50 first dates: Why digital marketing is so bad

Consumers shouldn't have to remind brands who they are every time they see them, writes Conversant's senior vice president of business development

We’ve all been a victim of bad digital marketing. You know the drill all too well: you visit a site to browse a product — let’s say a pair of running shoes — and you look at several styles including a blue pair of New Balances that you plan on buying. It’s a model you’ve purchased before in a New Balance store, but you are not ready to buy just yet. Moments later, you see an advertisement showcasing a different model of running shoe, in red, that you may have looked at, but were never interested in purchasing. And for the next two to four weeks, you see those red running shoes, wherever you go online.

The scenario reminds me of the movie "50 First Dates" in which Henry (played by Adam Sandler) falls in love with Lucy (played by Drew Barrymore), a character who has lost her short-term memory. Every time they go on a date, Lucy reintroduces herself as if it were their first date. Comedy ensues.

The problem is, digital marketing isn’t a romantic-comedy. Consumers shouldn’t have to remind brands who they are every time they see them. And yet, billions of dollars are spent by marketers to follow consumers from one website to the next. Not only is this spend incredibly inefficient, but it’s detrimental to the brand and working hard to annoy, creep out and push your consumer to the competition.

So why does most marketing feel like "50 First Dates?"

It boils down to three fundamental areas that prevent brands from delivering a true one-to-one experience for each of their consumers.

Marketers rely on point solutions. Too often, brands are relying on five or six point solutions to execute their digital marketing. This most likely includes separate vendors for data onboarding, audience building, cross-device identification, dynamic creative, media buying and measurement. A fragmented approach compromises your scale and the individual insights you can collect and decision against, and leads to media inefficiencies and flawed measurement.

The marketing funnel is fractured. Brand marketers treat the prospect/customer funnel in a very broken way. Acquisition (top of funnel) campaigns are not coordinated with bottom of the funnel (typically retargeting), and the reality is prospects and customers move in and around the funnel in a very fluid fashion. True one-to-one marketing reaches the individual appropriately based on their current funnel status.

Marketing efforts are channel-centric, not consumer-centric. Marketers continue to budget for and treat mobile, social, video, display, email and search as separate line items. This type of thinking leads to inconsistent brand experiences across channels that make consumers question whether you really understand or care about them. By placing the individual at the center of your marketing strategy, you can more effectively calibrate your messaging based on the person’s preference of media, device, time of day and publisher to drive the most effective communications that ultimately maximize conversions.

If the above sounds familiar, you are likely subjecting your customers to the same ad over and over and over again. And unlike the movie, it is no laughing matter.

Brand interactions should resemble ongoing conversations informed by a historical understanding of the customer. These conversations should pick up wherever they left off, with products and offers being delivered like a friend finishing another friend’s sentence. The interaction should be warm, knowledgeable and make the consumer feel like a brand really gets what they are all about.

Your customers deserve better; they expect meaningful conversations, every time.

There is a better way to relationship building, which ultimately translates into new customers and revenue growth. It’s time we delivered.

Matt Martella is senior vice president of business development with Conversant.

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