Digital transforms marketing from art to science

Now absolutely everything can be measured precisely.

digital transforms

The creative world of advertising and marketing used to be so much fun.

Back then there was this thing called ‘creative instincts’ where your creative team would disappear for a day or two and come back with the advertising concept that would make your product sell like there was no tomorrow.

There was virtually no ‘science’ in this approach. Creatives simply tossed around ideas until one stuck and was developed to provide the promotional ‘hook’ your product needed.

Some would indeed send your product sales skyrocketing. Others would end up like so much space junk.

But clients, tired of using ‘gut feel’ about whether or not the latest concept would resonate with their customers or not, slowly began to put some science around the art.

Testing creative

They did this by testing the concepts, usually by way of those small group research sessions most of us have attended over the years.

Creatives usually treated such testing with disdain. Not the least egotistic of professionals, having a bunch of ordinary consumers reject their brilliance was not something some dealt with particularly well.

For the marketer, such testing was their equivalent of an insurance policy. Better to spend a little now to ensure it had a better chance of success than blow the budget on a promotional lemon.

But if you think traditional creative instincts were hosed down by market research, it had nothing on digital marketing and communications.

The digital fingerprint

The thing about this thing called digital is absolutely everything can be measured.

No more reliance on Audit Bureau of Circulation data to confirm that the publishers readership claims were anywhere near what they said they were, or what ‘pass-on’ rate they might enjoy, now every single interaction with your content could be precisely measured be they ‘views’, likes, forwards, shares or any other action the viewer might take.

Whilst creativity is still essential to cutting through the terabytes of information your customer might encounter over any given period to encounter and take action on your message, the days of the ‘instinct’ that separated one concept from another is less necessary.

Social media as market research tool

Provided we have taken the effort to enlist our customers on either our email or social media pages, it’s now possible to talk directly to our customers on pretty much any topic you need to know anything about.

So instead of using guesswork and instinct to make decisions on your ‘creative’s’ latest brainwave, you can actually go right ahead and ask your customers directly.

While some traditional advertising folk would label it heresy (what would customers know about creative?), there is nothing stopping businesses from running their proposed concepts past their customers for some feedback.

This relatively small scale approach has the advantage of getting real feedback when its cost is still relatively low, instead of rolling it out at considerable expense only to find it’s not quite hitting the mark with its audience.

Data driven advertising

Another aspect of advertising that has had much of the guesswork removed is placing your advertising.

In the past, more art than science was required to select not only the media your advertisement would appear in but when and how often. Professionals were employed to advise you on just which media would provide the best return on investment for your campaign.

While these professionals still provide this service for traditional media buying, digital media is a different kettle of fish altogether.

Unprecedented targeting and measurement

Take Facebook’s advertising engine for example. It allows you to specify exactly the audience you are after by age, gender, location and even behaviour (eg. watches specific television programs) and tells you how much it will cost you for your ad or ‘boosted post’ to reach that audience.

Better still you can book, purchase and activate your message immediately and gain absolutely accurate data on the actions customers took when viewing it.

This data is manna from heaven for advertisers who previously had to spend considerable sums on measuring the success of their campaigns.

Goodbye to guesswork

The result of so much data is much of the guesswork and gut feel once associated with promotional campaigns is being slowly replaced by data-driven research, ad placement and management, which at the end of the day provides greater ROI for the results-hungry business operator.

In fact the entry level to digital advertising is so low, many smaller business operators will be using these tools themselves, leapfrogging years of doing so in the traditional – and expensive way.

And while creativity is still a critical success factor of your digital marketing campaigns, accurate data on all of its creation, placement, distribution and effectiveness mean that marketers can now approach this often perplexing discipline with more confidence and certainty.

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. 

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