When I started out in marketing, campaigns were developed across weeks and executed over months. We spoke in TARPS and thought of reach and frequency and layered media selection to achieve 7x brand exposure and a recall level of consumer learning. We commissioned agencies to use qualitative and quantitative research to work out whether our promotional efforts were working and waited weeks and months for the sales results to come in, all to work out (guess if the truth be known) whether our investment was having an impact.
As digital media rolled through we revelled in the sheer speed and measurability of the media form. Campaign frequency increased rapidly and we began responding to our competitors first in days and then in hours. We created a veritable blizzard of campaigns, segmented our customer base in ever finer slices. And we measured and measured and measured.
But we lost sight of something really important. The focus on the campaign meant that all the attention went to the response and all too little to the bottom line. As campaign affordability increased, so bottom line accountability decreased. 50% off, 2 for 1, 60% off & bonus free shipping, half price first product & free 2nd order - the offer count accelerated and accelerated.
Arguably the brand got lost, price became the hero and the customer began dancing between the brands.
Ironically as price became the message, no-one was asking whether the acquisition was profitable and what was the lifetime value that flowed from the customer.
The photo industry is one part of the economy where price based competition has become an art form (8c prints anyone, how about a free photobook?) and with product cost structure made a little murkier by variable page count, different cover types and fluctuating product fail rates, there is even less understanding of whether profitable customer acquisition is being achieved.
So the next evolution of marketing is perhaps obvious - the integration of marketing investment with real time production cost and orders aggregated at the customer level to provide something truly powerful - real time gross profit after marketing acquisition cost. The net result... a clear understanding of whether profitable customers are being acquired.
Now wouldn't that be something... accountable marketing.
Andrew Smith is Managing Director of Pictureworks Group, the developers of ZenSmart
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