This year, 25 members of the Merkle team attended Marketing Week’s Festival of Marketing and attended a whopping 43 talks across the jam-packed agenda. Here, we share our top six takeaways that resonated with us.
1. Go Native for Social Success
Although repurposing content helps to maximise its value, it’s crucial for social media marketing to be tailored to its intended platform. Niusha Koucheksarai, Head of Brand Partnerships at TikTok, shared that TikTok-native adverts are 21% more effective at generating a galvanic skin response (a physiological change that takes place in the skin in response to emotional arousal), than TV adverts that have been repurposed. She advised that ads must hit one of four elements to connect with viewers and perform well across key metrics: entertainment, education, emotional uplift, and participation.
Niusha was joined by Tierney Cowap, Growth Marketing Manager at Monzo. To ensure your paid advertising meets the criteria above, Tierney recommended enhancing the alignment between your paid advertising efforts and organic content teams. This approach ensures a joined-up customer experience as customers are likely to come across both paid and organic content in-platform.
Maintaining a level of creative synergy is key to building an authentic brand voice and ensuring paid content resonates with the audience. This is why we’re so excited about our Total Social approach across dentsu, where our social teams who specialise in paid, organic, influencers, commerce and community management are now working together within one capability. By fostering closer teamwork among our experts, we can more readily encourage clients to think about well-rounded social strategies and help them better coordinate their efforts across the ever-changing world of social media.
2. Use Video to Tap into The Human Experience
Listening to Preethi Sundaram, Director of International Marketing at Vimeo, discuss video marketing was enlightening. She emphasized the concept of giving your brand a face in the most successful videos, not necessarily a character or a backstory, but a literal human face. Preethi's experience showed that videos starting with a close-up of a person's face outperform others by four times. She argued that consumers, being human, are drawn to the unconventional and the "messy middle," seeking the depths of human experience.
We’ve seen this in our own work with campaigns such as Merkle B2B’s ‘Expert Hand. Human Touch’ campaign with Irwin Mitchell, focusing on connection on a human level to help differentiate businesses from the competition. We saw great success with this campaign that you can read more about in our full case study here.
3. Combine Traditional and Digital Brand Activity for Maximum Efficacy
Dom Boyd from Kantar presented recent research that centred on the concept that traditional above-the-line (ATL) media has typically been perceived as the most effective for brand building. However, the study highlighted that the brand itself plays an equally crucial role, and the combined efforts of both online and offline media working together are what maximises effectiveness.
The research found that a combination of traditional brand-building channels combined with video-based digital brand activity delivered the strongest impact on brand metrics. Particularly interesting was the nuance Kantar identified. Traditional offline channels were still by far the most effective at driving saliency, but digital brand (particularly video-based) was far more effective at driving difference (relative to competitive set). This is important because Kantar estimate that up to 90% of price power comes from meaningful difference between your brand and your competitors. Essentially, Dom’s argument was that digital brand channels are more important than traditional offline channels for driving consumer perception that the brand is worth its cost and for driving stand-out in the vertical.
While our heritage is in digital media, at Merkle we have always maintained that a holistic, varied media mix is essential for building a strong brand. As part of the dentsu network, we have a wealth of expertise not only in digital media, but also in ATL media strategy, planning, and buying.
4. Creativity Is Still the Biggest ROI Multiplier Within Our Control
We know that great creative work can multiply ROI by at least 12x, however, there are many barriers that often get in the way of great creative work such as time, complexity of sign off processes and aversion to risk. However, it’s not all doom and gloom as there are ways to combat these challenges to creativity. Great creative work needs buy in, both internal and external, and healthy debate is often a good thing.
Small teams tend to benefit by being considerably more agile and free with ideas in comparison to ‘too many cooks’. It's also true that great creative work is not necessarily solely borne out of the briefing of a big, splashy, large budget Christmas ad. There is opportunity to be tactical and create impact with smaller budgets too. For example, utilising creators on TikTok can be a cost-effective way of curating content for a brand on a more native, natural level. This is where activation on digital can really shine, and by combining creative with media targeting, overall campaign effectiveness can be greatly increased. Merkle's use of data points such as consumer interests, the audience's connection with the brand, and context can guide the development of messaging frameworks. This, in turn, helps focus on the message we intend the customer to take away and what actions we hope they will take after viewing the advertisement.
5. Embrace Consumer-Centric Strategies
In today’s dynamic and highly competitive business arena, the mantra of “customer first” has become more than just a buzzword; it’s a strategic imperative. The Festival of Marketing, through its diverse array of sessions, echoes the resounding message that understanding and connecting with our customers is paramount.
During an insightful keynote from Mark Ritson, founder of Marketing Week’s Mini MBA, he delved into the critical concept of brand positioning. Ritson emphasised the idea that brand positioning is not just about what a company wishes to be, but rather what it wants consumers to think when they hear its name. He highlighted the significance of crafting brand attributes, differentiation, and distinctiveness based on this consumer-centric approach, ultimately emphasising the importance of aligning brand identity with customer perceptions.
Helen Edwards, the founder of Passionbrand, discussed the dynamics of consumer-driven disruption where she emphasised the shift from supply-side disruption to a more impactful demand-side disruption. This type of disruption catalyses new market categories,inspires novel marketing strategies, champions new industry leaders, and fuels unprecedented growth. Helen illustrated her point with a striking example: the meteoric rise of veganism. For decades, vegans were a niche demographic, but within a few short years, the concept of plant-based living burst into the mainstream. Today, the global plant-based food industry is valued at $26 billion, with projections indicating growth to $61 billion by 2028.
The Festival of Marketing serves as a testament to the industry's commitment to embracing consumer-first principles and harnessing the power of creativity and consumer insights. Merkle's approach to customer centricity is rooted in the belief that understanding and effectively engaging customers at every touchpoint is essential for building strong and lasting relationships. By putting the customer at the centre of our strategies, Merkle helps brands build long-term customer loyalty and drive business growth.
6. AI is for Augmenting Improvements
As with all events this year, AI was a consistent theme. In this event, the standout difference was that AI was discussed as a tool to augment what humans can deliver, not as a replacement for marketers and what we can deliver.
Salesforce categorises AI into two primary types. The first is predictive AI, which involves classifying and predicting actions based on supervised learning, akin to mathematics. This type of AI is what we're familiar with and often powers tools like Google Maps. The second is generative AI, which involves creating new content based on unsupervised learning, like art. This is much newer for of AI that as humans we need to develop trust in.
John Lewis and Quintessentially were both aligned; AI is a must to increase efficiencies as well as improve performance. Jade Symons of Merkle's SEO team delivered a webinar based on her findings when she used AI to create an entire website and reached the same result as the two speakers: AI must be the co-pilot, augmenting and supporting the input of the human lead.
At present, we're familiar with Predictive AI in the marketing space. Merkle have developed proprietary tools such as bulk editing capabilities, Taxonomy Monitor, and Pipes to allow our teams to increase efficiency, improve quality, and save time. We've built them, tested them, and trust them. The time has come for us as an industry to further explore Generative AI.
At Merkle we love to tap into the conversations across the industry to enrich our thinking for our clients. We had a wonderful time at the festival this year and will certainly be attending again next year!
Authors: Jade Symons, Sam Turner, Scarlett Fielding, Tanya Tarinayarngkun, Jaleh Bahri-Esfahani, and Caroline Ellyatt