Balancing hype with hygiene in Marketing Technology

businessPredictions2lAs 2015 gets under way and we all get over the broken resolcraputions and inability to stay ‘dry’ in this most depressing of all months, attention inevitably turns to predictions of what lies ahead for the year and what will be ‘hot’ (or not) in the world of technology Marketing innovation. This is of course driven by the timely staging of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week and the subsequent plethora of headlines adorning the Technology and Marketing trade press vaunting the latest and greatest concepts and gadgets that purport to be the ‘next big thing’ for driving consumer connection.

Don’t get me wrong; I am a huge fan and advocate of brands and businesses keeping their finger on the pulse of the latest developments that can support and enable the increasingly difficult job of finding, acquiring and engaging consumers at scale. There were some fascinating developments emerging from CES 2015 such as smart homes and cars driven by the ‘Internet of Things’, augmented intelligence and image recognition, connected convenience and of course the inexorable rise of all things ‘wearable’. And it is of course vitally important for any forward thinking business to remain on top of these trends and examine carefully how, where and indeed whether these trends offer opportunities to disrupt and improve their existing business model.

The point is that this examination must be done in a way that does not take attention away from the pressing business of running a business for the reality of today. As with all things perhaps, the challenge is to effectively balance the need to future proof the business whilst also delivering against current objectives within the current consumer context. My fear is that some brands we speak with don’t have this balance in place. Sometimes there can be a desire to focus too much attention on the shiny penny at the expense of doing the (essential) basics well.
In our view it is rich consumer understanding and deep insights into consumer behavior that should drive the programs a business develops to connect and engage, not hype.

Speaking of hype, it is useful to look at Gartner’s latest ‘Hype Cycle’ for Marketing technology to understand the lay of the land. I often find the attention of marketers zooming in on understanding and developing the concepts labelled as ‘Innovation Triggers’ or ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’ and unsurprisingly here we see topics such as ‘Real-time Marketing, ‘Data-driven Marketing’, ‘Native Advertising’ and ‘Responsive Design’.

Source: Gartner, Marketing Technology Hype Cycle, 2014

Although these are all important areas to start to develop a point of view around, attention rarely focuses on the more proven concepts within the ‘Slope of Enlightenment’ or ‘Plateau of Productivity’ which I find rather perplexing.

New research by Ipsos MediaCT shows that today only 4% of consumers currently use smart home technology, while 6% own a wearable device, compared to email usage which lies near full penetration in many developed markets. Surely therefore more brands should be maximizing their focus on this highly effective tactic? Instead I still regularly experience silence for months from brands I have just registered with or emails titled ‘Dear <enter name>’. Other hygiene factor tactics sit in this slope or plateau such as campaign segmentation (there’s no excuse for “spray and pray” anymore) and web analytics (why so badly implemented?) and in my opinion it is critical that businesses focus on mastering these proven tactics before they jump to innovating with new technologies and tools.

Perhaps more than ever, marketers today must be able to stand up and make a case to senior management about which new technologies offer real promise and can deliver tangible and commercial benefits to the P&L. However, the smartest marketers will be the ones who present a prioritized and balanced roadmap for how to implement and master hygiene factor technology alongside carefully selected innovations.

PS. As an aside, I would also add that I disagree with Gartner in placing tactics such as Personalization, Social Marketing and Advocacy/Loyalty Marketing in the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’. We have many examples of clients now maximizing these tactics and delivering impressive commercial results and so I hope to see these move into the Slope of Enlightenment in 2015’s Hype Cycle. Time will tell.

Nick Broomfield, Director of The Customer Framework is an expert in Smart Data and CPG. Email Nick here or follow him on twitter at @BroomfieldN