Publish or perish, McKinsey tells retail brands

One of McKinsey & Co’s top marketing experts has issued a stark warning to retail brands: “Publish or perish“.

David C Edelman, lists four approaches brands are taking in a post for Harvard Business Review headed “Who’s Your Brand’s Editor in Chief?”:

  1. Mass: Act like a broadcast brand, creating lots of content on a broad topic.
  2. Problem solver: The “how to”, utility-based approach.
  3. Social engager: A big emphasis on customer stories (take a look at Mat Morrison’s analysis of ASOS’s Facebook page for an example of this).
  4. Personal concierge

Although he’s not explicit about what the “perish” risk is in the blog post, brand managers from all sectors should take a look at David’s more detailed article Branding in the Digital Age, which HBR published this time last year.

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Image: HBR 2010, The Consumer Decision Journey

The article has been brandished by marketers aiming for radical change at more than one brand we’ve worked with this year – and we’ve been big proponents of it too. It is based around a model called the Consumer Decision Journey, which looks at the touchpoints between brand and consumer up to purchase and beyond.

McKinsey’s analysis shows that most brands massively over-invest (up to 95% of total spend) on the “awareness” stage of the decision process, trying stamp recall and emotional affinity upon the consumer via paid media. Not only does this neglect the importance of other touch-points, i.e. owned media (the brand’s own sites) and earned (natural search, social media etc.)

In the article, David C Edelman also  lays out new roles for the CMO, including that of managing the “content supply chain”. Although this sounds less glamorous than “brand editor in chief” the analogy is a powerful one: if brands are to really move to earned media, publishing models for their marketing, then systems and ways working will need to be developed.

The current state of digital marketing in some brands might be thought of as a digital media and creative procurement. A publishing, earned and owned media model will require more care, technical systems and processes in the commissioning, creating and ongoing of content.

The shift to brands as publishers will take more than some interesting campaigns and setting up blogs and social media profiles: it will require organisational change, a re-tooling and re-skilling of marketing teams.