This year, the spotlight is on the agency. Leading brands have conducted various studies asking questions, demanding more input into the marketing decisions typically made on their behalf.

In a bid to ‘take back control’ of their budget and output, these brands are re-evaluating their approach, cutting their spend and refocusing their investment in-house. This is a shift that many saw coming.

Spend in digital advertising is growing at a phenomenal pace, increasing by 23% in the first half of 2017 alone.

But despite huge investment being pumped into digital, many are still struggling to see the return.

This comes down to a number of factors fuelling a massive shift in the marketing landscape, ultimately forging a new relationship between agencies and brands. Here’s why.

1. Consumers have changed, and brands need to too.

Today’s consumers are nothing like those of ten years ago:

  • They’re buying more online.
  • They’re proactively researching products.
  • They’re critiquing the brands that target them, often through social media.
  • They’re choosing products and services that reflect them.
  • They’re blocking the marketing they don’t want to see.

Consumers expect more personalization, more authenticity, more relevance from the brands they buy from.

To measure up, it takes getting to know them – from where and how they spend their time, to what gets them out of bed every morning and what qualities define them.

Reaching your target segments no longer means turning to media agencies to distribute investment effectively across the dominant channels.

Taking audience research in-house means investing in your understanding of your target consumers; splintering your media, content and creativity according to their behaviors, and shaping these to fit your various micro-audiences.

In short, it means taking more accountability for your targeting.

For brands, audience research methods have gone far beyond the likes of focus groups, for instance. Through advanced market research, brands have an opportunity to dramatically improve their targeting.

2. In the digital world, insight is everything.

Consumer insight has always been central to brand positioning and marketing strategy.

But today, it’s taking on a whole new role within the marketing agency and brand teams.

Traditionally a lengthy process involving several arms of external research, uncovering an actionable insight took time and resource.

And with the added challenge of juggling several different data sets with varying methodologies; the data was not only time consuming, it simply wasn’t adding up.

But in the digital world, insight into the target market and the consumer is everything.

Today, every forward-thinking brand knows consumer-centricity is key – something that can only be achieved by putting deep insight in the driving seat.

Today, every forward-thinking brand knows consumer-centricity is key.

Insight is becoming ingrained in every action, every decision, every idea – guiding everything from brand positioning and strategy to digital advertising, content, PR and beyond.

Brands are taking large scale audience research in-house to get straight to the insights that make a visible difference, because complex technology is making it possible and easier to reach a new audience, or optimize their existing reach.

3. Technology is paving the way for a new brand.

We live in a real-time economy in which time is money. When it comes to marketing, this has never been more true.

Reaching (and responding to) consumers at that critical moment and touchpoint in the consumer journey is crucial to cut through. But when the insight, the strategy and the effort sits externally, being this reactive is a challenge.

Disruptive technology is empowering brands, giving them more control, more knowledge and more visibility than ever.

Delving deeper with research across various mediums into the ‘blind spots’ of their target audiences that were previously off limits – they can find out everything they need to know, when they need to know it, to ensure they’re investing the right way.

Solutions like GlobalWebIndex are making ‘instant insight’ a reality – enabling marketers to streamline their processes, align their strategies, and improve their effectiveness in targeting the online audience (as well as the offline audience, by connecting social media channels with tv channels in the user journey, for example) – something they simply couldn’t do before. 

This new, data-empowered brand making its way to the fore is one that takes more responsibility for, and ownership of, its strategy, demands more visibility into how its spend is allocated, and invests more in strategic thinking and creative talent. And it’s an approach that pays.

4. Strategic thinking is making a comeback.

These major shifts in consumer behaviors have left marketers with a new set of priorities. Coming out on top is the move from tactical to strategic.

Over the past few years, in a bid to keep pace with a high number of fast-moving trends, the focus for many has largely been placed on tactics, short-term wins and real-time data.

In turn, strategic thinking forged by real research, deep segmentation and refined targeting took a backseat.

Leading brands are now turning back to the fundamentals of strategy, having realized the overarching need for strategic thinking versus tactical immediacy.

To do this, they’re taking robust, reliable and up-to-date consumer data in-house that enables them to infuse consumer-centricity in their strategy from end to end; telling them who to target, where to invest, what to measure and how to optimize.

5. Agencies and brands are working to their strengths.

But this shift in the balance of power that’s giving brands more control doesn’t mean agencies are losing importance. Agencies will always be essential to brands for their expertise and creative talent, but the way they work together is changing.

This new relationship means agencies and brands collaborating even closer, working together to establish a new dynamic.

It involves distributing workloads between them in a more strategic way that offers brands the transparency and control they demand, while enabling agencies to work to their strengths.

This way, brand expectations can be managed more effectively and results are far more achievable.

One fundamental step in this process lies in formulating a harmonized view of your target audience, starting with the use of reliable and consistent data.

Brands need to learn from the agencies they invest in, leveraging the tools at their disposal to put this into practice.

In today’s overcrowded landscape, you not only need deep consumer insight, you need deep insight you can trust.

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