Making sense in chaos: evolution of marketing

Every single marketing transaction must be automated and controlled

Here’s a ringside view of the marketing circus from an IT professional who has been ‘hovering’ around media and marketing for the past 24 years. (Information technology is not called ‘knowledge industry’ without a reason!)

High voltage action

Most management executives will agree that after swift decision-making, it’s a cross-functional collaboration which is key to reaching strategic goals. Yet only a very few managers are able to achieve cross-functional collaboration within their organisations.

And this is even more pertinent for marketing, where budgets and activities are clearly on the rise. Let us look at some of these activities:

Routine activities:                                      Parallel tasks:

o Create new campaigns                           o Keep tabs on sales                          
o Approve existing plans as per budget    o Track the competition
o Monitor running campaigns                   o Define/Shuffle budgets
o Monitor media performance                   o Analyse spends
o Define communication strategy              o Study insights from analytics
o Pass marketing bills                                o . . .

Clearly, there’s a lot to be achieved on each ‘marketing’ day!

The need for process automation in marketing departments is obvious - but there's also another aspect to it: each marketing activity generates a lot of data. This data along with other added information like sales, retail audit and market research forms the base for marketing analytics. The resultant insights are utilized for course corrections. Naturally, with real-time insights, it’s possible to make course corrections in real-time.

Sheer variety
What variety of flavours! At one level, there’s media, activation, production and research/consultancy. At a parallel level, there’s central (brand) marketing, regional & shopper marketing, big-ticket corporate sponsorships – with a separate effort to synchronise creatives between all three! At the third level, there are promotional discount schemes to trade as well as direct-to-consumers - which need curation and monitoring.

To further add to the complexities, there’s tracking of sales, monitoring competition’s share of voice, the efficacy of running campaigns across media – TV, digital, print, radio, out-of-home, cinema.

On a day to day basis, managers need to coordinate with creative teams, sales offices, distribution , etc. And constantly give approvals. There are approvals required at every stage! Approvals for budgets, plans, estimates, P.O.S., deviations, bills, and performance delivered.

And all through the budgeting, planning and execution stages there’s a huge amount of data being accumulated – which needs to be analyzed in real-time for immediate course correction. Else, the marketing budget may not be used efficiently.

No wonder, they say Marketing is not easy!

Information technology to the rescue!

To simplify the life of Marketing, what’s basically needed is to create a private IT platform that brings all processes along with all the associated data into a Central Marketing Database. Every single marketing transaction must be automated and controlled as per marketing budgets modified in real-time, complete with process and audit compliance.  If every byte of data related to marketing investments is captured while completing transactions - across all offices in real-time, the database generated will also, take care of online reporting on a need-to-know basis.

A simple but powerful example is the need for a common marketing approvals module (applied from budget to vendor bills). If this ‘Approvals Module’ is device-friendly (across multiple screens, PC, laptop, tablet, iPhone, Android and Windows phone), then marketing departments can easily enforce ‘Plan - Authorise - Monitor - Settle’ in a dynamic manner, where budgets change with the market dynamics and in turn, drive changes during the process of execution.

Another example: automated monitoring of TV schedules with ADEX data, to report on missed/dropped spots and other deviations (duration, caption, language, time.) You can also in parallel, track performance parameters, which are in addition to billing units - something that’s characteristic of marketing activities. Similar modules are available for a digital medium.

We can start with an annual brand marketing plan (calendar) module and continue seamlessly to execution, monitoring and bill settlement, integrated with the client’s ERP system like SAP - to create an end-to-end experience for the marketing team. Parallelly, all marketing investment data can be aggregated into a single private database. This will also ensure transparency across departments on a need-to-know basis.

Create your private software platform for marketing

Of course,you need to “on-board” your agency partners as well as vendors into your marketing process automation. But you also need to integrate with other softwares and databases in the marketing domain - in line with the collaborative style of 2020!

This could be an out-of-home monitoring service or an activation project monitoring service. Or even a TV monitoring service. And could progress to Salesforce Automation or CRM software.

The benefit is an extended, end-to-end process automation which goes beyond the organisation and also collects more relevant transaction data in real-time.

Marketing analytics

With so much at stake, big data reporting and marketing analytics is a natural next step. With continuous marketing analytics, marketing teams can benefit from trends, correlations and pattern analysis as well as predictive analysis of sales, marketing, competition, retail, audit data and various permutations along with customised dashboards, according to needs. All these insights help in making ‘course corrections’ - the more real-time insights, the faster will be course corrections.

With a team of data scientists and domain specialists, we constantly analyse the data to identify trends, correlations and identify the best algorithms to do 'curve-fitting'. These routines are tested and the final statistical machine learning functions are made available for auto-running periodically on incoming data. The system ensures that useful analytics are generated in real-time – irrespective of how humongous the data!

The ultimate vision:  To reduce the need for marketing corrections

Start with process automation for Marketing Departments. Include your agencies and vendors. Upgrade to include third party software and database services and creating your platform for marketing. Subscribe to marketing analytics and consume the insights on a near real-time basis as possible.

But the vision should be to plough back the insights from analytics as metrics into strategic points in the workflow software. This way, the decision could be made with a live roadmap on hand.

For example, a CMO is on a business trip and needs to approve a large TV plan for a brand. What if he sees an icon with meaningful insights based on recent plans, vendor performance, rate history, media mix and budget availability?

(The author is founder and CEO, Brandintelle Services. The views expressed are his own and may not subscribe to them)

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