A Content Strategy Framework for the Evolved Enterprise

Super-detailed content programming and a sincere commitment to test-and-learn thinking result in higher impact.

Figuring out how to do enterprise content well is no small undertaking. Often, there’s a lot of experimentation and one-off initiatives that don’t reach their intended audiences and are not conclusively worth the effort and investment.

In 2016, Altimeter analyst Omar Akhtar and digital partner Mat Zucker published the report, “Key Elements of a Unified Content Strategy.” The research aimed to help companies jump-start their content strategy development. Findings recommend prioritizing audiences and selecting one of five content archetypes that can serve them best.

5 Simple Steps to an Effective Content Strategy

Since then, we’ve built on the methodologies based on various needs of clients across industries. We’ve developed a framework and 5 simple steps to help companies tackle the hairiest content challenges and create a modern, effective content strategy.

1. Get Your Brand On 

Content is a powerful way to activate a brand strategy. It can help build awareness, engage audiences, and highlight how various brand levers are being received. We recommend anchoring on the brand’s purpose, promise and principles to connect diverse content needs back to the business. Your company story or mission could act as a proxy.

Establishing 3-5 key messaging themes is important to your strategic communications. A messaging strategy ensures teams are collectively covering key messages and clarifies ownership of messaging areas. They help marketers understand which of their messages resonate with audiences.  Messaging themes may be tailored for execution, may change by year, but are foundational for content.

2. Commit to Business Value

A vision for content—what you need content to do inside and outside the company—helps build cohesion enterprise-wide. One of my favorites is Marriott’s “tell a story” which sparks excitement and passion to make Marriott the world’s favorite travel company. It anchors content on the brand’s mission to lead within the travel category while celebrating its audiences. For some clients, we also build content principles that create guardrails for how best to execute this vision.

“Content is a powerful way to activate a brand strategy.”

3. Tailor to Your Audience

We usually tackle 3-5 audiences at a time, building discrete content personas; identifying what each audience needs and wants as well as where and how they engage with content. For example, a corporate audience like job seekers would have very different needs from a line of business’s consumer audience. Picking a priority archetype like “Content as a Window” for job seekers, or “Content as Support” for consumers, helps teams make choices around what content to create, and keeps audience needs top of mind.

4. Get Organized

Content planning is a detail-oriented and coordinated effort. Often, various departments oversee paid, owned and earned activities, or manage disparate channels (e.g. web, social media, intranet, etc.). When teams align their efforts into shared content programs, their content is more likely to be encountered by their desired audiences and deliver value.

A content program is essentially a broad theme that meets a specific user-based need. They logically connect back to global messaging themes. A meaty program can inspire dozens of topics and experiences across paid, unpaid and earned; executing two or three programs at once can help meet multiple objectives.

Programs help guide holistic content experiences that drive the next best action. They tend to be more efficient to produce and can be linked to business impact versus a series of one-off content pieces which are less meaningful in the long run.

In early 2018, TurboTax launched “There’s Nothing to Be Afraid Of”—an integrated marketing campaign focused on Latino empowerment. TurboTax wanted to reach Hispanic audiences and help them learn more about filing their own taxes. Besides running paid ads, the effort was supported by numerous content efforts. For example, they collaborated with influential Hispanic lifestyle bloggers and experts to create authentic educational content. They also erected a Hispanic community forum on their website and prepared relevant responses to topics that came up within the community. They developed the “#taxconfessions” sweepstakes encouraging the creation of user-generated YouTube content. And, of course, much of the content was in Spanish.

As with the TurboTax example, a holistic program is comprised of several components. Topics are specific content assets that cover various aspects of a program. They could be campaign-based (e.g., time-sensitive) or evergreen. The formats that are selected will often align with the content archetype that is chosen. If your audience needs “Content as Window”, you may choose case studies or video. “Content as Support” may include more selection guidance and post-purchase onboarding materials.

5. Ready, Test, Go

Coming out of content planning, teams are armed with fleshed-out programs and a set of prioritized activities that usually fall into one of two buckets:

  1. Good test and learn opportunities (i.e., what can we execute and measure today)
  2. Worthwhile investment opportunities (i.e., >6 months)

According to a recent Content Marketing Institute report, about 90% of B2B marketers in North America were committed to content marketing, yet only 37% had documented it.


*Content Marketing Institute, B2B Content Marketing, 2018 Budgets, Benchmarks and Trends – North America.


It’s time for all marketers to create cohesion across the enterprise and take an audience-led approach to content marketing. If your content efforts have not been paying off, it’s probably time to get hyper-focused on a few key audiences that are critical to your success and begin understanding how you can use content to deliver value to them—in a highly focused and coordinated way—throughout their journey.

Learn how Prophet is strategically helping evolved enterprises across the globe create better content strategies that provide value to their audiences, align their organization and produce measurable outcomes for growth.

Gain insight into what goes into a content strategy and how it can take your business to the next level.


Using the 5 Content Archetypes to Build a Successful B2B Content Strategy

Refining your goals intensifies the impact of this important marketing tool.

B2B businesses continue to embrace the value of content marketing to position their brands, products, and services in more relevant ways with customers and prospects. In fact, B2B companies are ideally positioned to benefit from content marketing, given the inherent nature that expertise plays and the high degree of consideration and complexity that goes into buying decisions.

However, while many B2B businesses have compelling content, most lack a clear understanding of what should drive their content strategy. Every company needs a clear focus on the kind of content they will create and who it is intended for. We call these content archetypes. These archetypes are important because they bring focus, consistency, and scalability to content in a way that gives B2B brands a distinct voice, purpose, and platform on which to speak.

In our experience, the brands that take an approach like this make stronger connections with the right audience and get significantly better returns on their investment in content marketing.

