In the age of digital transformation content remains king

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Epsilon’s Digital Client Advisory Forum and Symposium 2015 where marketers joined together to transform, experience and engage. Discussions focused heavily on the latest in cross-channel marketing, data, mobile, digital attribution, emotionally connecting creative and beyond.

As marketers, we’re constantly trying to figure out how we need to adjust our programs to accommodate for new trends and engage consumers. My colleague Stacey Hawes recently pointed out, among all of this change data remains central  to developing and executing a marketing strategy. The other constant to delivering engaging experiences -- among all of this change --   is content.

Content ROI v. ROE2

Whether or not “ROI is dead” is up for debate. What is clear is that emotional drivers are the strongest determinants of brand and business equity.These emotional drivers come in many forms but can be broken down into two distinct aspects:  experience and engagement, which Epsilon CEO, Andy Frawley outlines in his book Igniting Customer Connections. These two aspects led Andy to a new metric, ROE2 (Return on Experience X Engagement).

So what does ROE2 have to do with content?  The answer is everything. Whether we use our own targeting and segmentation results or past research performed by a third-party research firm, the more relevant the content, the more engaged our customers are and the more profitable we are as marketers. In Igniting Customer Connections, Andy and the Epsilon analytics team used research to uncover what makes for relevant content. Relevant content can be defined as the words, images, comments, videos, postings and other communications a consumer has that generate positive experiences and/or meaningful engagement.

And herein is the struggle:  how do we master content that will relate a consumer to a past experience or a future engagement? We received some “starting point” answers at our conference last week. Some of our clients said that they have progressed ever-closer to this mastery, although not quite “there.” Pepsi is looking to localized marketing to balance a mix of national and local experiences to their consumers. Dell is looking at its customer lifecycle stage to distinguish the conversations it pursues with its prospects and clients. FedEx went so far as to offer grants to a handful of small businesses with the most exceptional, highest-potential business plans to drive engagement.

The Tables Are Turning

The content-first initiatives our clients spoke about are very encouraging. They differ tremendously from where I started in digital marketing, where it always seemed to be about the “pretty pictures” in an email campaign, or about the blockbuster TV commercial for which brand recognition was non-existent. As a hyper-biased digital marketer, I’ll never understand why so much marketing budget still goes toward unaccountable channels, other than because it's a big budget item. Fifteen years into my digital marketing career, I’m finally seeing the tables turn. Even TV advertising can be tailored to different segments of the population.

So where do we go from here?  Well, we’re finally getting executive buy-in. As a marketing collective we have plenty of work to do to create and curate experiences that can truly ignite those connections in customers that inspire them to like, act and advocate for you. It’s our responsibility to leverage data, technology, process and people to tell us what that next experiential expectation is, and then deliver. I can’t think of a more exciting time for our industry. Let’s do this!