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Four things enterprise brands can learn from Unilever’s ‘digital backlash’

So, the great digital backlash is well and truly underway.

Strategy

Simon McEvoy

UK HEAD OF STRATEGY

Simon has worked with a wide variety of clients, from large multinationals like Xbox, Thomson Reuters and Sky, to smaller organisations and NGOs like National Trust, Outward Bound and Samaritans. His role is to act as the ‘bridge’ between data insights and creative in the agency, working across Strategy and UX to produce attention-grabbing, innovative but most of all effective work.

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Brands are starting to ask big questions about the value and risks of digital advertising. We have seen P&G pulling over $140m of their digital media budget due to lack of effectiveness and transparency. Brands have left YouTube due to ads appearing next to indecent images of children. And now Unilever are throwing down the gauntlet and demanding Facebook act to remove hate speech from the platform.

This means the relationship between brands and the major digital platforms has never been more sour. Indeed, WARC’s 2018 trends report lists ‘the Google / Facebook Duopoly’ as one of the top 10 issues brand managers are most concerned about, with ad viewability and measurement top.

For FMCG brands this probably means a gradual shift of budgets back from Digital to other, more well established channels. TV is likely to be the primary winner, with experiential and even radio fighting back for their share of budgets.

However, for large B2B Enterprise brands, the answer is not so simple. TV is usually seen as too expensive and ‘mass’ audience for B2B, as is radio. For these brands Digital still has incredible value to offer, but they need to look beyond digital advertising to capture it.

So here are some of the ways we’ll be helping our clients realise value in digital this year.

1: Re-Invest in owned platforms.
Shifting budgets out of digital advertising is a great opportunity to reinvest in oft overlooked corporate website. The reality is that for all the hype surrounding social platforms, most customers trust a brands website above all other digital properties.

However, to justify investment Enterprise Brands need stop thinking of their corporate site as brochure-ware. This means re-imagining services as products to be bought on-demand, introducing ecommerce and layers of self-service, and connect the data-dots to build a more detailed picture of prospects.

Brands also need to re-work their owned digital properties to act more strategically for another important audience – prospective employees. For our client J&J, we built an applicant experience portal, which made the entire process easy, seamless and transparent. It’s this kind of approach which will attract the most talented future business leaders.

2: Invest in customer experience.
Linked to the above, customer experience is a major opportunity for Enterprise brands this year. The aforementioned WARC trends report states that ‘CX is now the new battleground’, arguing that too much money on advertising is wasted as the subsequent customer experience fails to live up to expectations.

The truth is most Enterprise brands have bodies buried all over their CX – customers getting passed around internal teams that work in silos and don’t communicate, processes that are slow, overly manual and lack transparency and touchpoints that don’t support each other or ‘hand-off’ properly.

Our advice is to get CX mapping done immediately and work out where digital can automate and streamline the buying and using experience. For a recent client we found 28 value creating opportunities over 4 CX maps, all of which will have a considerable impact on customer acquisition and retention. It’s a relatively low-cost activity that can deliver huge results.

3: Invest in hyper-targeting and ABM.
ABM (Account Based Marketing) is set to be one of the B2B buzzphrases of 2018, as its hyper-targeting methodology is the yin to mass marketing’s yang. It’s certainly not a panacea and does come with some risks, but done right can deliver some amazing results.

By identifying the target clients where opportunities lie and targeting individuals, not the entire business, Enterprise clients can create marketing campaigns for ‘markets of one’ which deliver significant returns and major contracts.

However, it needs a combination of the right skills and the right digital platforms to work – data, analytics, CRM, real-time content, etc. Plus you need to have a corporate culture that’s prepared to break down silos and experiment a little.

(Bonus: 4) Get your people talking about you.
This isn’t’ really a ‘digital’ innovation, but sometimes the simplest answers are right under your nose. A brands employees are often it’s best advocates. They are trusted, have a huge network and most important, they are FREE!

So get your people writing reviews on Glassdoor and sharing your content and thought leadership via their social networks. It will be more authentic than online advertising and at least you know where it will end up!

All of these investments mean investing for the future, rather than spraying and praying today. Of course, there will still be lots of room for digital media spend in the ad budget and platforms like YouTube and LinkedIn still have a lot to offer for Business Brands.

But we should be challenging the value creation of these budgets now and working out the smartest long-term investments, rather than blindly putting money into digital advertising because it’s there.

Omobono is an enterprise marketing agency, helping global business brands to integrate brand, people and technology platforms and create a connected experience across all touch-points. We enable enterprises to attract and retain great clients and talent outside the organisation, whilst activating and aligning employees inside the organisation.

To find out more or kick off a project with us, get in touch today.

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