Identify Your Brand’s Content Archetype

Altimeter, the research arm of Prophet, recently published a report, “Key Elements For Building a Content Strategy” that uncovers five distinct content archetypes that guide the content strategies of the strongest B2B brands. Before diving into each, it is important to note that the best companies pick one, maybe two, archetypes as the primary focus of their strategy. Driven by their core marketing objectives, they commit to this archetype for a period of time (maybe 1-2 years) while evaluating how they are doing and evolving their approach as needed.

The 5 Content Archetypes

Let’s take a closer look at these five content archetypes:

1. Content as Presence

The first is Content as Presence. This type of content is about engaging a broad audience while promoting brand awareness and brand health. It’s typically best used to help reposition a brand in a target’s mind or expand what customers think they know about the business.

For example, IBM has done a great job using Watson content to convey a more progressive and analytical IBM, to expand what customers think IBM can assist them with, and to demonstrate how Watson is already helping a wide array of customers.

2. Content as a Window

A second archetype is Content as a Window. This type of content is about giving customers and other audiences, such as prospective employees, a view inside the company that they otherwise would not have. This content is best used for businesses that want to humanize their brand or those that believe showing how they work is a key part of their brand promise.

The global shipping and logistics business, Maersk, is a great example of this archetype. It has built one of the best B2B content positions with its focus on giving people an inside look at the company, its operations and its people. By taking down the walls around its business, Maersk provides customers, regulators and prospective employees a view into its capabilities, purpose, and global scale.

“The best companies pick one, maybe two, archetypes as the primary focus of their strategy.”

3. Content as Currency

The third content archetype is Content as Currency. This is for brands that want to be seen as subject matter experts. This type of content helps consumers make better decisions for their business. It is particularly beneficial when used to augment the expertise of a sales team, who can educate customers on the right questions to ask, provide insight into how other companies are dealing with similar challenges, and help them move forward with a complex buying process.

GE, with its Industrial Internet platform, is an excellent example of how to deliver content that helps customers move forward. With self-assessments, relevant case studies, and points of view, GE is helping businesses understand the Internet of Things and what it means for their company.

4. Content as Support

The fourth archetype is Content as Support. This one is all about helping customers extract greater value and utility from the solutions you provide. It is best used in highly technical categories when product usage is complex, and ongoing loyalty and share of wallet of existing customers is marketing’s top priority. B2B companies following this strategy should focus on educating customers and partners about how to get the most out of their products by sharing tips on installation, product usage, troubleshooting and integration.

Schneider Electric, a global provider of energy management and automation solutions, is one of the leaders with this content archetype. It publishes content about design, installation and how to lower the total cost of ownership that is helpful to both its contract partners and end-customers. This strategy enables Schneider’s sales and service teams to stay as productive as possible by giving its customers an alternative way of accessing their expertise.

5. Content as Community

And finally, we have Content as Community. This content focuses on fostering a community of customers or other stakeholders with similar needs. This approach is best suited for B2B brands in highly collaborative categories such as healthcare and technology, or those with extremely engaged and loyal customers who can serve as brand advocates.

American Express, with their OPEN platform, used content to build a community of small and medium-sized businesses. For more than 10 years, it has served as a destination for entrepreneurs to learn from American Express, and each other, about what it takes to grow and run a healthy business. OPEN is a great example a content community that creates value, without explicitly selling.

Questions to Ask When Determining the Best Type of Content for Your Brand

As you think through what archetype is best suited for your business, consider the following:

  1. What are your top marketing priorities? What part of the purchase funnel is most important to you right now – increasing awareness, winning more business or driving greater loyalty?
  2. What content will your customers find most relevant? What information do they need to help them better run their businesses?
  3. What type of content platform could you build that reinforces your brand’s promise? How can your content strategy work in concert with your sales and operations departments to drive more efficiencies and value for your customers?


Focus Your Content Efforts

Keep in mind the key to content marketing is selecting the right archetype is focus on. The best B2B brands have figured out which one, or maybe two, of these archetypes is the best path for them to follow to create scale and deliver the best possible return on their marketing investment.


How Direct-to-Consumer Beverages Are Changing the Market for CPG

Take a closer look at why so many people pass by retail, with a new thirst for a direct purchases.

Direct to consumer beverage brands and delivery services are disrupting the beverage market as we know it. Take a closer look at our infographic below, which breaks down how legacy brands are competing with new DTC beverage players and forced to rethink direct channels in order to compete.

Prophet is obsessed with helping our clients win with their customers. We are a global consulting firm, helping our clients unlock uncommon growth in this digital age. Contact us to learn more about what we are doing in all things direct-to-consumer.

Follow Eunice Shin on LinkedIn & Twitter or send her an email.


How Purposeful Always and Dove Campaigns Delivered Business Impact

Both campaigns help women and girls rise above attitudes that limit them and hold them back.

Many strong brands have a vision that includes a higher purpose such as environmental stewardship, healthy eating or third-world water safety. These programs make a difference with regard to corporate responsibility. But do they really help the brand and business? Can the investment in a higher purpose have a brand rationale?

Consider the efforts of Always and Dove to improve the self-esteem of girls. What impact do the campaigns have on the two brands? And how is that impact measured?

Always: Encouraging High Self-Esteem for Women  

In 2014, Always launched a three-minute video by award-winning director Lauren Greenfield, #LikeAGirl that showed the stereotypical view of women from the perspective of boys, men, and women as well doing things like running, throwing, or fighting “like a girl.” The caricature was one of awkward incompetence. The assumption was that girls are not equal to boys in these activities, an assumption that clearly affected young girls as they got older.

The “like a girl” line was pejorative. The video then showed the stark difference in the ways actual girls aged around 10 defined the phrase. These girls tended to make confident, serious efforts at running, throwing and fighting.

Always re-ran the video in 1-minute form during the Super Bowl to great effect. The message: Girls’ confidence plunges during puberty and Always wants to change that. It wants to change what “like a girl” stands for, making it mean amazing things instead of acting as a put-down.

