Are You a Platform Marketer?

Customer Engagement
It's not a secret that Pinterest, Google, Facebook and other companies don't want users to leave their platforms.

It's not a secret that Pinterest, Google, Facebook and other companies don't want users to leave their platforms. Pinterest is adding "buyable pins" that enable shoppers to purchase items directly on its site; Google announced a similar feature with buy buttons on its ads, and Facebook increasingly offers features that encourage users to check in and never leave.As a result, audience platforms contain mountains of user and behavioral data, making them highly addressable and appealing to marketers who want to reach these audiences. But marketers need the right skills and tools to leverage these addressable opportunities. Craig Dempster, EVP and digital agency group leader at Merkle and John Lee, EVP and CSO at Merkle, tackle this issue in their new book, The Rise of the Platform Marketer. I spoke with Dempster about what marketers must do to keep pace with today's hyper-connected and always on consumer.

1to1 Media: What's your definition of a platform marketer?

Craig Dempster: When marketers engaged with consumers, they were originally database marketers leveraging these addressable platforms of direct mail, email, and telemarketing, and then in 2008 or so, the addressability opportunity expanded into digital media through ad exchanges and anonymous level targeting.

Today, a lot of the skills we had used as database marketers are relevant in this opportunity to identify addressability which is now playing out on platforms like Google and Facebook. Individual level data is being used to connect large scale audiences to drive media experiences. But we also saw this need for evolved database marketing competencies that are at the intersection of digital media, digital advertising, and traditional analytics-based marketing. So we quickly came to a framework around 9 competencies that a modern marketer would need. That was the genesis of calling them platform marketers.

What type of background would prepare someone with these skills?

CD: The platform marketer is a persona. It's hard for one individual to possess all of the competencies of the platform marketer at a high level of detail and expertise. You'll need people who have direct marketing skill sets and know how to execute campaigns to drive responses as well as test into and drive performance through identified base targeting.

You'll also need creative people who can activate the brand at an individual level. It's not just about targeting, it's about creating the right experience for that individual. You also need to understand the consumer value from a privacy standpoint. It's a collection of skill sets that comes at the intersection of database marketing and digital marketing and media skill sets.

How has addressable data evolved?

CD: There's a scale of addressability from anonymous or cookie-based to an identified individual. And the market is maturing to the right side of that scale. Whether it's Facebook Custom Audiences or Twitter Tailored Audiences, those are about an ability to activate your first-party CRM data into those platforms to enable interactions. I see it as an ability to market to a known individual to create an individual experience.

There are advancements happening on the media side with these large audience platforms. But advancements are also happening in the channels, like websites. With advancements in technology and access to data, you can also personalize experiences within your website or retail location or mobile experience.

How does a brand know if addressable advertising makes economic sense?

CD: People are spending a growing amount of time on platforms like Google, Pinterest, and Facebook, which increasingly offer advertising capabilities and opportunities to interact with users that brands would be missing out on. Even TV is becoming addressable. If you want to get in front of these consumers, you have to leverage the advertising opportunities that exist there. As long as we keep price points in a range that's affordable, it's hard not to imagine brands using addressable data.

Is there a difference between addressable TV and programmatic TV?

CD: In my opinion, no. I just think the language and the capabilities of ad tech and programmatic came along after 15 years of talking about addressable television. So it's language that's connected to what we initially called addressable television, which was 'hey, I can target an ad at the set-top box.'

The challenge is that the scale of addressable television isn't there yet. A major dish or satellite platform may have a significant subscriber base but only a portion of those are addressable in nature. Then you look at Facebook, with a billion people who I can target at an individual level and create a vivid ad for a few bucks per thousand. Until there's greater convergence and greater scale in programmatic, addressable television, it's interesting, but it's not a big lever yet.

Is there a risk of over targeting your audience?

CD: The gains of addressable marketing will exceed the loss of the impressions that didn't get viewed by someone who wasn't a perceived customer. But there is a 'targeting dilemma' where at some point, you could become over targeted and you're reaching too small a universe to get the type of gains you're looking for. Targeting has to be consistent with your growth goals and how you're going to scale your business.

What can businesses do today to start leveraging addressable audiences?

CD: They need to look at their organization and see if the organization is working together in an effective way to enable addressable marketing. For example, if you have a team that's responsible for your CRM database and they're not working with your team that's responsible for media, that's a problem. The first step is to create a collaboration between your media team, website team, and your database marketing team. Create incentives for them to work together to leverage each other's skill sets and begin testing addressable programs.

Some of the logical places to start on the media side is with Facebook Custom Audiences, Twitter Tailored Audiences or using the intelligence from your CRM database to make better media buying decisions in the ad exchanges. Also, what type of personalization capabilities are you deploying on your website? We're in this new era of marketing fueled by customer centricity and individual customer experiences at scale and organizations must update their strategies to take advantage of these opportunities.