How advertisers both gain and lose control by turning Digital (spoiler: this is a good thing)

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It’s 2016 and digital media should be an integral part of your brand’s marketing mix. The unprecedented growth of users logged onto the digital media landscape is something traditional marketers can no longer ignore. However, some industries are noticeably lagging in the digital space. As a study published by Emarketer shows, US industries will collectively spend upwards $65 billion in digital ads in 2016. But only a few of them are expected to take part of these expenses; while the retail, financial, and automotive industries are a bit ahead of the curve in evolving their marketing (more than $30billion expected to be spent on digital media in 2016), the healthcare, media & entertainment, and consumer electronics industries are falling behind (around $12 billion).

The late conversion of some industries to digital marketing can be explained by several facts: these advertisers come from a world where marketing is print/offline/TV and where the norm is purchasing advertising pages in magazines/expensive photoshoots. Understandably, the thought of loosening the control they have over their brand’s content is perceived as a risk.

With the digital shift the rules of the game are changing, as marketers can both lose and gain control over their brand image. Here is how.

1. Necessary loss of Control

Unlike any form of traditional media, digital media as a whole enables marketers to connect in real-time directly to their target consumer. By ignoring the digital media space, you are in fact, ignoring a part of your consumer journey.

The first step of embracing digital media, is accepting the fact that you no longer have full control of your brands content and messaging. Once your content is in the digital space, consumer and influencers alike, have the creative freedom to interact with this content. Brands who are doing great with digital media, already embraced the fact that their content can and will be distorted by influencers or anyone willing to share. While this may seem like a scary thought, it is very powerful and impactful for your brand as a whole. This opens the door to Word of Mouth and Influencer Marketing and gives the opportunity to get the conversation going about the brand.

Victorinox would most likely never green light this star wars meme referencing their product. It is not consistent with their luxury product brand guidelines or messaging. Would the marketing director ever have chosen to be featured on 4chan, reddit, 9gag and imgur? Probably not.


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But this is shareable, social, and potentially viral content that will be shared again and again by digital users across the web. Another example is, “the menswear dog” spoofing a Victorinox print ad. The menswear dog is a comical, entertaining character made up on the internet that has a large following of digital users.

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This ad is obviously not one that Victorinox would ever create for their traditional advertising campaign. But again, it is social content that is appealing to other digital users and digital influencers. Influencer and user generated content will almost always be “off brand” to a traditional marketer, but the creative freedom you give influencers, results in an authentic message that will resonate with their audience and build loyalty to your brand. Traditional marketing is the brand talking, as the brand, to the consumer. While the influencer represents a trusted source, that breaks down the wall between brands and consumers. So while you lose control over your brand’s messaging and content to a degree, you are achieving a level of communication and trust with your consumer that you have never had before.

Another strength of leveraging digital influencers is the new distribution channels that they will provide. It’s a great way to challenge your views, and disrupt the status quo that might have grown within your marketing team. Influencers bring value to your owned channels and networks, but they also provide an avenue to new consumers.

In its simplest form, influencers have a network of consumers that may not be part of your existing consumer base. So leveraging them and allowing them to publish your content, in their own words or style, reaches a new crowd of consumers you may not have been hitting with your traditional marketing mix. A brand can control its owned digital channels, but the same cannot be said for the influencer’s channels. This is the small opportunity cost for achieving a new level of advertising distribution.

2. Incidental Gain of Control

  • Webanalytics

The greatest asset of a strong digital advertising platform is probably the data that accompanies it. New tools have been created that allow you to analyse conversations around your brand and your marketing strategy’s impact in a more clear and concise way.

While traditional marketing uses hollow forms of measure like readership that can be fairly inaccurate, digital media listening tools and web analytics allow you to see deeper forms of engagement and actual conversation around your brand. These digital tools offer better overviews of your marketing strategy impact by tracking and reporting real-time results on 3 essential aspects:

    • Before people visit your website: by using concrete metrics to measure PR reach, impressions and benefits such as brand awareness or your “collateral impact” (word of mouth, conversions…)
    • Directly on your website: digital tools provide you with precise quantitative stats such as volume of visitors but it also enables to go further with qualitative metrics such as the bounce rate or the time spent on the page that give a great overview of visitors’ behavior.
    • The impact on your business: Unlike traditional forms of measurements, these digital metrics can directly affect your business’ bottom line. Digital tools brought marketers the opportunity to track in real-time their impact on customer’s engagement but also on their business thanks to metrics such as the conversion rate, customer lifetime value and a concrete ROI.
  • Social listening

The digital turn has significantly improve consumer’s digital experience for brands that convert. Social listening allows you to monitor exactly what consumers are saying about your brand. You will be able to know exactly what resonates with them and what they’re looking for.

Never before in the advertising space could a brand seamlessly monitor where, why, and when a consumer is purchasing or using one’s brand. Nor, was there ever a real time way to see exactly what your consumer was saying about your brand. This also allows you, as a brand, to have a virtual test market. These “test markets” lessen the risk of advertising failure and the in depth data could be what decides the future success or failure of your brand. In short, you can just about measure everything when it comes to digital media marketing and leverage the data for success to the bottom line of your company. So while you may be giving up a degree of creative control, you are gaining much more in consumer data and insights.

Advertising as we know it has changed forever. Since 2011, we have seen a 242% growth in digital marketing budget in the United States. More and more, companies are identifying the strength of a strong digital media presence and are evolving their marketing mix. In the end, although you are giving up some creative control, you are gaining invaluable consumer information and relationships that will fuel your brand’s future successes. Some companies need to learn to give up little control to gain lots of control on what actually matters and impacts the bottom line of the company. In an extremely competitive marketplace these sales generated from your digital media could be the difference that separates you from your competition.

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