Always’ “Like a Girl” campaign is a natural outgrowth of the brand’s 30-year-old efforts in puberty education, in which it has reached over 17 million girls across 65 countries. It is influenced by research that shows that fifty percent of girls report a drop in confidence after their first period. Always saw a problem and felt it was the right brand to address it.

The “Like a Girl” program is a long-term effort for Always, involving video variants plus multiple programs and partners. For example, in another video Always showcases Karlie Harman who became a female football quarterback for her high school team and gives “like a girl” a very different meaning. It encouraged girls to tweet all the amazing things that they recall doing “like a girl” with a promise to post the best tweets. It also joined the official list of partners in Sheryl Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy” campaign, working to ban the “b” word (bossy) from the vocabulary of people in the environment of young girls. Vocabulary matters.

Dove: Showing Women Their Real Beauty

Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” started in 2004 and was also informed by research on female self-esteem. It was designed to make women aware that real beauty is not based on a standard of young, model-thin bodies with excessive or elaborate make-up and hairstyling. The goal was to fundamentally change the way that women are perceived and to fundamentally change women’s self-esteem.

The campaign started with advertisements showing real women that may have been older or heavier but who Dove believed exhibited beauty. Global ads invited people to vote on whether a particular model was “Fat or Fit,” “Withered or Wonderful,” “Flawed or Flawless” and other such comparisons. The “Real Beauty” campaign also involves substantive programs directed at girls.

Since 2002, Dove has been collaborating with Girl Scouts of the USA  to promote self-esteem among tween and teenage girls with programs like Uniquely ME! and It’s Your Story – Tell It! An annual Dove Self-Esteem Weekend, started in 2010, aims to inspire moms and mentors to talk to girls in their lives about beauty, confidence, and self-esteem.

Purpose Messaging Should Align with Brands’ Audiences & Values

First, higher purpose messaging creates a qualitatively different relationship with customers than one based on functional benefits. Always and Dove are seen as having a higher purpose based on the concern for the self-esteem and self-confidence of pre-teen and teenage girls; these concerns resonate with women who have been through it. It strikes a chord. That higher purpose engenders respect, admiration and shared interest.

The brands are reframed, now perceived as partners and friends – not just as selling entities that want your business. Ironically, having such a relationship also provides credibility that the firm will deliver on its functional brand promise to provide innovative, quality products as well.

“Higher purpose messaging creates a qualitatively different relationship with customers than one based on functional benefits.”

A crucial part of the relationship is authenticity. Brands have to convince their audience that they really believe in the ideas and programs they’ve created and are committed to making a difference both now and in the future. This relationship wouldn’t work unless the message was relentlessly connected to the brand and to the brand’s functional mission.

There is a fit with “real beauty” and Dove’s skincare and beauty products. The same is true about the Always “like a girl” concept and the learnings about puberty that involve the products of Always. Brand Director Amanda Hill stated that in their research they found that four of five girls affirmed it makes complete sense that Always would be connected in a movement that would change the perception of the phrase ‘like a girl.’ The message received enormous visibility for both brands because the messaging contained something of interest. The message wasn’t about deodorant, shampoo and feminine hygiene products but rather an issue that matters to most women.

Demonstrating Higher Purpose is Good for Business

Visibility is one of the pillars of a brand’s equity. Along with credibility, awareness is a necessary element of brand relevance. The ability to build and enhance brand awareness is crucial to creating and maintaining relevance. Some videos and ads went viral, creating unreal brand exposure. The initial #LikeAGirl video got over 80 million views, over 56 million on YouTube alone. The Super Bowl ad got exposure far beyond the paid media buy.

The Dove ads had similar success. One of their ads, Evolution, shows how much effort goes behind creating an artificial “model” look and won advertising awards creating unpaid exposure estimated to be worth over $150 million. The impact in equivalent measured media for some of Dove’s other efforts has been estimated to be 30 times their expenditures.


A higher purpose such as helping the self-esteem and self-confidence of young girls is the right thing to do. But to be effective, that purpose should develop ideas and programs where it has some expertise and motivation to help its brand. The result can be visibility as well as a qualitatively different perception of the brand and even the category, leading to a deeper relationship. Look to Always and Dove as examples of just that.

Learn more about aligning your brand with a higher purpose to achieve business success.


Modern Marketing: The Game Has Changed

“Product, Price, Place and Promotion” are no longer sufficient. Customers want to know about value.

According to Wikipedia, “marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product to customers, for the purpose of selling that product (goods or services.)” But that is what marketing used to be. Today, marketing is about relationship management.

The widespread adoption of social and mobile technologies has empowered consumers. They expect relationships with brands rather than the push-messaging campaigns of yore— and now have a voice to praise or complain. Eric Schmidt said succinctly “bad product reviews trump clever marketing” in a recent presentation:

“The four P’s—Product, Price, Place and Promotion—are no longer sufficient as a way to think about marketing. They are about the content and placement of messaging, rather than an ongoing conversation and relationship with a customer. When customer loyalty can begin well before a purchase is ever made (think Hard Rock or Harley Davidson), marketers have to think beyond communicating value to building customer relationship.”


Relationship Economics

For long-lasting relationships, learn to authentically engage with customers and employees on social channels.

How Genuine Communication and Engagement in Social Media Helps Businesses Grow Relationships With Employees and  Customers While Improving the Bottom Line

Social technologies have always been about people and relationships, yet in recent years we seem to have lost our way, blurring the lines between social media and CRM as we treat these engagement platforms like mass marketing automation tools. The answer to unlocking the potential of business connections has been right under our noses all along: authentically engage with customers, prospects, and employees on social channels to cultivate long-lasting relationships that result in true business ROI.

For our latest report, Altimeter Group partnered with LinkedIn to study the importance of relationship-building among the most socially engaged companies on LinkedIn. By using social technologies to improve relationships, businesses witness incredible results. Download the full report here.

