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5 Minutes with Forrester's Carl Doty: Customers Define Your Brand

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We've all heard many, many, many times that marketing is changing. After a while, it's like hearing the Earth is turning. So what?

What most marketers don't know is how much or how fast it's changing. That change is already having a huge impact on brands, job, agencies, budgets and the nature of marketing itself. And the pace is accelerating.

Carl Doty understands this very well. He's vice president at Forrester Research, directing the group serving marketing leadership and customer insights.  

At the Forrester Forum for Marketing Leaders this month, Doty strutted up and down the stage in a keynote address, trying to impress upon the audience just how critical it is to shift away from campaign marketing and toward contextual marketing. His latest research, "The Power of Customer Context," was published a few days later along with another study by his Forrester colleague Melissa Parrish.

Brands Can't Control the Messages

CMSWire sat down with Doty to go over the highlights of that report and some of the things he said on stage, including the fact that customers now have greater control over brands than marketers.

Murphy: In my role, I see a lot of advertising. What's wrong with web advertising?

Doty: I think the mistake here is brands think they can control their messages. They think they have a lot more control than they really do. In fact, their customers are doing more of the controlling than the brands do. They search when they want. They search where they want. They look for information not just from branded content but from friends, from social networks, from places that are hard for a brand to control. I think that's really the spirit of what we're getting at here. Customers don't necessarily trust the carefully crafted and orchestrated messages that are coming from brands today.

Murphy: You're talking about creating a "contextual marketing engine." First, how does contextual marketing differ from campaign marketing?

Doty: Contextual marketing is about marketers capturing information and data about the customer in the moment, and applying some real time analytics technologies in that moment to learn something — when the customer is there and when they can still do something to act on it. This requires not just different thinking and different strategies, but different technologies as well. Traditionally, analytics is done in a retrospective fashion. You analyze your campaign performance, see what you can learn and you take those learnings and apply them to the next campaign. Contextual marketing is about analyzing in the moment and applying the insight in the moment. It's a very different process.

Murphy: We hear a lot about cross-channel efforts in marketing. I think real time analytics is working pretty well on the web. I go onto Amazon and it seems to anticipate what I want to click on next. There are a number of sites that are getting better and better now. I don't think it works as well in a call center or an in-store retail situation. How far are we from connecting the dots there, for getting real time analytics to a salesperson on the sales floor or to somebody in the call center?

Doty: I think there's a lot of headroom there. To do real time analytics in the call center, in the moment, requires a different technology set, as I said a moment ago. There are big data technologies there that a lot of IT departments are starting to experiment with. But marketers really need to embrace this and partner with those information technology folks in their departments. Applying that insight in the moment of need is the trick here. To be able to pull that off, you need to eliminate the silo between what we consider marketing and what we consider experience. If you leave the experience up to interface designers and call center people and the traditional silos that manage that, marketers are going to be left behind. That artificial wall is always going to be there.

Murphy: When you were talking about building a contextual marketing engine, you spoke about how it must be unique to each organization depending on its technical resources, its talent and its needs. Would you explain that a little bit more?

Doty: The examples I gave in the speech are examples of brands that have already assembled multiple technology components that they acquire on the marketplace, but they assemble them in a way that is unique to their business model and unique in the way they want to engage with their customers. That's what contextual marketing is about. There's a lot of change happening in the marketing technology space today — a lot of M&A activity coming up in the vendors and a lot of innovation coming up from smaller startups as well. My point is that you can't just go buy this engine off the shelf somewhere. It really is assembled internally in a way that is unique to your business.

Murphy: You also spoke about how a team needs to do that. You talked about assembling marketers. Most companies have those. Technologists. Most companies have at least some IT presence. And data scientists. Most companies don't have data scientists. It needs to be a cross-functional team, but who needs to be on that team?

Doty: Marketers, certainly technology management professionals, customer experience professionals — they need to be involved here as well. Data scientists are a tough one because we believe there's a shortage.

 
 
 
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