Multichannel Campaigns: Raising Consumer Awareness

Commercial e-mail doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Consumers are inundated with messages from a multitude of sources and media – to the point where most multichannel campaigns are either ignored by consumers or simply not recognized.

The findings from our View From The Inbox consumer survey support this phenomenon. When asked, “Are you aware of seeing promotions in permission e-mail that appear to be part of the same advertising campaign that a company also ran on television, in a magazine, or in some other advertising media?”, 53% of respondents said that they either didn’t notice or that they weren’t sure. Just 5% have seen them with any regularity – a 1% decrease since 2004.

Could this mean nothing more than marketers rolling out different campaigns specifically for e-mail that are not integrated across channels? Or could this suggest that marketing campaigns using different types of media have failed to integrate permission e-mail with the rest of their campaign, making it little more than background noise to be tuned out?

Marketers should consider that it may be overkill to try to get one message to the consumer through so many channels. Mass media is effective for maximizing reach and frequency; e-mail augments other channels with a personalized message and to build a dynamic, one-to-one relationship. Although the brand and tone of the message must be consistent across channels, each media has a different purpose.

Yet many marketers take the same message or content from a mass channel and drop it into e-mail. Your goal should be to get the same “feel” through the use of different objectives and messaging. Multichannel campaigns should be integrated, but not the same – while brand is the same, objectives must be specific and appropriate for the channel.

But how do you get started? You first need to understand and identify the specific behaviors that you would like to elicit from your customers, because that will determine the appropriate channel. Then, you will need to determine the micro-level tactics to use within each channel, such as couponing or a Flash media presentation, which will lead the consumer down a specific “path” or elicit a certain behavior. Your customers’ needs and preferences, from awareness to conversion, must be reflected in channels and content. Therefore, your channels must be complementary and integrate in a logical way.

A problem that we frequently face is that our systems and our fundamental data strategies are not set up to account for the complexities of today’s multichannel marketing world. Developing and using frameworks, models and methodologies that greatly reduce the complexity and help marketers make sense of the chaos is critical.

Marketers can turn to a five-stage framework to accomplish this goal:

Stage 1– Data aggregation, or “getting your data together”: This initial stage consists of two processes, information and data audits. Information Audits serve to quantify your business and marketing objectives; data audits identify the available and required data to execute and measure against those objectives.

Stage 2 – Data augmentation, or “filling the gaps in your data”: Often in the process of mapping data to objectives we find that there are gaps in the data. Sometimes these gaps are critical and a proxy needs to be found; other times these gaps are just “nice-to-haves.” Either way, these gaps can often be filled via primary or qualitative research, data overlays, or data modeling.

Stage 3 – Data processing, or “making your data useful”: This third stage is often where a disproportionate amount of time is spent. Data that is disparately sourced and/or non-standard must be transferred and standardized. In addition, due to various limitations, we currently use a small percentage of the data available to us.

Stage 4 – Data analysis, or “making your data meaningful”: For data to be meaningful, the analysis of that data must be firmly imbedded in your business and marketing objectives (per Stage 1). Once your data are identified and mapped to quantifiable objectives, this fourth stage is, in the opinion of this writer, the fun and easy part. But if insufficient attention is paid to the foregoing stages, you will get – in the words of Benjamin Disraeli – “damn lies.”

Stage 5 – Data execution, or “acting on your data”: If we do not subsequently act on our data in some meaningful fashion, through the refinement of our programs, then we are being a bit esoteric and not a bit practical. The ability to interpret and apply results in a meaningful and timely fashion in ongoing customer communications makes the efforts worthwhile.

Stay tuned…I’ll be explaining these topics in more detail in upcoming articles. In the meantime, ask yourself: When was the last time you noticed a truly multichannel campaign – and was it effective, or did it simply repeat the same message across different channels?

Katie Cole, PhD, is vice president of research and analytics for Merkle|Quris, the e-mail marketing agency of Merkle.

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