Why we studied relationship economics

In late 2013, Gallup released its latest survey that measures international employee satisfaction and found that only 13% of workers feel engaged by their jobs. 63%, are not engaged, and 24% are actively disengaged.

What is relationship economics?

Relationship economics dictates that when businesses value people, experiences, and aspirations, they reap benefits measured in profitability, loyalty, and advocacy. Without relationship economics, companies will lose a significant edge to those that do actively invest in employee and customer communication and engagement on social platforms such as LinkedIn.

Companies that invest in relationship economics on social platforms find that employees are more engaged, more likely to stay and refer great talent, are more competitive and optimistic, and more likely to increase business and sales opportunities.

Socially engaged companies are more likely to drive greater lead generation, cultivate innovation, and yield top talent.

Companies must become digitally savvy to compete for customers and top talent. Companies that are social engaged realize the following business-level benefits:

  • 40% more likely to be perceived as more competitive
  • 57% more likely to get increased sales leads
  • 58% more likely to attract top talent

Investing in relationship economics can represent the difference between engaged and disengaged employees.

Socially engaged employees are more optimistic, inspired, connected, and tenured:

  • 27% more likely to feel optimistic about their companies’ future
  • 20% more likely to feel inspired
  • 20% more likely to stay at their companies
  • 15% more likely to connect to co-workers beyond their core teams

“Without relationship economics, companies will lose a significant edge to those that do actively invest in employee and customer communication.”


In a relationship economy, leadership must “walk the walk” on social channels in order for others to follow.

Executives at social engaged companies are:

  • 52% more likely to actively create, curate and share content
  • 50% more likely to actively encourage employee use of professional social media
  • 37% more likely to be active in building relationships using professional social media

More about LinkedIn’s “Top 25 Socially Engaged Companies”

To demonstrate social engagement and transformation, LinkedIn released its list of the top 25 socially engaged companies in July 2014. This list showcases companies that effectively use social media to improve engagement and relationships with customers and employees via efforts in content marketing, employee engagement, talent and recruitment, and sales.

Read the Full Report

Learn more about how relationship economics can impact your business by downloading the full report, “Relationship Economics: How genuine communication and engagement in social media helps businesses grow relationships with employees and customers while improving the bottom line.”


The Digital Marketing Suite

Advanced companies need integrated tools to succeed in digital business. Suites are the solution.

As companies become advanced in social and digital business, they require consolidated technology instead of point solutions

Adobe Marketing Summit and Oracle OpenWorld both took place recently. It’s another month until Dreamforce, but I expect similar announcements to be made there. These giants are all building “suites” for cross-channel customer engagement through a series of acquisitions and integration with their existing offerings (see Figure 1). Among the pieces, each has bought social media monitoring and management tools, as well as marketing automation players. Having a complete social offering is a big part of this, but it’s also about integrating social with other customer engagement channels for the best data, targeting, and contextualization. The result: a technology suite that goes beyond just social, designed to entice CMOs with one-stop shopping convenience. Figure 1: How Three Companies Are Creating Digital Marketing Suites

Social media monitoringSalesforce Marketing Cloud (Radian6)Adobe Social (Adobe SocialAnalytics)Oracle SRM (Collective Intellect)
Social media managementSalesforce Marketing Cloud (Buddy Media)Adobe Social (Efficient Frontier / Context Optional)Oracle SRM (Vitrue & Involver)
Social media advertisingSalesforce Marketing Cloud ( Media Optimizer (Efficient Frontier)N/A for now; on product roadmap
Marketing automation & multi-channel targetingSalesforce ExactTargetAdobe Campaign (Neolane)Oracle Eloqua
Analytics & insightsSalesforce Marketing Cloud (Radian6)Adobe Analytics (Omniture)Oracle SRM and OBIEE (Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition)
Content marketingNo internal component, but integration (e.g. Kapost)Experience Manager & Creative CloudCompendium
Enterprise social networkChatterN/A, although has built collaboration into Marketing CloudOracle Social Network
Data & CRMSalesforceNo CRM, but has Omniture DataWarehouse and data connectors into partner solutionsOracle Database (plus Siebel), Oracle Sales Cloud, Oracle Service Cloud, Oracle Commerce

It should go without saying that this chart is not an exact comparison and that line item “components” vary in complexity. The degree of integration also varies.

Advanced companies need integrated tools to succeed in digital business

These suites are finding an audience ready for a better option. Focused on social business for a moment, brands are getting increasingly advanced, yet they continue to use point solutions in different departments and channels for monitoring, management, optimization, and analytics. In a typical example, one of our clients uses Radian6 for monitoring, Vitrue for social content publishing, Cotweet for customer care, and Adobe Analytics (formerly Omniture) for web analytics.

Plus enterprise social networks and customer communities are disconnected. The result is disparate sets of data being compared in Excel, mixed levels of communication and collaboration, and lost insights. The emerging need for more integrated solutions has been anticipated by Salesforce, Oracle, and Adobe, who are now assembling Digital Marketing Suites.

Best-in-class point solutions dominate today, but change is coming

Although point solutions can’t fully address the needs of an advanced social business, they are often best-in-class—because the promise of the Digital Marketing Suite has yet to be fulfilled. When advising clients on monitoring tools or SMMS today, we often end up recommending point solutions. This is based on specific client requirements, which vary, but it’s not often that one of the “giants” makes it to the very top of a shortlist. With SMMS for example, the offerings are good but not typically best for the client. And overall, the benefits of a suite aren’t compelling enough today—but over the coming 12-18 months, they will be.

“The promise of the Digital Marketing Suite has yet to be fulfilled.”

