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Adaptive Marketing

Many of us entered the interactive industry because it was fast-paced, exciting and highly innovative. We saw an opportunity to help change the way business was done, and in so doing help consumers in fresh and engaging ways. Recently, we’ve noticed an unsettling trend. Agencies are becoming more and more similar. They’ve adapted the same processes. They create the same products. And for the most part, they deliver similar results.

For an industry that prides itself on a spirit of innovation, what we see happening doesn’t feel right. We believe it’s time to press forward. We believe that time to change is now. To that end, we are actively in the process of transitioning our Marketing Programs Group to an Adaptive Marketing model.

“Business has only two basic functions – marketing and innovation.”
– Peter Drucker

Adaptive Marketing is the next step in our evolution and will provide a truly progressive approach for our clients – one that we believe will become the approach that many marketers will use in the future. To the best of our knowledge we will be the first agency in Canada to provide this service.

Why are we doing this? Quite simply, we believe the days of doing traditional online marketing campaigns are fading. Linear programs based on reach and frequency are highly ineffective. As a direct marketing vehicle with clickthroughs averaging 0.02% they don’t work. And with banner-blindness being what it is, as a brand vehicle most efforts are largely ignored.

The reality is that consumers have changed faster than marketers. And they expect communication that delivers tangible value. Traditional campaigns that trumpet brand messages or focus solely on unique selling propositions are no longer considered the principle measure of value to consumers. To be blunt, what worked in the 50’s simply doesn’t work anymore. Today’s consumer demands more.

Value used to be derived from a consumer’s perception of what a product could do for them. This interpretation of value has evolved. And these days value is better characterized as, “what can a brand help me do?”

When we switch our strategic approach to deliver tangible consumer value – we are obligated not only to evolve the ways we engage with consumers, but also, to re-examine the approach (and processes) we use to create, monitor, deploy and continuously tune our marketing programs.

The Old Way
The “traditional online” marketing approach is linear and built on the idea of telling consumers about products and services through increased reach and frequency.

Forrester’s recent analysis of Adaptive Marketing issued the challenge that marketers and agencies need to change and move away from the old way of doing things. According to Forrester, agencies struggle to adapt because their models are still built for yesterday, in that they:

  • Focus on campaigns rather than experiences
  • Talk but aren’t very good at listening (or more importantly, conversing)
  • Are built for waterfall versus iteration
  • Treat customers as audience rather than participants
  • Are mostly “unbundled” — creating disparate skill sets
  • Have trouble mastering many new specialties at once
  • Moved down the value chain and rarely distinguish themselves from each other
  • Can only move as fast as their clients

At Teehan+Lax, our Programs Group is purpose-built to be the exact opposite. Our agile creative approach, small, team-based structure, and value-based compensation model (we’ll talk more about this in another post) allows us to create highly effective Adaptive Marketing programs.

The New Way
Instead of looking at projects as a series of requirements that extend the reach and frequency of a message we need to look at the problem differently. We need to first determine how to help consumers solve a problem. When we look at a marketing challenge this way, it allows us to identify a completely different set of success metrics and solutions.

If your marketing isn’t helping consumers,
then you’re shouting messages from the sidelines.

In the past we were incentivized to create ads and microsites that would launch onto the Internet, exist for a while and then disappear. In the future, we will create programs and “things” that solve consumer problems. They won’t be ads, but instead, they will be solutions that need to be marketed. It’s a completely different approach. And a whole new ballgame.

The new way is about creating programs that continuously evolve as they go. They are build on the principle of listening to consumers, identifying what they need, and creating communication that helps them. There are several projects that we see as benchmarks for this way of thinking, notably, Domino’s Pizza Tracker, Pepsi Refresh, and Nike+ Chalkbot. We’d be well advised to learn from them.

In the future, programs must be iterative, highly adaptive, and responsive to consumer needs, market conditions, and technological opportunities.

The things we create will be as unique as the problems we need to solve… and our approach demands that we look beyond paid advertising as the first solution. Ultimately, what we will create are not campaigns (in the traditional sense of the word) but will be continuums of activity and initiatives – some small, some large, each of varying shapes and sizes – that each satisfy the real needs of consumers while delivering against a marketers connection objectives.

We believe that Adaptive Marketing is the right approach, one that will be the way of the future. We are extremely excited to move in this direction. And we’re looking for clients who share this philosophy.

Dave Stubbs

Reading List
Forrester (registration required)

BBH Labs



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