Friday, July 15, 2011

Marketing in the Age of Channel Blur

How should we approach planning when everything is interactive?

We used to talk about multiple channels when separate (and possibly not coordinated) campaigns were executed by the experts in their respective silos.  Then along came Integrated Marketing Communication (ICM) that taught us to think multi-channel and to use a coordinated approach often based on timing, theme and message.    An underlying premise of both these planning models was that we as marketers were trying to reach you as consumer via a predefined route.

But when the network effect of sharing takes over and interesting content jumps the boundaries of the delivery vehicle maybe our thinking needs to change.  
  • First, since the relationship between marketer and consumer is by no means exclusive we need to think like we're simply a participant or conductor in the communication plan not its sole controller.  The focus should be on the needs first, not the channel.  This is an area where content marketing has made an impact with questions like "What would help consumers?" 
  • Second, given the rapid change in technology and the fact that it is now highly personal and portable we need to think more about how content moves across devices and forms and less about it being designed and optimized for a specific channel.   Today, digital content can be shared across and accessed from nearly any platform creating a blur.  Use a QR code and we're asking ourselves "Where does print end, mobile start and the web sit?" 
  • Third, consumers aren't likely to consciously sit down and ask themselves I wonder who placed or published the content in a given channel.  As a result, the planning of paid, owned and earned media seems somewhat out of sync with actual consumer thinking.   And when TV drives search or social activity we end up asking "How do we combine channels to measure the aggregate affect?"
Maybe, we should abandon the concept of 'channel' as the top-level way to devlop a plan.