The future is suites—or irrelevance

Not only will there be consolidation in terms of technology coalescing into larger suites, but the marketplace will also go through the natural evolution and consolidation as the landscape matures. For social marketing vendors determined to stay independent, there is only one option: to raise money to scale into suites themselves by buying or quickly building missing components like monitoring, optimization, and analytics. Several SMMS vendors like Hootsuite, Sprinklr, Spredfast, and HearSay Social have raised significant rounds of financing to build scale.

They are embedded and tough to replace, and integration-enabling APIs may extend the timeline, but over time that will not be enough to support so many players. Consolidation or exits are an inevitable outcome, as it has been in previous technology spaces. A few of the other SMMS vendors have already folded, like Awareness Inc. and Syncapse. This left their customers high and dry and needing to start the search for vital tools all over again. That has been another reason why some companies are looking to the big players—simple staying power.

What does the future look like with Digital Marketing Suites?

Beyond the obvious benefits of integration, like fewer tools and logins, and platform security that come from an integrated suite, there are four impending changes that marketers should watch closely:

1. Internal and external social networking on a single platform

In SMMS, collaboration features are mostly limited to basic workflow (tag, flag, annotate, route). Yet as social permeates an organization, the need for internal communication through Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) becomes necessary to plan and react to external engagement. Adobe has already made a push to bring greater collaboration into its new Marketing Cloud offering, although it does not have an ESN product of its own. Salesforce will undoubtedly integrate Chatter into future offerings of its own Marketing Cloud, while Oracle is embedding Oracle Social Network into the social publishing workflow for collaboration. Companies with installed ESNs are also eager to tap and evolve internal employee engagement and direct it toward external conversations for purposes like providing customer support and employee advocacy.

2. Company-wide utility—this is not just for one department

Most SMMS address one or two departments’ needs well, yet we found that companies today are likely to have up to 13 departments involved in social. Social customer support may require the features familiar to a call center, whereas marketing may require a content repository and an editorial calendar that includes earned media. Because each department has different use cases and metrics, these suites are looking to address the needs of many departments rather than just the one or few primarily addressed today. Marketing is central, but other stakeholders are increasingly being involved.

3. Customer relevance and targeting (Social CRM)

Speaking of sharing nicely across departments, the growing need for a common view of customers’ social profiles and social behavior data is also driving a move to suites. Several SMMS vendors have focused on customer identification and targeting from the outset—but few integrate well with marketing automation and enterprise CRM systems in order to know and target customers based not only on social data, but all available customer data.

To take an example, Walmart allows Facebook fans to Like local stores, then shows them items specific to that store, based on comparative local prices and even the local weather. By integrating (in this case, location) data, the relevance of its content is increased. For now, customers remain mostly anonymous, so only certain layers of relevance may be applied at any given time (geography, demographics, psychographics, socialgraphics, mobilegraphics, brand affinity, loyalty program, etc.). So far, the local Walmart pages have little engagement, since they still feel impersonal compared with other local businesses.

Eventually, though, companies will have a single customer view, connecting these layers of relevance for contextual, personalized messaging for individual customers and prospects. This has been a long-term promise and the customer journey keeps getting more complex, but Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle have all been especially focused on this of late.

4. Bigger sticker price and IT involvement

The average enterprise deal size for SMMS has steadily increased over the past few years, rising from $76k last year to deal sizes of what we typically see today in the $100-150k range. This reflects a growing ability to spend on social software where there is perceived value.

These larger Digital Marketing Suites will naturally be even more expensive, but as social is integrated, an independent social business technology budget will be a challenge for most marketing organizations that are still just beginning to build out their social business capabilities. Also, because these suites are larger in scale and require greater care to be “plugged in” correctly, marketers will need IT to be more involved than it has been in decisions like SMMS, which marketing departments have in some cases been able to buy and install on their own.

P.S. Digital Marketing Suite seems like a good name for now, but this goes not only beyond social but even beyond marketing. While Adobe and Salesforce each have their “Marketing Cloud,” Oracle has its “Social Relationship Management,” which is department-agnostic, but of course, focuses on Social (Oracle Eloqua is referred to separately for now). So what is this called, really, and does it change over time?


While there are still plenty of best-in-class point solutions, more companies are offering a full suite of solutions. And it’s about time. Advanced companies need more integrated tools, so they can better navigate complexities. The future is either suites–or irrelevance.


5 Biggest Challenges Facing Marketing & How to Solve Them

Muddled strategies. Flagging energy. Uncooperative coworkers. Almost every brand faces a struggle sometimes.

Today, customer preferences, digital technologies, and global markets are constantly changing the way we do business. This means that marketing needs to keep up. Unfortunately, this is not as simple as it sounds.

Here, we will examine 5 key challenges that marketers are facing right now, as well as how to overcome them using transformation in capability and charge.

1. The Need for Transformational Innovation

Marketing focused on “my brand is better than your brand” strategies supported by incremental innovation and conventional programs rarely create sales growth because markets have a lot of inertia. The only way to grow is through big idea innovation that will create enhancements or augmentations of the offering that will be regarded by customers as “must-haves.”

2. Prioritizing Strategy

Marketing should own three key drivers of strategy: customer insights that should enable growth initiatives and be the basis for strategic resource allocation, the value proposition or the key to strategy, and the brand strategy that should both inform and enable the business strategy.

3. Fostering Collaboration and Eliminating Silos

Firms no longer have the luxury to see opportunities for consistency and synergy lost. It is especially important to overcome functional silos and create integrated marketing programs where some functional areas accept a supporting role, even when that is not what they are accustomed to.

4. Injecting Energy into Brands

Brand equity across the world has been declining for over a decade. The exceptions are those brands with energy. Energy is imperative. If a brand cannot provide product energy like Apple, Dove, Hyundai and others have done, their need is to create or find something with energy and attach the brand to it.

