Forrester Marketing 2016 – How Brands Can Sink or Swim in the Post Digital Age

How does a 113-year-old brand from Milwaukee, WI stay relevant in today’s hyper-digital, ever-evolving, millennial-driven marketing landscape? They do what they’ve done since the first product rolled off the assembly line: Develop their brand promise, manufacture not only product but moments, and deliver 100%, 24/7 on that promise. And this is what Harley-Davidson has done and continues to do to stay relevant.

And with this example, Carl Doty kicked off Forrester MARKETING 2016 – Forum For Marketing Leaders in NYC.

This set the precedent for the two-day forum, as leaders from top brands such as Southwest Airlines, MGM Resorts, Nest, IBM, Keds, eBay and Amazon drilled into the tools and tactics brands today need to connect with their consumer.

From One-to-Many to One-to-One to One-to-Moment

For brands to survive in what marketers are now calling a “post digital” age, they must revamp how their communication with their consumers, if they haven’t already.

In the pre-digital days, brands employed a one-to-many mentality. Communicating a message through print, radio and TV meant you were going to reach a large audience with one message, and they were going to get it whether they liked it or not.

Forrester 2016 IMI Moment

Once we moved into the digital day, brands took to the one-to-one message.  They had access to more information from their consumers (shopping and search habits, etc.) allowing them to tailor their message accordingly to hit the customer at various times prior and post purchase.

However, as stated by Doty, “Going digital is not enough.”

In today’s Post Digital age, brands are forced to harness the one-to-moment idea of selling the experience, not the product. With all of the avenues consumers now have at their disposal to communicate with brands, one thing is more clear now than ever before: The customer is in control of the conversation.   

So what can brands do to adapt?

Suzy Deering_eBay_WEBAccording to eBay CMO, Suzy Deering, there are four considerations for redefining a brand in the digital landscape:

Keep your brand at its core – Don’t forget who/what your brand is when shifting strategies.

Don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach – The marketplace is way too dynamic to assume that your all-for-one message will work.

Be aspirational – Shoot for the moon even if you’re only going to hit Indiana. When brands are aspirational, people take notice. There is a lot of clutter out there. What will you do to be heard?

Put your customer in control
– The customer is in control so make them feel that way. They’ll tell you how to market your product. Storytelling for brands is crucial: Having the right content at the right time in the right channel. Invest in a comprehensive content marketing strategy.

“Advertising is not your brand, that’s just a manifestation.” – Suzy Deering, CMO, eBay

The Consumer is Now In Charge

“To harness the power of advocate marketing, brands must make the shift from testimonial tidbits to authentic voice.” – Laura Ramos, VP, Principal Analyst, Forrester.


Brands looking to connect with an authentic audience must involve the consumer in the brand story and create advocates versus just customers. Here’s why:

  • Empowered customers = advocates.
  • Advocates create better brand reach for less cost.
  • Personal relationships create long-term business value.
  • Brand advocates teach, share and connect: They build communities. They are ambassadors. They will share their experiences on social.

While brand advocates are important for the success of your company, getting started isn’t so easy. If you’re looking to initiate an advocacy program, make sure you have the following:

  • Happy customers
  • A commitment to keeping customer WIIFM first (“What’s in it for me?”)
  • A strategy to find, identify, recruit and thank members
  • A program: steering committee
  • Engaging content
  • An understanding that there is no “going back”

With these in place, there are additional critical success factors brands must know.

  • You must have a clear understanding of objectives.
    • Who are you trying to target?
    • Why?
    • Where?
    • How?
    • When?
    • What do you expect from these efforts?
    • What does success look like?
  • Are you set up with the proper resources to engage advocates regularly?
    • As stated by Shar VanBoskirk earlier in the day, “There is no room for small goofs by brands. Customers are now entitled.”
    • If you’re not set up properly, make sure you are before attempting communication.
  • Do you have permission to change status quo?
    • Changing the way you read and communicate with your audience will take buy in from the company. Make sure you have this and are all on the same page.
  • Shift the view of your customers from buys to shared, company assets.
    • Social media and increased transparency with brands has entitled customers. You’ll need to approach them as such.
  • Harness the ability to match advocate “altitude” with that of advocate manager.
    • How do you plan to grow your advocates based on what you know about them?
  • Align the process and support for on-going initiatives.
    • Don’t bite off more than you can chew for on-going advocate communication.
    • Make sure you have your plan in place and the assets needed to run it for a long time, not just one-off scenarios.

