What's Old is New Again in a Post IOS-14 Marketing World

By Sonal Gandhi
Chief Content Officer at The Lead

The dust has finally settled after the IOS-14 privacy changes that rocked the marketing world a few years ago. A new picture is emerging of what it takes to acquire customers in a cost-efficient manner in this era. The decade-long trend of greater investment in performance-based digital marketing that can be easily measured has reversed, and today the sentiment among marketers on our Direct 60 List is almost universally about how marketing still remains a mix of art and science. Here’s what we learned in our conversations with Direct 60 marketing executives:

Full-Funnel Marketing is the Only Way to Acquire Customers Efficiently

Shifting Back to Upper Funnel: During the days of heady pandemic-led ecomm growth, incumbent brands were beefing up their performance marketing capabilities. However in the last few years, marketing budgets across the board have seen reallocation towards the upper and mid-funnel. The marketing spend is now more evenly distributed across the full-funnel, as conversion from lower funnel tactics is no longer guaranteed. Many of the marketers we spoke to told us that they are seeing a significant increase in acquisition rate as a result of this shift.

Traditional Tactics are Back, Now Informed by Data: Marketers from large brands have embraced tried and true upper funnel tactics – from IRL experiential marketing, such as exclusive events for the most engaged customer, to direct mail, which helps brands stand out in a crowded market with tangible and tactile outreach.

According to Eric Presbrey, CRO at Pebble Post and a member of the Direct 60 selection committee, “Digital marketing is ephemeral. It doesn’t catch the attention of the consumer the same way physical media does. Consumers are now exposed to more digital ads than at any other time in the past. Average consumer spends 500 minutes consuming digital media, which means most people see an ad every 3 seconds. Digital fatigue is now a well-researched and documented phenomenon. With more data available on the target consumer, tactics are now more precise. Programmatic direct mail now enables marketers to engage consumers offline, much like any other digital medium.”

Coordination Across the Funnel is Still a Struggle: Well coordinated full-funnel marketing is not without its challenges. Many marketing organizations still operate in silos. Some savvy marketing organizations have now consolidated all marketing with a single integrated global agency, where they are able to do all of that important journey mapping against key consumer segments with one partner.

Measuring Effectiveness is Even More Important

Marketers are aware the upper-funnel techniques take time to pay off and are hard to measure.  But having gotten used to performance marketing, they are still eager to approach all marketing with an analytical bend. Every promotion, message, and creative is tested before wider rollout.

Brands are using small-data to inform and measure upper-funnel tactics – from focus groups, to understand consumer pain points, to longitudinal brand awareness studies that show the impact of brand marketing. Many are working with partners to implement media mix modeling.

Marketers we spoke to are also getting creative with how they measure performance. Marketers on the Direct 60 List  mentioned using proxies – such as tracking the cost for detailed page view on Amazon – to see if upper-funnel techniques are helping to bring those costs down over time.

Eric Presbrey noted that one of the hardest things to do is measure the impact of social and digital marketing on stores. Those that have been able to measure cross-channel engagements, however, are seeing the benefits. One of marketers we spoke to told us that “harmonizing channels created a 2X performance lift.”

Focus is on Content and Creativity

Sarah Kleinman, VP & GM of Global Digital at Vans (and 2023 Direct 60 honoree) noted, “When I got into this business, the way that marketing worked was, whoever spent the most money won. Over time that shifted – the brands that were really winning were brands that had the biggest file. But what’s happening now is that whoever is making the most authentic, most engaging content is who’s winning with consumers. This is really hard to do. And it requires an agile, data-driven approach.”

It’s no secret that brands need to be creating content across media platforms to engage customers in the attention economy. Many legacy brands have had to adjust the way they build content. They have had to let go of control and be open to scrappier, lower budget (but more relatable) content, produced fast.

However, as seen with the relaunch of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, splashy, nostalgic content in traditional format (albeit with modern sensibility) makes news, and gets consumers to pay attention.

PebblePost is the leading marketing technology platform for the Programmatic Direct Mail channel, helping hundreds of brands power profitable growth by engaging people at home with timely, relevant marketing mail that’s fueled by online intent, streamlined for speed, and optimized for performance. Learn more at www.pebblepost.com

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