5. Creating a Clear Marketing Approach

With the fragmentation of media options, the dynamics of social media and the proliferation of brands and offerings, there is much clutter and complexity. Nothing less than great marketing and exceptional offerings will break a brand out. This means marketing needs access to creative tools, people willing to innovate and a broad array of marketing modalities.

“Nothing less than great marketing and exceptional offerings will break a brand out.”


There are many more solutions to these challenges, but if marketing can influence or deliver real innovation, a marketing-influenced business strategy, control of the silos, energy and involvement and great tactical marketing, it will be relevant to the organization and see success in the marketplace.

This post originally appeared on Harvard Business Review’s blog . For more of my HBR blog posts, click here.


Define Your Own Market Category

Why be one of many in a crowded category, when you can create one and keep it all to yourself?

The only way to achieve real sales and profit growth is to create a new category or subcategory in which competitors are weak or irrelevant. It is Econ 101: Create an environment with weak competition. The alternative, fighting the “my brand is better than your brand” preference war, is rarely successful at changing market positions because of the resulting customer momentum. Successfully creating a new category or subcategory involves—in addition to finding a concept and introducing it into the marketplace—the active management of customers’ perceptions, attitudes and behaviors toward it. Here are five guidelines toward that end.

1. The new category or subcategory needs to be defined with a set of associations that should deliver a value proposition that will differentiate the category or subcategory from alternatives and appeal to customers.

It should, if at all possible, go beyond functional benefits, such as superior performance or cooler design, to provide self-expressive and emotional benefits. A richer conceptualization of the new category or subcategory will provide a stronger basis for a customer relationship and, thus, a barrier to competitors. In particular, the category or subcategory should be, if possible, provided with a personality. Oft en being a feisty underdog can add energy and reinforce the value proposition. That worked for, which in 2000 pioneered “cloud computing” for application software. With a communication program that included an assortment of guerrilla marketing stunts, positioned firms that had not adopted cloud computing as pursuing the “old way.”

The category or subcategory should be defined so that the boundaries are clear and potential competitors will be classified by customers as missing some “must-haves”—and thus not relevant. The challenge is to make those “must-haves” visible enough to affect customers’ decisions to consider the brand.

2. Strive to make the brand the exemplar of the category or subcategory.

When the brand gains exemplar status, the brand strategy and its associated brand building can play the role of building the category or subcategory and developing its associations. In addition, the brand will automatically have credibility, visibility and authenticity with respect to the new category or subcategory.

How can a brand become an exemplar? Focus visibly on the category or subcategory. Be a thought leader and innovator of the category or subcategory. Disneyland is the exemplar of theme parks and it continues to innovate. Become the early market leader in terms of sales and market share. It’s hard to be an exemplar and to leverage that role without market share leadership.

3. Focus on Promoting The Category or Subcategory and Not The Brand

The goal is not only to reinforce the exemplar status but also to make sure the new category or subcategory wins because that’s the heart of the innovation strategy. Even though choosing to promote the category over the brand is unnatural and sometimes hard to justify, it’s imperative. If the category or subcategory wins, the brand also will win.

In 2000, Barclays Global Investors (BGI) came to believe that exchange-traded funds (ETFs) were relatively unknown and had the potential to be a major investment vehicle.

As a result, BGI committed to bringing the new subcategory out into the open with its iShares series of ETFs as the vehicle. BGI had a multi-year, well-funded, broad-based program to establish the new subcategory that involved advertising, three sales teams directed to financial advisors, education seminars and a compelling website.

4. Stimulate Buzz.

A new category or subcategory will involve a substantial or transformational innovation. That often means that it’s worth talking about. One way to get the conversation started is with a story about topics such as dramatic features or benefits (the Tata Nano, with its breakthrough price of $2,000); the people behind the idea and how they brought it to life (Steve Jobs’ iPod story); how the technology developed (Ivory soap was found through a production mistake); interesting applications (Segways are used by mall cops); or a firm’s culture (Zappos’ service culture led to its domestic 24/7 call center).

5. Don’t Stand Still

Innovation, improvement and change will make the category or subcategory dynamic and the brand more interesting. If the brand achieves the status of an exemplar, it’s natural to create ongoing innovations attached to the brand that can become part of the defined dimensions of the category or subcategory. That will make the category or subcategory a moving target and will make it harder for a competitor to become relevant.

Chrysler did exactly that by continuously innovating its minivan for which it enjoyed 16 years with no viable competitor after its introduction in 1982. Every two or three years, there were significant innovations that raised the bar for competing firms. The driver-side sliding door, for example, changed the category parameters. Westin followed the Heavenly Bed with the Heavenly shower and accessories like soap and shampoo, which raised the bar.

Building a new category or subcategory is a key element of the innovation strategy.

“Successfully creating a new category or subcategory involves—in addition to finding a concept and introducing it into the marketplace—the active management of customers’ perceptions, attitudes and behaviors toward it.”


Inventing new categories and adding subcategories are important paths to growth. To succeed, companies must first find a concept that resonates in the market, and then carefully launch it. Then it must also actively manage it, monitoring consumer perceptions, attitudes and behaviors.


Marketing Accountability: Optimizing Investment and Output

Marketing requires disciplined planning, rigorous measurement and constant improvement.

Marketing is increasingly under pressure to make the most of its brands, its investments and its organization. In the boardroom, leaders ask for accountability and assurance that every dollar spent on marketing is contributing to long-term profitable growth. Although this pressure is particularly intense in tough economic times, the topic is increasingly relevant even in good times.

Marketing must respond through disciplined planning, rigorous measurement and evaluation, and continuous improvements in performance. It has to be able to link the cause and effect of investments, to diagnose performance problems in a timely way, and make fact-based decisions on how to increase return on investment (ROI). Marketing must be efficient and effective at the same time. The keyword is “marketing accountability”—investing in the right tools and content (effectiveness) and optimizing the ratio of investment and output (efficiency).

