These are the days of uncertainty, and we’re all looking for routines or plans to keep things grounded and going. Morning playlists, workout regimes, Netflix watch party invites, a new online class, whatever it takes to stay off that wearying uncertainty. But of all the routines we’re following, there’s nothing more reassuring to me than cooking, to a recipe. Follow a recipe to a ‘t’, and those simple, uncomplicated rules promise something wholesome and fulfilling. Don’t we wish the real world was that easy!
As marketers, especially, most of us are craving a bit of that simplicity right now. Even though the events of 2020 could be changing the media landscape, all of us would like a few recipes that tell us just how brands can survive, and even thrive by using media channels smartly.
We caught up with Global Client Director of iProspect (and Masterchef finalist!), Jack William Cantwell to discuss this and realised that while there is no fool-proof recipe for media success, the good news is that there are some ingredients that, when mixed in the right proportions for your brand, can make for a hearty media plan that can drive your marketing strategy.
Tip 1: Focus on the mother sauce — the Consumer Journey
If you are a fan of French cuisine, you’ll probably know that the secret to a great dish is getting the mother sauce right. For us marketers, the mother sauce is the consumer journey. Knowing what stage of the journey your consumer is in, and what they would want to hear in that stage is paramount when it comes to planning the right media & messaging strategy.
Tip 2: Understand the trifecta of media strategies before jumping into it
Now, for most marketers, conversations about media strategy usually begin and end with Paid Media. But that’s that tip of the iceberg that we see above the sea-level. Every media strategy actually rests on a trifecta of owned media, paid media and earned media.
Tip 3: Don’t forget the media in your control — Owned Media
Owned media is like a cake base of sorts, the initial layer on which paid media and earned media is built. Think about it: you can’t actually put up a Facebook ad without having a Facebook page, or a Youtube ad without a Youtube channel. Which means getting your organic media strategy right is just as important as focusing on your paid media plans. On the same note, if you want shares and virality, it stands to reason that you have to generate compelling content that is shareable.
Starting on your owned media is easy. You have to focus on just two things — your platform and your people. Which platforms do you want to be on, so that you can pop up in front of your target audience at the right stage of the consumer journey, with the right message? This usually is a function of behaviour, demography, context and your product. For instance, an F&B brand like Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf would want to be on channels like Facebook and Instagram, but not on LinkedIn. This is primarily a function of behaviour — food and leisure activities may not be the primary things on a person’s mind while applying for a job or chatting with a prospect via LinkedIn.
The second focus area is your people. As a small firm, you may take on the role of figuring out the right message and putting it out on the right channels. But as your firm grows, you’ll need to hire the right talent and develop them or partner with an agency to get this done. We see the end result of effective, creative, and on-point communications across social media very often.
Jack believes that the biggest advantage of owned media is the level of control you have. “Owned media might take longer to drive meaningful change to your business goals, but you’re in control of it,” he explains. Whether they be your website, social media channels or your apps, they have incredible value, and Jack sees them as integral to building positive customer experiences and driving your prospects through the funnel. His biggest example here is how organic SEO can improve content relevance and reduce your reliance on search ads, while driving new audiences to your website at no extra cost.
Tip 4: The secret to Paid Media is insightful targeting
Further into your media plan recipe, you’ll need to add another key ingredient — Paid Media. For many marketers, paid media is either a stumbling block or a star ingredient. But plug in a few key steps to understand paid media better, and marketers will get more consistent results. Paid digital media or digital advertising relies on smart targeting to meet your objectives, and usually, that targeting is divided into demographic, contextual and behavioural targeting.
Every one of the paid channels functions through one form of targeting or the other. Search ads, for instance, target your audience based on behaviour. By understanding what type of search behaviour your prospect is likely to exhibit, you can place ads that show up just then and there. Or let’s take a look at paid content or influencer marketing. If you’re a top B-School, you might decide to highlight your expertise through opinion pieces done with a Forbes or even an HBR. That’s contextual targeting done right.
One key concern for many marketers is the ROI on ads spends. Jack has a very simple, yet elegant insight here: “If you can track the impact of your media to business outcomes like sales and revenue, then it’s pretty straightforward to demonstrate your return on investment.” According to him, the issue rises when you cannot demonstrate the relationship between media spends and business performance. “The focus should then be on better measurement, or on looking for alignment on KPIs and ownership,” he recommends.
Tip 5: To make your dish the crowd favourite, add earned media
Many of us forget the power of earned media. Earned or viral media depends heavily on the quality and relevance of your owned media, of course, but there are some key things to keep in mind when trying to develop your earned media capabilities.
Is your content useful to someone? For instance, if you are an insurance firm, can you create a quiz that helps your audience understand if their kids are at risk of being the next sandwich generation? That would be an example of content that is useful to someone.
You can also address timeliness — for instance, as an organisation enabling religious harmony, Inter-Religious Organisation Singapore has been promoting safety, social distancing and online prayers at a time like this when people need to fall back on their community but cannot congregate at places of worship.
The other thing to address could be your audience’s self-esteem needs — will posting a smart, well-thought-out infographic around minimum income standards for the elderly give a budding policy student the opportunity to share it and look smart as well? And more importantly, remind the potential candidate to apply to your policy school? The answer just might be yes.
Jack explains that earned media is best done when your message and narrative sits cohesively with your organic and paid media. “Even though earned media sits with third parties, the impact can still be high, you just have to have a coordinated effort between your message, your story, and your liaison with third parties.”
Chef’s notes: Revisit, revise and improve
If you have ever come up with a recipe all by yourself, you know how rough around the edges it might have been the first time. But if you didn’t give up on the first try and tried to create the dish the second time around, you probably realised that you’d gotten better at it. The media plan you create using the above ingredients will not be perfect the first time around. You’ll probably want to increase the proportion of one ingredient the second time around, or maybe prep your key ingredients differently. Revisit your media plan regularly, tinker around and record the results to try a fresh round of iterations. And repeat. Very soon, a lot of the uncertainty in our lives and businesses may be over, and while we may never emerge from it with the perfect recipe that makes everything okay again, we just might emerge from it as resourceful, patient chef-marketers who have the ability to make the best out of any situation thrown at us.