Not long ago, advertising used to happen across a small number of very distinct and well-understood channels. Today, there are a multitude of digital marketing channels, ad formats and platforms, with ever-changing mar-tech and ad-tech evolving with them. The resulting impact on how customers experience and perceive a brand through this fractured landscape is something most marketers, and agencies for that matter, haven’t thought much about.
Focusing on performance across channels and ad formats while ignoring UX and brand consistency can lead to poor brand recognition and even negative brand association, which can eventually impact long-term performance and growth. This issue is especially pronounced in small-to-mid-sized startups that put performance and growth before brand development.
Side effects of channel-specific optimization
At 3Q Digital, we have become masters of performance marketing across multiple specialized channels, and we’ve become experts at designing for each ad format and content type within these channels – static ads for GSP and GDN; dynamic banners, animated HTML5 and rich media formats for display; Facebook canvas, carousel, and video ad formats; promoted pins on Pinterest; sponsored stories for Instagram – each ad optimized for performance within the ad format and channel. We also have become masters at leveraging customer data to inform our creative – data that allows us to customize and personalize messaging and design across hyper-targeted audience segments, optimizing performance within segments across media channels and ad formats.
However, there’s a potential side effect of channel-specific optimization and of the customization/personalization of this creative: fracturing of a brand’s message and dilution of its brand voice across all of these media channels, ad formats, and content types. Along with optimization by channel and ad format, and the customization of creative and content by audience segment, there is greater need for attention paid to how brands maintain a consistent user experience (UX) across channels, and a unified brand voice. Customers have come to expect consistency in how they interact with brands, and the success of performance marketing now rests not only in how well we do in each channel, but how consistently our creative is crafted across channels to maintain a unified customer experience.
With thousands of brands now competing for our attention in an ever-more crowded and noise-filled digital marketing environment, attention must be paid to how (and how well) an undiluted and unified brand voice is carried through to communicate value with the same degree of integrity across channels, platforms, and devices.
Rapid growth and the problem with multiple agencies
Rapid growth is the best “problem” a company can hope for. Rapid growth means increased marketing and ad budgets, the need to hire agencies to manage each media channel, and the need to develop creative to run across all of those channels and ad formats. The agency landscape today is littered with thousands of boutique agencies that specialize in a channel or even a particular ad format. The problem that arises along with this kind of specialization, however, is the potential for discrepancies across the creative that gets developed by each agency, which leads to inconsistent customer-facing UX design. Having multiple agencies manage and develop your creative can also result in the mis-use of brand guidelines, leading to the dilution of your brand voice, and negative, inharmonious perceptions of your brand.
Who’s minding the brand?
So who’s minding the brand – where should this brand governance reside? Whose role is it to ensure a brand has that consistent UX and strong unified brand voice across channels, ad formats, and device types? Most in-house marketing teams have a ‘director of digital’ or a similar role that oversees various online (and offline) channels. But those roles tend to focus on channel performance and growth, not so much UX and brand voice. Larger organizations have ‘brand managers’ who oversee branding and enforce brand guidelines. These roles do ensure that all creative adheres to brand guidelines and standards, but they only review and approve individual pieces of creative. They don’t have a full bird’s-eye view of the brand’s ad creative or digital content landscape across the total paid-earned-and owned media realms. Nor should they.
Find the right creative team
So who, then, can play this critical role of establishing, monitoring, guiding, and maintaining a consistent UX and unified brand voice across all of your media channels and digital content? Ideally, this role needs to fall on a creative team that has the following unique qualities: creative talent that excels in the design and development of cross-channel ad creative, landing pages, website and other owned content; know-how to test and optimize creative across search, social, mobile, display, video and other channels; experience designing, developing, maintaining, and optimizing all types of landing pages, user flows, and other customer-facing UX design environments; senior UX and visual design talent that has experience in brand advertising, that knows how to follow brand guidelines, and that understands the importance of maintaining unified brand voice and brand personality across the creative landscape; understanding of performance marketing; and a spot within the organization that manages all cross-channel performance media spend, optimization and reporting.
Know any creative teams like that?