As a matter of fact, more and more companies are investing in marketing accountability initiatives. However, in many cases, the focus of these initiatives has been too narrow, which diminishes the impact. In order to achieve a sustainable and effective effort, all value levers need to be activated.

The Six Value Levers

Value Lever No. 1: Strategy

A solid strategic foundation is critical, as it sets up a series of choices that informs all downstream value levers. These include, for example, overarching marketing objectives that are derived from the corporate and business strategy, the definition of critical segments and targets, and brand positioning and opportunities for differentiation.

Erroneous assumptions around any one of these issues can fatally undermine the effectiveness of all subsequent marketing investments. Yet in most companies, this pitfall is avoidable with a disciplined and transparent approach. This includes informing all stakeholders about the facts, data, beliefs, and assumptions on which the individual decisions are based in order to develop a shared view of the brand and communication strategy.

This transparent approach is based on a set of well-understood analytical and conceptual techniques involving customer segmentation, target group definition, customer driver analysis, pathway modeling, brand equity modeling, positioning, value propositions, etc. All of these tools can help a company focus on the most promising solutions. When these analytical approaches are combined with creative and innovative ideas, a company typically ends up with a strategic value proposition that is worth its weight in gold.

The medium to long-term strategy needs to be translated into short-term marketing and communication objectives. When defining these objectives for the next planning period, current barriers to communication with the consumer must be taken into consideration. Do we need to focus on increasing our awareness, or should we focus instead on retaining existing customers? These types of questions, together with long-term brand and communication objectives, should indicate which path to pursue.

Value Lever No. 2: Content

The strategic foundation needs to be translated into compelling and engaging messaging that is appropriate for the medium. In this context, “messaging” refers to the entire creative package of taglines, copy, visuals, colors, sound, and iconography that is usually part of a broader communication/content platform. The best content platforms come from a magic combination of strategic insight and creative expression and find a way to connect in authentic, emotionally compelling ways. Here it is crucial for the creative ideas to draw on the themes and guidelines provided by the strategy.

To fuel creativity, a company needs to pursue somewhat independent and competitive paths. It is important to remember that great content ideas can come from anywhere. One method is to provide internal teams as well as external agency partners with a similar briefing. Ideas can also originate from individuals who have creative intuition. Or even from participants whose contributions are collected through crowdsourcing. Irrespective of how the potential messaging platforms are sourced, clever companies make certain to validate their messaging ideas through testing before implementing a full-scale creative campaign. Moreover, the latest academic research also suggests that testing multiple communication ideas is the right way to go.

Value Lever No. 3: Marketing Vehicles

Next, a company needs to make a series of decisions about which kinds of marketing vehicles are the most compelling and effective in delivering against the strategy, messaging objectives, and desired return on investment/objective (ROI/ROO). This implies the set of instruments must be derived directly from the marketing and communication objectives (see value lever no. 1) and not simply based on the mix of vehicles from the previous year, which unfortunately is often the case.

Vehicle choices, when made effectively, should enable your messages to reach and connect with your strategic target audience in a timely, relevant, cost-effective and increasingly, multi-platform way. To do this effectively, you must understand how your target customers interact with media—i.e. where they interact with media and their openness to receive messages in that setting. Additionally, the costs and benefits of the vehicles must be considered.

Making the wrong choices here can torpedo your entire effort to achieve more accountable marketing. It is no small challenge. There is a risk of failure when the vehicles are mismatched with marketing goals or target groups. Another pitfall is not having the necessary resources to effectively execute the right mix of vehicles, which can be summarized by the keyword “under-spending,” i.e., not achieving the efficient zone.

Finally, you must ensure that all vehicles are well integrated, so they appear as a seamless and integrated campaign to your customers. The most important factor here is customer perception—ongoing and consistent communication of the messages massively increases the impact of your advertising and is a critical element of efficient and effective communication.

Value Lever No. 4: Investment Levels

This lever operates in two dimensions—the appropriate investment in marketing activities relative to the overall income statement, and the appropriate level of investment in any given marketing vehicle relative to its intended ROI/ROO and relative to other investment alternatives.

With this value lever, we are trying to diagnose whether the overall marketing investment is too high or too low relative to the ROI/ROO of the proposed marketing activities and the strategic objectives. Defining the exact boundaries of investment is difficult, as there are few solid empirical foundations that would back those boundaries up. An incremental approach is promising: Starting with the current investment level (overall and for a specific vehicle) you can investigate whether an additional investment unit would over-proportionally increase the benefit or whether a reduction of one investment unit would have an under-proportional impact on the ROI/ROO. As a result, you will have a better understanding of how much lift significant increases or decreases in your overall investment levels might provide to the business.

Investment planning and ROI/ROO calculations are always based on assumptions. These assumptions can change quickly. Everything—from target group behavior to competitive activity—can have short-term effects on the ROI. A solid, assumption-based plan is essential, as it makes objective evaluation of results possible over time. It helps to consistently build a pool of KPIs that help plan and evaluate future investments even more accurately.

Value Lever No. 5: In-Market Execution

Even if your company excels with the first four value levers, your overall marketing investment performance can still be adversely impacted by poor implementation. Great content only achieves maximum impact in the market if it is successfully implemented.

“Simplicity, understandability, and transparency of marketing efficiency tools must be woven into daily business routines.”

Planning of this value lever requires key decisions to be made in terms of creative implementation as well as media mix. In both cases, crystal clear briefing is the critical success factor—too often errors are made at this stage. Both the creative and media agencies must have a deep understanding of the strategy, target group, messages, and vehicle mix and align the implementation strategy accordingly. Including a performance bonus in the contract is a very effective instrument to ensure the agency partners make this alignment a top priority. This bonus-malus (Latin for good-bad) system should be based on how well the campaign meets the marketing objectives (for example, increase of specific image attributes, advertising recall). It is most important to ensure that these objectives are highly dependent upon the implementation in order for the agency to have a real influence on outcomes.

