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B2B needs a new kind of agency

Brand marketing is now a high flux game changing world where the old rules are morphing into something entirely new almost every week. So, gone are the days of, “We do advertising, we do direct marketing, and we do media planning.” Now, it’s a case of “we market your brand intelligently and creatively across all platforms.” 

Nobody wants an ad agency that can’t understand social media, nobody wants a design consultancy that has never heard of Snapchat, YouTube or Pinterest. In the new age of the marketing generalist, it’s all about who has the creative and strategic muscle to produce challenging ‘on brand’ work, and the knowledge to navigate clients through a rapidly changing media landscape. 

Let’s face it. Branding, content creation and media planning were never “dark arts,” and the bottom line is that all clients and marketing/design agencies want to create fantastic work that  stands out and looks different, work that will  cut through the clutter to reach the right people and promote core brand values. 

So, if things are moving at warp speed for marketers it’s no surprise that clients, who used to come to us with a very clear idea of what activity they wanted, a clear customer profile, and an even a clearer strategy in mind are now uber confused about how to go about marketing their product. 

Clients tell us they don’t know what questions they should be asking and that they feel lost without the help of a media “pathfinder” to help them navigate their way through so much choice.  Increasingly, as practitioners we are presented by general objectives like “we want to target young women, but we have no idea how that could/should be achieved.”

There always has to be a start point in every journey and the question we always have top of mind when planning or creating any  activity is: “How can we apply creative intelligence to this challenge? Who are we creating this for?”  The answer not only reminds us of what we are doing, it also helps our client to focus too! 

Media fragmentation is actually a good thing. As media fragments, it offers a plethora of specialist channels for minority interests that allows agencies like ours to drill down into increasingly niche markets, social groups,  behaviours, passions and pass times. No doubt along with this it is becoming harder to navigate through all of the options but the overarching question, “Who is this for?”  will always keep activity on track and closely targeted. 

It’s true that a few years ago the media landscape was easier to understand but along with that came the wastage of huge amounts of marketing budget. In order to hit your target consumer you had to hit everybody’s!  The ‘scatter gun’ approach was a crude marketing tool and now marketing, like warfare, has become much more surgical.  Now the campaign may hit only 100,000 people but it will be the right 100,000! 

Of course the right mix of marketing channels still has to be decided. Do we use social media, and if so which one(s), do we use You Tube, do we create a direct mail campaign, do we use more conventional print media or is the answer TV or radio?  A lot of the work that we do remains multi channel and it’s not uncommon to have a campaign that crosses print advertising, point of sale, the creation of a product specific website and a social media campaign too. 

Our clients’ media dilemma calls for us to think more creatively about how media is used and also to be more impartial about the route taken to achieve the objectives.  A good example is a recent challenge given to us by our client Siniat a producer of specialist building products. They wanted our advice on how to reach young builders with their new product called Bulldog, a revolutionary metal partitioning that has untold advantages over timber products.

The manufacturer, as a starter for ten, knew that Bulldog may not be too popular on launch amongst  older and more conservative builders and therefore a marketing message embedded in traditional media may miss the client’s target audience entirely. 

As is so often the case nowadays we decided that the answer should be omni-channel, but in this instance the all important activity focus should be on a medium that is popular with younger people and that would fit the tongue in cheek approach that we had in mind. 

A few years ago uploading a video to anywhere but YouTube wouldn’t even have been considered. The usual process would be to create a video, upload to YouTube and then simply just share it via Facebook. However,  a recent trend is that marketers are now uploading videos direct to Facebook, therefore bypassing YouTube altogether.

But for brands, it should not simply be a question of ‘which platform wins the arm wrestling contest?’ Instead it is about understanding the total emerging landscape of online video as a whole and adapting a content strategy that fits multiple platforms outside of YouTube in order to reach a wider audience.

Video content isn’t interchangeable across every platform and therefore brands need to devise a strategy based around where their content fits best. To do this effectively brands need a fundamental understanding of the differences between each platform. By understanding this, it not only allows brands to decide which platform is best for their content, but also unlocks the potential to ultimately use each platform in conjunction with each other to amplify a brands marketing message.

Facebook and YouTube might be battling it out between themselves for online video dominance.  But this doesn’t mean that brands can’t use each platform to work together.

When looking at the overall video strategies on each platform you can clearly see where Facebook’s advantage lies and where YouTube still has an edge. Video content that relies on a social lift will be most successful on Facebook, whereas YouTube is the source for video content with staying power and for a series of video content. As our client already had a YouTube footprint with a series of “how to” videos and as the target audience was young but not that young we plumped for YouTube and we were right…. within hours Bulldog started to achieve really high figures and reached over 160K  views in just 8 weeks! The campaign which is being executed across a number of channels, online and POS included,  is having a positive impact on sales. 

Never has it been more crucial for marketers to have a handle on the business contribution of their marketing investments. The IBM reports that 63 per cent of CMOs claim marketing ROI as their most important gauge of marketing success, but other surveys cite that the vast majority of CMOs do not actually calculate the profitability of their marketing. Maybe it’s time that social media marketing was taken more seriously and clients realised that digital is not a black art but a vital ingredient of the marketing mix? The new omnichannel agencies will no doubt be able to illustrate the virtues of projects like Siniat. Now what is needed is a sea change within client companies to match their knowledge and enthusiasm.