Brands talk about the day a common currency will materialize out of the ether to replace Nielsen ratings. But the reality is, they’re just dreaming of a bygone era rather than facing the future. Many CMOs can afford to sound like dinosaurs, but the majority of marketers will most likely see the extinction of Nielsen ratings during their careers. It’s the end of an era.
So, after accepting that a common currency isn’t coming, what can marketers do?
Volunteer for a DTC experiment
First party-data is king. That’s one reason direct-to-consumer brands are enjoying so much success these days. If your brand is running a DTC experiment, volunteer for that team. If your brand isn’t doing DTC trials, pitch one.
Whether you join an existing DTC experiment or pitch your own, consider this interesting insight from Forrester: a decade ago, only 39% of US adults said they were always open to testing new products, brands or experiences; today, more than half of US adults (56%) would agree with that statement. That’s an important insight for all marketers to keep in mind, but it’s especially true for marketers running DTC experiments inside legacy brands. It means consumers aren’t as loyal to brands as they used to be. And, that there are more opportunities for growth in a DTC world. The key, however, is that marketers adopt a consumer-centric mindset and think in terms of the consumer journey — and the metrics that are most meaningful to measuring progress.
Learn a new discipline
DTC marketing requires a wide range of new skills. In an interview describing some of Procter & Gamble’s recent DTC experiments, CMO Marc Pritchard pointed to an increase in spending on influencers, social and public relations, as well as an overall emphasis on performance marketing.
“The skill of performance marketing — where we’re really able to get data and identify how to best optimize an investment in order to get the most sales out of a consumer — that’s something that we’ve got to upskill larger parts of our organization on,” Pritchard said. “We’re getting some capabilities on there, but we’ve got to skill-up more people.”
There are two ways to view that statement. One reaction is to say, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” You can look at your skillset, compare it to the organization’s future needs and assume that there’s no place for someone like you. That’s an incredibly negative outlook.
Another way to view Pritchard’s comment is to see it as both a challenge and a roadmap. Yes, learning new skills is hard, but it’s not as if you have to guess at what skills will be valuable — one of the most powerful CMOs in the world just gave you a roadmap. And while it might sound trite to say that the key to a long career is to be a lifelong learner, it’s the truth. Nobody is born a marketer, they learn the necessary skills through study and practice.
Leverage your brand experience
While DTC is the future, it’s also somewhat narrow. That’s one reason why DTC brands are increasingly turning to television. As a recent eMarketer report pointed out, DTC brands spent $2 billion on television last year because they needed to scale beyond the relatively small universe of Facebook. In fact, of the 120 DTC brands eMarketer tracked, 70 incorporated television into their media plans for the first time in 2018.
What this means for marketers is that while learning new skills sets is valuable, leveraging legacy skill sets will remain important. Relevance, however, won’t be defined by your ability to dig into the Nielsen numbers. Today’s brand marketers can leverage their branding experience by developing data-driven ways to generate and measure awareness. Or put another way, brand marketers can own the top of the funnel by thinking about ways to adapt and apply performance-driven tools and tactics to the earliest and hardest to pinpoint stages of the consumer journey. As connected TV puts awareness within reach for all brands, expertise that bridges the gap between TV and digital — awareness and direct response — will be in demand.
Embrace the challenge
It’s tempting to want to turn back the clock to a time when there was a common currency and marketers just needed to run enough media to move the needle. But, the easy truth is that you can’t go back in time.
The hard truth is that the legacy model has been breaking for decades. That fact has made marketing incredibly challenging, but it also means marketing can be extremely rewarding. Because while it’s comforting to be able to reach for the “easy button,” the truth is that the most valuable people are those who embrace the challenge of creating the next model. If that challenge excites you, regardless of where you currently work or which skills you still need to improve, you don’t need a common currency because you can help create the next generation of metrics.
Raymond Dooley is an award-winning entertainment marketing, creative, and media strategist. He is the VP of Global Marketing for dataxu – a leading provider of software for marketing and media professionals.
Previously, Raymond held leadership positions at WarnerMedia and Viacom. Raymond is a New York native and graduate of the University of Central Florida.