Marketing Agility in a Covid-19 World
We’ve been hearing a lot of pronouncements about “marketing to the new normal.” Everyone is trying to lay out the magic strategy to either stem the bleeding or stoke the successes in their brand’s sales over these past 3 months. It’s “magic” because a successful marketing and selling strategy in the COVID-19 era relies on information we don’t have, and can’t get. We can create strategies based on the latest insights from economists, government officials and epidemiologists, and we can survey consumers to determine their sentiment or behaviors, but these are evolving on a daily basis. Are people maintaining social distancing? Going back to old habits? When and how will the economy start to recover? Will there be another wave in the fall? It’s tough to feel confident in strategies based off of even weeks-old consumer data. Rather than attempting a long term plan, brands need to find opportunities by getting scrappy, adjusting and optimizing at the highest speed, using the most current intelligence.
Agility in AI
So how can we continually adapt and respond in such dynamic circumstances? AI-driven digital media offers a highly efficient path to agility, with proven success against programmatic and more traditional approaches we’ve taken in the past. And it’s ability to adapt in real time to consumer online behavior, and our ability to test tonality of content, has never been more important than right now.
With machine learning, various granular creative messages are delivered around the clock to our target audiences across social, display, and search simultaneously, making hundreds of thousands of micro-decisions and optimizations based on consumer response, scaling where there is positive response — where the consumer decides to raise his or her hand. AI can mix and match messages with visuals, test and learn, and inform us on how we should iterate. It’s changing bids on top performing keywords, shifting ad dollars between channel and device, and making these optimizations faster than any human could, 24-hours a day. No time lapse, minimal waste, maximum agility. It’s doing this now as I write this article, and while you’re reading it.
We’ve seen the results: a niche children’s healthcare brand saw double digit sales growth each year for three years, and expanded its retail distribution as a result. A women’s supplement brand, once in double digit decline, now growing and healthy at all key retailers, including Amazon. An ecommerce health product is seeing substantial return on ad spend as it tracks all revenue directly generated through the AI campaign. We’ve even seen significant increases in patient/doctor conversation guides in disease awareness campaigns where information, vs. a product sale, is the key transaction.
Building on the Success of AI-Driven Digital
AI will be most successful with good data-driven creative going into the system and thoughtful analysis as the system reveals what consumers are needing and wanting –or not wanting — over time. We talk a lot about the dramatic savings we see with AI-driven media (cost per click is literally 100% cheaper than traditional digital display, for example) but the capability to know what motivates our brand’s consumers on an ongoing basis is invaluable. With more consumers than ever making purchases online during COVID-19, and that’s expected to continue, it’s crucial to build on these new relationships and shopping behaviors, and elevate them beyond the transaction in order to cultivate repeat and loyal customers. Only nimble, human-led, fully integrated marketing will effectively close that loop. But, as a starting point, you can give yourself boosted agility and superior ‘intelligence’ with AI at a time when it can make all the difference.