picture of their brands’ health, unearthing actionable insights and empowering marketers to course-correct on the fly, it will minimize the “wasted half” of marketing investments.
2011 should see Real-time Campaign Management move from “nice to have” to “must-have”, with marketers increasingly demanding this from their agencies.
The challenge therefore is to (a) institutionalise the processes and insights, (b) understand the interplay across different marketing actions and (c) make it available instantaneously across all key stakeholders
Read Jai Lala's views on what's in store in 2011 in his Mindshare India Predictions 2011 piece here
Read Vikram Sakhuja's views on what's in store in 2011 in his Mindshare India Predictions 2011 piece here
Read R Gowthaman's views on what's in store in 2011 in his Mindshare India Predictions 2011 piece here
Read Prasanth Kumar's views on what's in store in 2011 in his Mindshare India Predictions 2011 piece here
Read Alok Sinha's views on what's in store in 2011 in his Mindshare India Predictions 2011 piece here