Value Lever No. 6: Fixed Cost Management

To fully realize the benefits of a marketing accountability program, a company needs to focus on continuously improving cost efficiency. Better management of fixed costs is crucial. A company needs to focus on all of the costs that go into producing the various marketing programs that your company may employ, such as external agency costs and production costs. The types of fixed costs depend upon the mix of marketing programs. These costs are estimated to amount 20 to 60 percent and are therefore a considerable lever for cost optimization.

The value lever “Fixed Cost Management” demands pragmatic thinking from purchasing or procurement managers. The first step is to develop an understanding of the ratio of “working” and “non-working” spend and to consistently implement strategic sourcing principles. These include, for example, streamlining suppliers and agencies, continuous negotiations of prices, and reengineering overall processes.

How to Successfully “Operate” the Value Levers

There are strong interactions across the six value levers; they do not work independently. An extraordinary marketing program can fail simply because the wrong set of vehicles is applied, or the wrong level of investment is chosen. Evaluating just one lever incorrectly is enough to cause the marketing budget to be misallocated. As a result, a company needs to continuously identify and prioritize those levers, which will best help the company meet its objectives.

Based on experience, a set of principles that significantly increases the success of marketing accountability programs across all value levers can be identified. These are summarized in six critical success factors (see exhibit 2).

Critical Success Factors

Success Factor No. 1: Art & Science

Successful marketing accountability programs employ a combination of both extraordinary quantitative processes and tools and out-of-the-box qualitative concepts. The best mathematical marketing mix models are worthless if they optimize the vehicles without considering the right content. The six value levers show that they can only be fully implemented if a balanced combination of art and science is applied.

Success Factor No. 2: Company-Specific Solutions

Standardized one-size-fits-all efficiency approaches and projects often fail, since they cannot fully consider company-specific context and the most important levers. Additionally, these tools are often highly complicated, resulting in a negative attitude among the intended users of the models. Simplicity, understandability, and transparency of marketing efficiency tools must be woven into daily business routines. Ongoing, long-term success is only achieved when the tools are consistently applied by the relevant employees in the marketing department. As a result, marketing accountability initiatives need to be analyzed, designed, and activated in a way that is relevant to each company.

Success Factor No. 3: Just Do It!

Often, marketing accountability approaches are planned over a long time period before they are applied. Expectations are too high and companies try to engineer relationships between marketing investments and results that are either difficult or impossible to prove. This vision of a 100 percent solution will sooner or later result in a standstill of the marketing accountability initiative. Simple and effective measurement and planning tools build a pragmatic and motivating starting point. Marketing efficiency can start small and then be extended and more sophisticated over time.

Success Factor No. 4: Focus (80/20 Rule) 

The 80/20 rule also holds true in the area of marketing efficiency. Often 20 percent of the value levers can impact 80 percent of the optimization. Therefore, successful marketing efficiency approaches focus on the central levers and activity areas. It can be worthwhile to carefully assess the potential of the individual levers during the analysis phase. This holds true for the analysis in the context of a comprehensive marketing accountability project, as well as for the annual or quarterly evaluation of marketing and communication focus areas.

The 80/20 rule also applies, in particular, to the measurement of effectiveness and efficiency and reporting efforts. In many cases, an extensive list of seemingly random KPIs is measured and documented with an emphasis on breadth rather than the most critical measures. This dilutes the focus and jeopardizes continuous learning and improvement. The success of a marketing vehicle should be based on its ability to achieve its primary objective. For example, if the primary objective of a sampling program is to increase the trial rate of a product, the success of the program needs to be measured against this objective e.g. Cost per Trial (efficiency) or Trial Rate (effectiveness). All other KPIs are secondary.

Success Factor No. 5: Objective-Oriented Approach (ROO)

In many cases, marketing accountability approaches fail because they cannot fully explain financial interdependencies, e.g. the effect an advertising campaign has on total revenues. This is where the basic problem of established ROI concepts lies—the impact of marketing investment on financial results takes too long or is disconnected and depends on many additional determining factors. Therefore, successful approaches combine the ROI perspective with return on objective (ROO, often referred to as ROPI [Return on Program] or ROMI [Return on Marketing Investment]) KPIs. These KPIs address shorter impact periods (e.g. the ability of a campaign to increase specific brand attributes or advertising recall) and therefore are more transparent and motivating, allowing more effective control of the marketing programs.

Success Factor No. 6: Activation Within the Marketing Organization

Only when the marketing accountability approaches are activated within the marketing organization with pragmatic, transparent tools and when the process and tools become part of a commonly shared marketing accountability language, do the marketing accountability approaches realize their full effect. Sustainable marketing efficiency is not created with an annual complex excel spreadsheet—sustainable marketing efficiency happens every day, influencing the planning process of a brand manager, a procurement manager’s negotiation, or at a briefing with a creative agency.


Enhanced marketing effectiveness and efficiency is an attainable objective. If a marketing organization is focused on the six value levers and considers the six critical success factors, it can prove its value to the business as a whole as the creative, yet the rational source of future growth.


Strategic Market Management



Developing and implementing strategies today is very different than only a few decades ago; nearly all firms today operate in dynamic markets. Completely revised and updated, Aaker’s best-selling book, “Strategic Market Management,” helps managers identify, implement, prioritize, and adapt market-driven business strategies that will enjoy sustainable advantage in dynamic markets that are increasingly complex and cluttered. The intent is to provide decision makers with concepts, methods, and procedures by which they can improve the quality of their strategic decision making and developing growth strategies.

“Strategic Market Management” is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or wherever books are sold.


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About the Author

David Aaker, is the author of over one hundred articles and 18 books on marketing, business strategy and branding that have sold over one million copies. A recognized authority on branding, he has developed concepts and methods on brand building that are used by organizations around the world.


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