This year will continue to confine, confound and challenge us. It will also accelerate business innovation, change consumer behaviours, and drive the need for our clients to reach their customers directly.
While platforms remain powerful, and with all of these external forces in play, our role is to help brands succeed and grow in a platform world.
The big tech players have been the primary winners in the current e-commerce boom in terms of share on spend.
And it has been easy for companies to reach for their services, looking to maintain top-line growth.
But this is lotus-eating. Brands are fundamentally weakening their business by becoming over-dependent on the FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Alphabet) gang.
Marketers need to create a platform partner model, not a platform dependency model.
This means a clear strategy and implementation path: protecting their brands from dilution, disruption and margin erosion.
We believe there are four guiding fundamental principles to help clients unlock growth in this platform world:
Create data wealth
First and most obviously is to recognise how data-rich brands are. As the march towards the end of third-party cookies continues, further cemented by Google’s announcement in March, we know owning observed human desires and behaviours is the most valuable asset.
This is not about profiles that are the amalgams of cookies or audiences that are the averages of many.
It is about individuals, and what they think, feel and do. This is more than “data at the core”. This is real people at the core.
Leverage the network effect
Second, is how efficient a brand platform is at scaling to reach “the network effect” – to derive value and improvements.
While the platforms have been built on this principle, we also evangelise about the importance of scale and connectivity.
Scale brings more data, more observations, more value. Every interaction improves with scale.
And, even better, they don’t add cost to their business at anywhere near the same rate while they scale, unlike the more traditional parts of the business.
This is about having the marketing technology to facilitate low-friction growth.
The third principle prioritises a direct relationship with the consumer. This ensures brands are not only talking directly with a real customer; they are taking full share of the commerce value chain.
We build, innovate and drive earned social, web presences, app ecosystems, CRM and loyalty programmes, as well as D2C commerce platforms.
Importantly, these deliver a premium branded experience in an environment they own. By all means use other channels to attract consumers, but it’s all about talking direct, with no intermediaries.
Make it personal
Finally, because of that scale and quality data, and the owned channels ideals, our clients have the ability to personalise to an audience of one, supported by dynamic creative technology.
Each interaction feels more and more relevant, constantly evolving and optimising for the ‘best next action’ of the user.
Companies, rather than the platforms, then gain more data, and a greater share of quality attention.
Make it personal means make it resonate with your audience. The greatest unfair advantage that all brands still have in the platform world, is creativity.
Exceptional brand experiences are what underpin this engagement strategy, whether on owned or bought channels, and creativity is the most effective path to a strong brand.
These rich experiences are what move people on their journeys. Creativity prompts a thought. Triggering a feeling. Inviting an action. And each time we successfully engage a customer, we learn about them.
The more powerful the brand, the greater the view we build.
Working with the tech giants
It’s important to work closely and well with the platforms to support these principles – rather than letting them define our clients’ success – to partner smartly with them, and other media, to find our clients’ audiences.
With broadcast and digital media, with paid social and search and commerce execution.
And this is where, by capturing the data, we have developed predictive models that we are so confident in, we will guarantee outcomes for our clients.
Jeff Bezos talks of the “Amazon flywheel”, which creates their momentum. At Publicis Groupe, we talk about the “Growth Loop” which drives our clients’ virtuous cycle of growth.
The above principles generate the iteration and energy. To deliver on this requires experience, expertise and the ability to continuously adapt.
Other holding companies, or consultancies, or hot shops can play some of these instruments well enough, but to drive growth it’s critical to have a partner who can conduct the whole orchestra.
Justin Billingsley is global chief marketing officer of Publicis Groupe