Ignore that sign.

Our marketing hats are glued to our heads. We’re stuck believing there’s a funnel, a purchase path. We view new channels like social networks as fancier ways to do what we’ve always done – shepherd consumers along a path to a purchase. But if we finally pry that marketer hat off and put our shopper hat on, how does what we do change?

How do you shop? Do you watch TV for the ads to discover new products? When a print ad catches your eye, do you make a mental note to check out the company’s product pages later? Really give your shopping habits some serious thought. Do you shop the way your company’s “ideal customer” shops? Does this ideal customer even exist outside of your whiteboards and team meetings?

We marketers have to get it through our heads: There is. No. One. Path. And that’s why reaching shoppers is increasingly difficult.

“I’ve got a lot of passion for digital. It really is such an incredible way to connect with consumers and really have much deeper ongoing relationships with them… Our media strategy is pretty simple: Follow the consumer. And the consumer is becoming more and more engaged in the digital world.”
— Marc Prichard, CMO, Procter & Gamble

Our customers are on Facebook and Twitter, searching Google and Bing, watching YouTube and Hulu, browsing on their phones and using branded apps, shopping in-store and online. We’re told to “follow our customers” and “be everywhere they are,” but the splintering media means our customers are literally everywhere. So how can even the best multi-channel marketing strategy perform in the era of what some are calling the “omni-channel” shopper?

“A lot of it [social marketing] is putting your hands in the tactic bag, throwing it against the wall and seeing what sticks. Why are we choosing these tactics? Do we need to choose them all, or should we just choose one or two that are going to resonate and give us the return?”
–Rob Rivenburgh COO, Mars Shopper Marketing Agency

Too many brands think of their “multi-channel strategy” as a portfolio of individual strategies, one for each of the channels they choose to participate in, each with different tactics. We’ve mixed a little digital with a touch of social, sprinkled in some mobile with in-store – hoping to find the recipe for success. But shoppers are channel-agnostic. They don’t care if your online marketing strategy and in-store marketing strategy are managed by two different teams – they expect a seamless brand experience from channel to channel.

And they find new channels to engage in every day. Brands that attempt to develop a different strategy for each new channel will not be able to keep up. “Social” is not a strategy, “mobile” is not a strategy, “digital” is not a strategy, “in-store” is not a strategy. These are tools and communication outlets that marketers turn into silos, and try to build outdated marketing plans around.

What brands really need is a pervasive marketing strategy that spans current and future channels, independent of the tools used to enact it. A strategy that isn’t just multi-channel, but cross-channel.

What works cross-channel?

“The first markets were filled with people, not abstractions or statistical aggregates; they were the places where supply met demand with a firm handshake. Buyers and sellers looked each other in the eye, met, and connected. The first markets were places for exchange, where people came to buy what others had to sell – and to talk.”
The Cluetrain Manifesto

Oh yeah, we’re people. We converse. It’s funny to think that (technology learning curve aside) the oldest marketers would probably be better at social marketing than many brands today. Even with lots of experimentation and even more technology, we still seem struggle with something so basic and fundamental: communicating with the shopper. Somewhere in centuries of marketing advances, we forgot that shopping is a social activity.

Still, many brands continue to think about social marketing in terms of separate channels with separate budgets. “Social,” which should be about conversation, has become just another channel for one-way branded communication. But the cloud is here, and brands no longer have time to waste.

“Shopper marketers need to develop an integrated set of capabilities. These capabilities produce shopper insights, which are a critical ingredient in strategy and creative development. They produce retailer intimacy, which enables shopper marketers to better identify and sell what works best in a retailer’s stores.”
— Matt Egol, Partner, Booz & Co.

As Matt says, an effective cross-channel marketing strategy will be one that…

  • …is integrated, as in communicating across channels, across the cloud. Brands need a unified platform, so that their efforts within channels can be syndicated between channels, for scalable results.
  • …generates insights, obtained by aggregating customer feedback and deriving trends and intelligence from it. These insights fuel better products, marketing, and companies.
  • …produces intimacy, by bringing brands closer to their customers. Many brands would say they’re customer centric, but how many have truly put their customers’ opinions at the center of their business? Brands who do will be better equipped to meet customers’ needs, keeping them happy and coming back.

Is your strategy accomplishing these goals, across channels? Or is siloing your strategies preventing you from connecting your brand with customers everywhere they shop?

March 22nd CPG Webinar