Sapna Nair

The 12 month marketing plan is passé: Melanie Varley, CSO, MEC Global

Varley, in a presentation, emphasised the importance of growing forms of media and rethinking communication solutions implemented by thoughtful analysis

Gone are the days of online, offline, above the line and below-the-line advertising. It's time, said Melanie Varley, chief strategy officer, MEC Global, to embrace a new blueprint for communicating with the consumer that is thoughtful and efficient.

Technology, data and digitally aware and enabled consumers have changed the game. MEC Worldwide has devised a guide that helps brands build deeper, richer and long term profitable relationships with the consumers. The agency has devised new ways to achieve this.

The 12 month marketing plan is passé: Melanie Varley, CSO, MEC Global
Integrated communication, a widely used marketing term, is a key tool in this proliferated communication business. Balancing the communication message across all media is essential to this concept. Instead of weighing traditional media against digital media, one must look at a combination of paid, owned and earned media. Paid media is conventional television, radio or any other medium; owned media could be an event, website or application; and earned media is a positive feedback or review.

While the norm is to channel maximum monies into paid media, Varley said that advertisers and media planners must wake up to the new choices of consumers. "Think about how the consumer uses or consumes media. They have shifted their attention towards earned and owned channels. Hence we must understand what drives effectiveness across the new media spectrum," she stated.

The digital invasion has enabled consumers to use the Internet to aid them to make a decision on any purchase - whether it's a mobile phone or a car. Marketers can thus get closer to consumer decisions by creating a context that will have a positive impact on their decision making. To exemplify how widespread social media is, she said, "If Facebook was a place it would have been the fourth largest in the world."

A more organic manner of buying and planning is emerging, which is different from the traditional method and requires the development of a range of activities to engage a consumer, with resources being continuously reallocated to the most effective ideas during a campaign, based on consumer responses. This requires flexible scheduling and budgeting and failure cannot be ruled out.

A 12 month marketing plan made out of fixed budgets must give way to a communication strategy that is more receptive to consumer response and market developments, Varley stated. '3-3-3' time frame is MEC's alternative to the annual plan, which stands for three minutes, three months and three years, representing short, medium and long term goals for judging success.

Consumers the world over have rapidly become familiar with blogs, social media sites, widgets, gaming and other alternate forms of communication. India, too, is going in that direction. These provide marketers good content opportunities. The three screen convergence is not an alien concept today. "In Japan, mobisodes often get viewers onto the television channels," Varley said.

A certain organisational agility is required to latch on to the changing media landscape. Organisations, Varley said, must acknowledge that consumers, with one hand on the reins, need to be engaged as the value of earned media increases and develop new behaviours, structures and approaches to strengthen active engagement between consumers and brands.

In many developed countries such as the UK, advertising spends on digital media has exceeded that on television. For example, in 2009, spends on digital in the UK was 29 per cent while that on TV was 28 per cent. In the US, spends on both are almost at par. While India's digital spends, at 4 per cent, cannot be compared to these, Varley believes that with the increase in broadband penetration and the advent of TV, this figure could double in the next two-three years.

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