The power of the right question.

As Joshua Reynolds from Quantified began, he presented the crowd with a scenario:

A popular fast-food chain wanted to increase their breakfast sales, especially in the teen demographic, and to do so, they launched a new “sandwich.” [Editor’s note: Not sure you can actually call it a sandwich, though. More like a taco-shaped waffle stuffed with sausage.]  A few weeks post launch, they saw no shift in sales. Why? How can this be?

QuantifindTurns out, after the company did a deep dive into consumer conversations across social and otherwise, the reason presented itself: Moms wouldn’t take their kids to get this sandwich because this particular fast food chain had terrible coffee. You can read more on this report here.

The point is, this business wanted to increase breakfast sales, but they weren’t asking the right question. “The question is: What Drives Growth?” Buzz and sentiment alone do not correlate to increased revenue. It is important for brands to sift through the junk to let the data actually talk.

Brands must also be willing to take a Human-in-the-Loop approach to analytics: Not all data is going to be silicon-based.

If you think you’re asking the right question, make sure you are not committing these common mistakes when looking at your analytics:

  • Not correlating data to revenue
  • Ignoring what you already know
  • Not asking what’s actionable
  • Expecting the data to do all the work
  • Working in departmental silos

“The only thing worse than the wrong answer is the right answer to the wrong questions.” – Joshua Reynolds, Quantifind

Small Data to Drive Big Insights

How did ARIA Resort Hotel & Casino increase their breakfast orders at the resort by 600%? They simply looked at data and said, “Given what we know about our customers, we should be hitting them with time-based messaging for our breakfast offerings now and now.” To be fair, Lilian Tomovich, Chief Experience Officer, MGM Resorts, and her team didn’t “simply look at data.” They analyzed customer behavior and interactions with ARIA’s revolutionary in-room tablets to understand, and therefore customize, experiences based on preferences and information gathered.

ARIA Tablet

With the information gathered, MGM Resorts was able to execute against it in the following ways:

  • Extremely personalized experiences for hotel guests
  • Time-and-trigger-based messaging as a result of tablet interaction/proximity, etc
  • Reorganization of contents based on how a guest uses the tablet
  • Prioritization of larger marketing programs

ARIA has been able to create one-of-a-kind experiences for their guests through not only the gathering of data, but also with the understanding of what to do with it. Because, in the end, it doesn’t matter how much data you have if you don’t know what to do with it.

Trust is earned in drops and lost in buckets.

Forrester 2016

As Forrester began to wrap up its two-day stint at the Hilton NYC, the forum turned its sights to that of brand trust. What good is any data you gather, any actions a brand can take, any advocacy program you run and any moment you create if your consumer doesn’t trust you?

How do you go about earning your consumer’s trust? Fatemeh Khatibloo, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research clearly lays it out as the following:

“Why don’t your customers trust you? Because you’re taking the wrong approach.”

  • Integrity – While integrity is usually assumed, your brand promises must be kept to preserve it.
  • Competence – Brand competence is built up over time, not over night. However, brands must be consistent to demonstrate competence.
  • Transparency – Nothing builds connections and humanizes brands quite like transparency. But if a brand isn’t open to what matters most, displaying transparency is impossible.

So, what does this all mean?

The state of marketing is at a very interesting time. We are at the point of having to go above and beyond to not only attract and keep new customers. We are at the dynamic shift of having these customers actually tell a brand’s story.

From one-to-moment experience offers versus one-to-all advertising and understanding the extreme power of brand advocates, to asking the right questions of your data and utilizing that data properly, it’s clear the consumer is now in charge of the brand.

Some questions for you:

  • What is your brand doing to take part in the post-digital conversation?
  • How will you earn the consumer’s trust to even start the conversation?
  • Do you have all the tools and support you need from your company for efforts moving forward?
  • Most importantly, in 113 years, will your brand still be around?

Were you at Forrester Marketing 2016? Share your experience in the comments below! And if you’re a brand looking to make these micro-moment connections with your audience, contact IMI today! We’re ready to help.

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