Everything’s got to be digital in today’s world?! In marketing, online is where the action is – and artificial intelligence is increasingly calling the shots. That’s all fine and dandy. But even so, classic media still have a part to play in multichannel campaigns. Because as has always been the case, it’s reaching customers that counts – no matter what channels you go through.

Faster, higher, stronger! The Olympic imperative articulates the aim of getting better and better and quantifies growth as the greatest possible proximity to the next achievable level on the journey towards the optimum performance. Or as legendary German football trainer Dettmar Cramer put it: “As long as better is possible, good is not enough.”

In the age of digitalisation, the quantitative factors that pave the way to improved performance are being joined by more and more qualitative attributes. It’s no longer merely a question of “faster, higher, stronger”, but of “more direct, more immediate, more individual” as well. When it comes to marketing, the crucial buzzwords include automation, real-time responses and hyper-personalisation. Getting close is the name of the game: as close as you possibly can to your customers and their needs.

Artificial intelligence (KI) is already capable of using data analysis as the basis for adapting communication measures to users’ responses in real time.

Artificial intelligence (AI) holds the key: today, AI is already capable of using data analysis as the basis for adapting communication measures to users’ responses in real time or dealing with initial enquiries and orders autonomously via 24/7 support chats with bots. On top of that, predictive analytics tools can identify needs even before they turn up as urgent to-dos in the customer’s mindset.

The ability to provide personalised customer interactions at all touchpoints and on all devices in real time will be crucial for a business’s success.

In a study by Harvard Business Review that questioned 560 companies about real-time analytics, 79% of respondents stated that by 2020 at the latest, the ability to provide personalised customer interactions at all touchpoints and on all devices in real time will be crucial for a business’s success. By then, it could well be that AI will have bridged the gap between technology and humans as if it were the most natural thing in the world, allowing us to gain an increasingly better understanding of the customer as an individual and learn how to meet their needs with maximum accuracy and perfect timing.

Then, once and for all, achieving campaign goals will no longer be a black box but a process that can be measured and, ideally, fine-tuned at any point and at any time – accompanied by maximum transparency and maximum control over impact, costs and results.

The scenario is based on the assumption that, in all areas of life and work, digitalisation will not only continue to advance but will pick up speed as well. Google, Amazon, Apple, Samsung and other data-driven service platforms are all stepping on the accelerator – and have long since made deep inroads into the connected individual’s private data sphere thanks to the likes of Alexa and Siri, smart cooking, smart home, navigation and geolocation technology, streaming services and playlists, not to mention fitness and health trackers.

The intriguing question for marketing: are big data and the algorithm already so far advanced that they can decode the customer and their needs right down to the last detail?

That leaves us with an intriguing question for marketing: are big data and algorithms already so far advanced that they can decode the customer and their needs right down to the last detail – and thus pave the way for campaigns with a 100 percent guarantee of success? If so, it seems as if the news hasn’t really got through to advertisers yet. In its AdReaction global consumer survey 2017, international marketing and market research company Kantar Millward Brown investigated the impact of multichannel campaigns. The analysts scrutinised more than 200 international campaigns with regard to their creativity and efficacy in individual channels and surveyed 14,000 consumers from 45 countries aged between 16 and 65.

The study comes to a sobering conclusion. It’s often the case that what advertisers and agencies understand by multichannel doesn’t actually have the desired effect on consumers. The study provides evidence that more than half the campaigns investigated wasted impact potential as a result of poorly planned and inadequately implemented multichannel strategies. On top of that, 69 percent of the international consumer sample perceives advertising as increasingly intrusive.

So what does that mean? Basically, due to carelessness and a lack of empathy, the available knowledge about customers’ needs is evidently not being translated into successful, cross-channel appeal. Kantar Millward Brown recommends using various channel combinations, such as TV plus Facebook or TV and out-of-home. Because according to the study’s findings, that’s what leads to the best synergy effects.

It should actually go without saying that multichannel campaigns need an integrated but channel-specific design. However, that’s evidently not the case.

It should actually go without saying that multichannel campaigns need an integrated but channel-specific design. However, that’s evidently not the case. According to the study, 29 percent of the campaigns tested took an integrated approach but were not tailored to the individual channels. And 26 percent of the campaigns weren’t even based on an integrated concept. It’s also significant that while 89 percent of advertisers believed their campaign strategies are integrated, only 58 percent of consumers agreed with them.

The study therefore rightly recommends that any investments in the individual channels should be scrutinised with regard to their suitability for achieving the campaign objectives. That means, for example, taking a (self-) critical look at whether supposedly less expensive online advertising is generally preferable to traditional advertising channels, regardless of whether it takes the form of a print or out-of-home product. Practice shows that print is anything but “dead”. And as long as poorly conceived or inadequately thought-through online targeting results in negative consumer experiences with this particular channel, it could stay that way for quite some time – causing irritated potential customers to turn their backs on online ads. In which case they’re likely resort to the familiar print product as their preferred source of information – “whenever I want, as often as I want and wherever I want”. That line of thinking is confirmed by advertising and retail magazine Werben & Verkaufen: German consumers find cinema advertising the least irritating – 45 percent actually like it – immediately followed by print and out-of-home ads (44 percent each). According to the publication, TV advertising, magazines and radio didn’t perform badly either (positive responses: 40, 40 and 36 percent respectively).

Regardless of which channels multichannel campaigns use to communicate, the recipient’s perception is and always will be the decisive factor.

Regardless of which channels multichannel campaigns use to communicate, the recipient’s perception is and always will be the decisive factor. And the way people perceive things is largely determined by the sense organs, the brain and the nervous system – not by digitalisation, the ever increasing speed of information sharing or the ever more complex interconnections between content and individuals. Digital natives might be particularly good at multitasking, but they’re still only human. And they still respond to good, authentic stories that are true, stories that touch and involve them, stories that prompt the reader to think and act. New, surprising, original and usable content is still the most important investment that can be made in a campaign. Without that, the campaign cannot succeed. But that being said, it always needs to be intelligently prepared and specifically calibrated for the individual channels.

Taking part isn’t all that counts; content and credibility matter too.

Online, influencers can be a great way to get that kind of content across to markets in a convincing way that appeals to specific target groups. But even though influencer marketing is extremely popular with advertisers right now, it’s still true to say that taking part isn’t all that counts: content and credibility matter too. Take Milka’s Instagram chocolate campaign: the young female influencers that otherwise generally present themselves in the context of superfoods and calorie awareness didn't really succeed in convincing consumers that they were suddenly huge chocolate fans. The Instagrammer who sat down on the toilet with his bars of Milka chocolate didn’t have quite the desired effect either: the reactions he garnered mostly amounted to screwed-up noses and shaking heads. However that may be, of course, the campaign certainly attracted attention. But did the brand benefit as a result? That is, at the very least, debatable. The best way to find out for sure is to conduct a comprehensive data analysis of the campaign and its impact. And it’s good that we have artificial intelligence to help us with that. Because if used properly, it definitely increases the probability of campaign money being invested to the greatest possible strategic advantage rather than being wasted. To quote Dettmar Cramer again: “As long as better is possible, good is not enough.”

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