Guess who has the remote control

Updated: Feb 2 2006, 05:30am hrs
Need for accountability of marketing investments comes at a time when the nature of markets and consumers is going through chaotic changes and a media mayhem caused by an irrational proliferation of traditional and new media vehicles.

With new age of consumer control dawning, the challenge for brands will be to align human desires to business objectives. Delivering more bang for every buck.

While many modeling techniques, research meth-odologies have been suggested to evaluate return on marketing investment (ROMI), they can at best be described as post facto analysis. The magic mantra for planning, controlling and delivering return on marketing investments has so far been elusive.

Consumer controlwhich is the single most significant factor responsible for the blood bath in boardroomsperhaps, provides the solution. The remote control he holds in his drawing room not only decides TRPs but also the ROMI. Much has been said about creating compelling content, but how can it ensure sustained interaction with your brand Especially when we have over 100- plus TV channels and multiple market segments.

A movie, however good it might be, cannot be declared a universal hit across India. Either it works in the multiplexes or in B towns or in C towns. Therefore, how can one media burst deliver better sales or even better ad recall While marketers seek consumers and, therefore, broadcast messages to the multitudes, the transmission loss, ensures that they are not there at the right time and at the right place to become part of the consumers consideration set. The fact is consumers seek services and search out those provi-ders. For example, more and more consumers are resorting to an internet searchbe it for buying a car, a house,or indeed for a marriage partner, a job, or for general information.

The challenge for marketers is to ensure that they are present right up there when the consumer is looking for something that they can provide. Using search engines such as Google, MSN and Yahoo!, agencies are delivering performance-based models. The marketer can choose to pay only for the traffic generated, the leads generated or for actual sales. This is a revolutionary trend. Marketers need not always spend more money to attain the same level of business activity (volumes) every year. Similarly, better ROI can be achieved by integrating and controlling various advertising activitiesas in the case of McDonalds in the US (the Lincoln Fry campaign). It was based on the auction of a French fry that looked like Abraham Lincoln. Blogs, internet search sites, TV etc were flooded with news on the discovery of the Lincoln Fry and subsequently an auction for the same. The result: footfalls and sales of McDonalds increased and the Fry got sold for $75,000-plus.

Gone are the days when the product or the service was the central point. Now it is the consumer. Product, price, promotion and packaging alone will not deliver better sales. Affordability (perceived), awareness and aspira-tions are the pillars of new age marketing.

Interactive marketing gives benefits of reach, frequency, targeting, experience, impact, volumes and profitability without compromising or over-emphasising on any one of them. Financial service firms in India led by Citibank, have pioneered the use of the internet for customer acquisition. What started off as a one-off exercise at the infancy of the internet era is now occupying a significant part of the companys overall marketing spend.

What is even more significant is the learnings from media spend to ROI (in the form of custo-mer acquisitions and leads). The cost per lead and the results are used for planning next years targets and spends.

So what is the optimal media mix to achieve marketing goals Consumer lifecycle value and measuring average revenue per consumer will be the key in developing a model for predicting the return on marketing investment. The remote for better ROMI is controlled by the consumer. The ability to finetune the marketing funnel innovatively, and focusing on the ever- changing consumer cho-ice sets and behavioural patterns will determine the success of marketing programmes.

The author is country head, Tribal DDB India