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As part of our To Be Franc series where we bring in people with a variety of different skillsets and expertise, we recently hosted a session with Ken Burbary, a digital marketing strategist/consultant and a digital marketing professor at Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management. Ken shared his valuable insights and knowledge about the ever-changing world of digital marketing. Ken has years of experience working with big brands to build digital marketing strategies and programs.

Ken had a ton of insightful wisdom to share – it was hard to boil it all down for the purpose of this post!

Here are our three key digital marketing takeaways and trends to pay attention to in 2020…and beyond:

  1. Focus on utility and relevance.

According to eMarketer, digital media investments were 15% higher than traditional media investments in 2019. It’s a race to the top, with brands increasingly using digital channels to get users through the funnel, all while trying to be innovative and appeal to their audiences.

While marketers are allocating more of their spend to digital channels, we must acknowledge that we’ve experienced a shift in the balance of power from a brand-led world to a consumer-led world. We are living in the age of the empowered consumer. Consumers have taken much more control over how they choose to receive marketing messages…and how they act on the messages that best resonate.

Having a big budget for digital marketing won’t matter if (1) your brand isn’t useful and (2) your brand isn’t relevant in the eyes of consumers.

Ken shared the below graphic to depict where marketers need to “live” for their investment in digital to have any type of positive return.

Ken also pointed out that relevance requires context. With context, we can turn information into insights, and those insights will help marketers build the right programs, for the right audiences, delivered via the right channels, with the right message and at the right time.

Relevance = the new reputation.

  1. Double down on experience.

Marketers need to commit more to creating amazing experiences for consumers via digital channels. Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen packaged this concept perfectly with this quote: “This is the experience era.”

A great brand experience builds trust. Trust leads to loyalty. Loyalty leads to retention. A loyal customer who repeatedly has a great experience with your brand is likely to recommend family and friends purchase your product or service. You get the picture – experience is the foundation of not just digital marketing, but marketing in general.

One important element of experience is personalization. Thanks to data, marketers can leverage technology to create personalized and relevant customer journeys.

Look at some of the more well-known digitally native vertical brands (like Bombas, Thirdlove, Stitch Fix and Casper) as examples of brands that are unapologetically committed to providing a stellar customer experience.

  1. When working with influencers, relatability outweighs popularity.

Influencers are now part of the way brands sell their products. With the growing number of celebrities, bloggers, connoisseurs, experts, etc. endorsing products on their social media channels, digital word-of-mouth marketing quickly became the new marketing fad. One important thing to remember when working with influencers is relatability is increasingly becoming a stronger selling point with consumers than popularity.

What does this mean for your brand? When you’re doing influencer research, don’t only consider influencers with a huge following. A micro-influencer with a smaller audience (if it’s the right audience and aligned with who you’re trying to reach), is a more strategic investment/partnership than an influencer with a huge audience who may only reach a super small segment of the people who matter most to your brand.

It may seem like a “win” to secure a relationship with an influencer who has 1.5 million followers on Instagram, but if that person is not relatable (or going back to a previous point, if he/she isn’t relevant) to your audience, then you’re wasting time and money.

When working with influencers, make sure you’re asking the right questions and getting the right metrics from them to know if their audience is taking action.

For more of Ken’s expertise on digital marketing, read his book – Digital Marketing Analytics: Making Sense of Consumer Data in a Digital World.

And if you need help with your digital marketing program, contact us to learn more about Franco’s data-driven, integrated communications services.

Senior Digital Account Executive Neekita Singla and VP of Strategy Nikki Little contributed to this post.