A perspective on audience centric marketing to compete in this fragmented market.

While I have been a marketer for the past seventeen years, I have also been the end consumer and a buyer for many more- and throughout my life and career, I have witnessed the world of marketing become increasingly fragmented. There has been a transition from traditional media channels such as TV, Radio, and Print, to digital channels that have evolved from search to display to social media. The advent of social media has been the most intriguing- it offered a new channel for engagement and conversion and brought a new dimension to fragmentation, with the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Snap WeChat, Line and most recently, TikTok offering new means of communicating with consumers and measuring marketing effectiveness.

“The advent of social media has been the most intriguing- it offered a new channel for engagement and conversion and brought a new dimension to fragmentation”

As technology has evolved, we have also had the added complexity of device fragmentation, ranging from PCs and laptops to phones, tablets to wearable devices and IoT (Internet of things).

As I sit here and reflect, it is evident that as marketers, we have become increasingly sophisticated in our ability to collect, stitch, and dissect data from the plethora of sources that we have access to. We are great at using data to measure, hypothesise, optimise, assess, and prove the impact of our marketing. However, throughout all this, we often forget whom we are doing this for- the end customer. It is as if they have gone from being people with feelings, wants and desires to mere test subjects of our strategies. Or, even worse, individuals we can cajole into buying our products with perfectly formulated algorithms and enticing messages that we expose them to day-in-day-out.

“However, throughout all this, we often forget whom we are doing this for- the end customer.”

But let us face it, the dream was bound to end eventually, and there was only one way this was going to go- the customers were going to take back control. And why not?

Where Digital has given consumers more choice over their media consumption in terms of how, when and where they engage with it, it has come at the cost of giving away insights into their interests, habits, and purchases, albeit anonymously. I can understand why it is scary, and why there is growing distrust towards advertising.

By providing consumers control over their media consumption, with constructs such as Privacy and ad blocking, consumers can feel better about using the technology and platforms they love. But for marketers, it means that it is even more important that we bring the consumer back up to the top and give them what they want, by shifting gears and embracing audience centric marketing.

“By providing consumers control over their media consumption, with constructs such as Privacy and ad blocking consumers can feel better about using the technology and platforms they love”

As the term suggests, audience-centric marketing is the practice of marketing to the target audience based on a deep understanding of their needs and desires, ensuring each interaction creates a meaningful connection with the target audience. To make these connections successfully, we need to define who they are, their interests as well as their media consumption, purchase drivers, and brand choices.

The rapid pace of change means that audiences themselves will find it hard to find their rhythm, thus preventing behaviours from becoming solidified habits for some time, which amplifies the need for brands to stay nimble, focused on the consumer and able to connect their spend with measurable outcomes.

Pictogram: Roshan Singh Gujra — 2222 Digital

In addition, marketers must have a holistic understanding of the media landscape to win. Audience-centric marketing is multifaceted, and if you are planning to activate across multiple channels in an impending cookie-less world, which is riddled with ad avoidance and general distrust for advertising, it will mean investing in marketing technology that can utilise 1st party data to mature your operations and activation coupled with tech that allows you to collect and store data in a compliant way. When you factor in technology such as CDP’s Data lakes and Data Clean rooms the mind starts to boggle, and the costs start to mount!

Amidst all this, however, one channel is starting to stand out increasingly, especially with millennials and Gen Z. A channel which I believe is an ecosystem within itself: social media.

According to GWI up to 50% of all consumers discover brands and products on Social Media platforms, with Gen Z and Millennials indexing the highest at 51% and 49% respectively.

“up to 50% of all consumers discover brands and products on Social Media platforms”

Social media represents a clear opportunity to reach audiences based on their niche interests, empowering brands to gain a deep understanding of consumers without the need for cookies or better still, handling data. However, if millennials famously hated ads, younger generations like Gen Z are even more averse. Connecting with these audiences this year will mean not just getting on their feed but building meaningful relationships.

It will require a cohesive social strategy which encompasses influencer marketing, paid social advertising and social channel management, but more importantly brands will need to make influencers a crucial partner across all aspects to push marketing efforts to the next level.

The marketing power of influencers lies in the ability of these content creators to build a niche and loyal community that trusts their tastes and opinions. Their creativity and relatability allow brands to craft an authentic narrative around their products, reaching both known customers and relevant new audiences. By choosing to engage with an influencer, consumers have full control over their media consumption. Influencers need to maintain integrity and trusting with their community by remaining authentic with the brands and product they choose to showcase.

In order to effectively utilise the power of influencer there are two elements that need to be addressed.

Relationships between brands and influencers will only become more symbiotic. Brands need to look at influencer marketing not just as buying advertising, but as buying creativity. By giving an appropriate influencer the tools to create engaging content that can also be used for brand and paid channels, enables the creation of authentic narratives that foster more meaningful relationships with millennial and Gen Z audiences throughout the user journey.

It is clear that influencers can help brands build lasting relationships with highly targeted audiences without relying on cookie data. However, social media platforms can do more to showcase the power of these partnerships to marketers, platforms like the Instagram and TikTok creator marketplaces, that allow brands and creators to discover one another and connect with ease, are a good starting point to breaking down the barriers to entry. Going one step further and giving creators the ability to use anonymised first-party follower data to further personalise content would help drive a step change in creativity and relevance for the audience. It will deliver real value and match measurability to other digital ad placements — such as search and display.

“Influencers can help brands build lasting relationships with highly targeted audiences without relying on cookie data”

Whether or not this level of insight is afforded by social media platforms, influencers are a valuable partner who can give brands and consumers what they want, meaningful, authentic, and trustworthy relationships, which can be utilised throughout the consumer journey across earned, owned, and paid media. It is time for brands to unlock the full potential of the social ecosystem.

So, audience centric marketing will bring us back to the consumer, and marketing maturity is essential to be able to compete in this increasingly sophisticated world we find ourselves in. However, for those that are not ready to invest in technology and systems, consider utilising social media as your test bed. A safe space where you can start to build meaningful trusting relationships with current and new audiences, without the massive upfront bill.

Supriya Dev-Purkaystha — Founder | Connect Growth

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

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