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Marcom's Triple Threat

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It's a new world of data, behavior and delivery. Are you in?

When I started my career 25 years ago, marketing was preoccupied with focus groups, demographics and broadcast media. Remember when 30 seconds on M*A*S*H was the coveted placement? When media was three networks and no remotes? My mother used to turn on her favorite channel for the day and go about her chores. Even in the early '90s, marketing was very focused on the consumer and not on the other constituents who impact the brand.

I've since witnessed a sea change. New technologies, new channels and changes in consumer behavior are morphing marketing into an entirely new process. When I, along with thousands of others, watched 3Com's Eric Benhamou announce the U.S. Robotics/Palm acquisition on a computer screen during one of the early Webcasts, I knew things were starting to change.

The Web and other technological improvements have given consumers immediate access to all types of information, and they are much smarter for it. They are not easily manipulated by "Come on down!" car ads. Trust, transparency and accountability are in; secrecy is out. With increased competition and shorter product life cycles, the laws of supply and demand have flipped. Now it is the buyer who rules. We marketers are no longer in charge. Employees, shareholders, the media, and regulators all impact the success of the brand. It's a brave new world out there.

And it's focused on data, behavior and multiple delivery channels. Data is gathered online via digital panels, in phone transactions and at home (where companies watch you do your laundry) and analyzed to determine preferences and behaviors. Does she prefer to shop online or on the phone? Does he clip coupons or shop on sale days?

By constantly analyzing behavior, marketers can connect directly with individuals on the platform of their choice. TV is still important, but a better path might be a cell phone, a concert, a computer screen or a tennis championship. My kids walk right past the TV and turn on the PC, cell phones at their sides. In addition to direct mail, American Express used a Sheryl Crow concert to sign up a record number of new cardmembers. There are so many ways to reach constituents. The trick is in leveraging the data to pick the best strategy—be it a review in a trade magazine, a short film, branded content or sophisticated product placement.

Today we have the tools to provide continuous data for ongoing measurement of the strategy. How many people watched BMW Films yesterday? And more important, are they part of our target audience? Marketing has become a verb, not a noun, and we will soon see the development of an end-to-end operating system that allows marketers to connect all the dots, from data gathering to strategy development to implementation.

What does this mean for marketers? First and foremost, we have to embrace the change. BMW Films and TiVo are just the beginning. Marketers need to adapt their creativity to the new world.

We need to think beyond focus groups and base the whole creative process on data. In place of a creative director, we need a campaign czar who orchestrates the continual refinement of data and applies it to the entire marketing process. Madison Avenue must expand its partnerships with Hollywood to create branded content that speaks to people on their terms. We need to partner with tech companies to be ahead of the curve in creating new portals and delivery systems. And we need to think beyond the consumer to find innovative ways to reach all of a brand's constituents.

If we do these things, we will be able to create behavioral-based, customized messages that are delivered 24/7 via multiple portals, resulting in a transparent branding environment that connects truthfully and directly with all of a brand's constituents.

Marketing utopia? Maybe. But wouldn't it be nice?