Mobile is the new battleground for brands, yet many marketers struggle to understand how digital marketing trends can influence growth. Google's VP of Marketing, Lisa Gevelber, spoke to SVP of Media at iCrossing, Christine Bensen, about how brands can elevate performance in a mobile-first world.

Written by
Lisa Gevelber
Published
October 2016
Topics

With digital marketing, brands can more deeply understand their consumers, and as a result, provide them with more valuable experiences. But mobile also creates challenges for marketers as they try to understand its true impact.

Lisa Gevelber, Google: iCrossing has a long history of leadership in search engine marketing. How can search help marketers understand consumer purchasing behaviors?

Christine Bensen, iCrossing: At iCrossing, we believe search and social media are important indicators of intent. Looking at these signals, in combination with other digital behavior, we gain a deeper appreciation of what customers want and how they discover it. That gets us closer to understanding the nuances of the purchasing process overall.

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Understanding context and timing is also really important. For example, VMware tasked iCrossing with driving downloads for an app-based game to educate IT professionals. We developed a campaign using in-app interest targeting as well as Search Ads on Google Play. By putting this download into the right environments and calling out its gameplay element, the campaign drove an astonishing 11,200 downloads in the first six months. This approach allowed us to connect with the right consumers, in the right micro-moment, and provide something useful to them.

Geo-location targeting and remarketing can make a big impact as well. Recently, we worked with PetSmart who was opening a series of new stores, and ran dynamic Search and Display ads targeted to a 10-15-mile radius of each location. This activity was run both in advance of the stores opening—utilizing retargeting—and during the openings, to provide a coupon that could be used in the new stores. This targeted audience approach, coupled with location data, drove over 4,000 engagements to these new PetSmart locations in a short five-week period.

We know that today's consumer journey is multi-channel and multi-device. How should marketers think about measurement in a mobile-first world?

Marketers need to reach a level of comfort with the fact that there's going to be a lot of estimates. You're going to have to bridge gaps between what's known and what you think is happening. We try to help marketers take that leap, to start thinking about these three questions:

  1. "What is worth measuring?"
  2. "How much can we proxy?"
  3. "How much is as simple as tracking changes in monthly or annualized sales?"

If people don't let go of outdated metrics, they're going to miss out on connecting consumers with their brand, because we're not solving seamless cross-device measurement anytime soon. It's definitely more difficult for people who have been traditional performance marketers, who have built their entire careers on ROI, because the notion of brand performance and growth has changed.

How has brand performance changed?

At iCrossing, we have this saying: In the old world of marketing, there was "above the line" and "below the line," which was really a nice way of saying "unaccountable and pretty" and "accountable and gritty." The two rarely met. These different parts of the purchase funnel have traditionally been handled through different channels, often by separate agencies.

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But brand performance has changed and specific tactics for performance no longer bind us. We have to think about performance from an omni-channel perspective; everything is performance marketing.

For example, now we see direct response-driven brands launch on YouTube, which has traditionally been an upper funnel tactic—educating people and emotionally connecting them with your brand. But guess what? You can now buy directly from a video, so you're combining brand work with a very bottom-of-the-funnel activity, and brands are getting great sales performance from it.

What are your tips for marketers who might be struggling with how performance has evolved?

First, think very hard about the customers you want to go after, but be open to those you don't know about yet—use the data that's available in the marketplace to figure that out.

Second, don't box yourself in by where we are with today's measurement solutions. Technology adoption is happening so fast that we're never going to be able to encapsulate everything and measure it perfectly. If you hold on too tight to legacy metrics, you're going to miss opportunities.

And that leads to the third thing: You need to test and experiment. Understand what you want to get out of a marketing campaign, base your KPIs on that, and think about what you're willing to risk to potentially be rewarded over time. That's a mindset that we've lost sight of, but in order to drive real performance growth you have to experiment and try new stuff that isn't guaranteed to work.