This week’s top story comes straight from a recent gathering of the world’s biggest marketing leaders.
Unilever CMO Keith Weed gave a compelling address for why marketers need to be working more with the big marketing platforms like Google and Facebook to create a better experience for consumers. He said, “This is the right thing to do, to start putting consumer experience back at the core of these platforms”.
It was a little surprising to hear Weed being so charitable with Google and Facebook. For the last two years, CMOs like him and Proctor and Gamble head of marketing, Marc Pritchard have been pointing to issues like brand safety, transparency, and measurability as some of the reasons why the digital advertising duopoly is failing the marketing industry as a whole.
It’s gotten to the point now where Pritchard is even saying the future won’t even contain ads, and, as we covered in our episode about the Buzzfeed layoffs, industry analysts like Ben Thompson recommend avoiding the “Aggregators” of Google and Facebook as much as possible.
But for as much panic as there is about Google and Facebook as marketing channels, have we marketers stopped to consider that channels might not be the problem here and that maybe there's something deeper going on here that we should be looking at?
That bring us to this week topic.
First, let's start off with an important distinction. When advertisers talk about Facebook and Google, they're usually talking specifically about Facebook ads and Google ads.
Why do I bring that up? Because the issues marketing leaders have been complaining about have been less about channels and almost entirely about the paid mediums of Facebook and Google.
There are plenty of other mediums to put your marketing dollars into including building social communities, investing in search engine optimization, or building out robust email marketing strategies.
And yet, when asked how they’re going to solve advertising problems, even the smartest minds our there can’t seem to think outside the Nielsen box when it comes to where else they could be their money.
If you’re like Weed and Pritchard and are mad at Google and Facebook for being bad ad partner, let me make an argument for taking some of that money out of advertising and putting more of it into building your brands through organic efforts.
Let’s say you had $50,000 to invest in any marketing channel. Where would you put it in order to put the money to the best use?
If you’re like most marketers, you’d put into paid media of some sort because it is usually the channel with the most predictability. Provided you have good creative and targeted your audience well enough, you can predict that the money you spend on ads will produce some sort of positive ROI for the company in the form of leads, sales, or whatever it is that constitutes success.
On the other hand, you could put that $50k into content that helps your brand increase recognition and salience in the minds of consumers.
Take for example, Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. This 10 chapter free guide on how to learn search engine optimization has ranked #1 for “SEO 101” and related terms for more than a decade and has likely been a touch-point on the purchase path for at least half of their customers.
And yet, we rarely choose to spend the $50k on moonshot content because it never pays off on a short enough horizon.
Most organic content takes time to rise through the search engine ranks, so their return on investment is never as good as paid media in the first time period. In fact, it’s not uncommon for companies to scale back or quit spending on content marketing altogether when they don’t see the immediate payoff.
But provided that you’re creating content that consumers love and is on brand, these assets start to appreciate over time to the point where something magical happens.
Usually in the second or third time period, the dividends from the first time period start to kick in. At that point, ROI begins to climb more and more each quarter because of the annuities from prior periods.
When this happens, you’re not just publishing content anymore. You’re actually building a brand because every time someone searches for something in your category, you’re there. And you didn’t even have to pay for it at that point.
Meanwhile, paid media ROI remains relatively constant plus or minus whatever shenanigans the platforms throw at you for the quarter. It’s no wonder that marketers who can’t think beyond advertising are mad at Google and Facebook.
So if you’re at your wit’s end about advertising but can’t seem to convince your company to invest more in earned, shared, and owned media, next time put together a plan that shows ROI on a longer timeline.
What do you think? What have been your biggest challenges with the advertising platforms and what are you doing about it? How does paid media perform as a channel vs. your organic efforts?