May 23, 2016

Under Pressure

I fielded a call a few weeks ago ... very interesting. Here's what the caller said:
  1. Big Companies (> 1 billion) are moving everything in-house. Integrated database with unlimited targeting opportunities. Teams of Data Scientists. Automated decisions that few outside of the data scientist team understand.
  2. Small Companies (< 50 million) are fully dependent upon numerous vendor solutions. Nothing is integrated. Few analysts. Many questions. No answers.
The caller asked me about his observations. The observations are reasonable.

But both organizations ... the huge ones and the small ones, are under pressure via a common thread.

Almost nobody is studying ecosystems.

We have data scientists figuring out how to target the right ad to the right customer at the right time. No doubt that, for a large company, there are tens of millions of dollars of profit opportunity to be had - so yes, dig in and get busy.

Smaller companies are pulled where the vendor community wants to pull them. Be it using clickstream data to integrate print strategies or segmenting email lists to identify discount-centric buyers, the vendors pull small businesses in directions that make vendors money. And yes, their clients will make more profit - so this isn't a bad thing.

But it's not optimal.

The understanding of the ecosystem - that's missing, isn't it? What does it "mean" when a lapsed buyer appears on your website? Shouldn't we figure out what a behavior means before we "target" the visitor with a digital ad or throw a catalog in the mail?

If I asked you what role paid search plays in your customer ecosystem, could you tell me in two sentences or less?

If I asked you how personalization impacts the five-year trajectory of your housefile, could you tell me in two sentences or less?

If I asked you if "content" plays any role in any ecosystem, could you answer the question accurately?

If I asked you which source of new customers is most likely to buy from multiple categories in the next two years, could you tell me?

Increasingly, when I speak with you, I sense that you are under pressure. You simply haven't been given the tools to understand what I'd call your "brand ecosystem". So you perform random tactics and then wonder why your business never grows.

If you were able to deliver the perfect ad to the perfect customer at the perfect time, other than increased profit, what has been accomplished, and how have you changed your brand ecosystem?

The caller asked me what I call my hypothesis? I didn't have a name.

But the name, quite honestly, is "Brand Ecosystem". We simply don't understand how our brand ecosystem works, do we?

And until we understand how our brand ecosystem works, we're under constant pressure ... we're constantly pushing buttons and hoping for the best.