How to create digital marketing strategy for consumer goods

Recently, I was a member of a team of subject matter experts who taught a bespoke (customized) digital marketing training program for marketers at a Fortune 500 company in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industries. And I can say without violating my non-disclosure agreement that many marketers in these sectors want to learn how to create a digital marketing strategy for consumer goods, but they often need to learn digital marketing tactics as well.

Digital marketing strategy and tactics

However, learning digital marketing tactics takes time. For example, the online version of the Mini-MBA program in Digital Marketing offered by Rutgers Business School Executive Education is 12 weeks long. Even the accelerated version of the program, which is held in New Brunswick, NJ, takes one week – from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. – to complete. I know because I’ve been an instructor since 2010.

And according to OMCP, an industry association that maintains the competency and exam standards for Digital Marketing Certification, digital marketers need 5,000 hours (2.5 years) of experience OR a post-secondary degree plus 2,000 hours (1 year) of experience OR completion of an approved digital marketing course plus 1,000 hours experience (six months) just to prepare for the OMCP exam. And the approved digital marketing course takes 64 hours to cover such disciplines as:

  • Content Marketing
  • Digital Analytics
  • Digital Advertising (including PPC)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Social Media Marketing

I know this because I’ve taught courses in all 5 of these disciplines, plus ones on Digital PR, Video Marketing, Influencer Marketing Strategy, Programmatic Advertising, Mobile Marketing, Conversion Rate Optimization, Email Marketing, andMarketing Automation. So, I can attest to the fact that it takes a lot of time to prepare for the OMCP exam.

I also know that the current exam covers generally-accepted practices. These include planning, staffing, and resources as well as tactics, but not strategy. How do I know this? Because I’m a member of OMCP’s Standards Committee and I’ve helped to write some of the OMCP exam questions. Although we use multiple-choice questions to assess knowledge of digital marketing concepts and best practices across multiple digital marketing disciplines, multiple-choice questions aren’t a great way to assess a marketer’s ability to apply what he or she has learned to create successful digital marketing strategies. Other soft skills are also critical, such as the ability to present, build cross-department buy-in, etc.

How to learn digital marketing strategy

OMCP is aware of this. In fact, the need to offer a course on Digital Marketing Strategy was the biggest takeaway from the 2019 OMCP Digital Marketing Role Delineation Survey. So, in addition to learning at least five of the top eight disciplines, digital marketing directors, vice presidents of marketing, and CMOs need something like a separate digital marketing strategy course. And they’d benefit from learning digital marketing strategy as a separate and measurable skill set.

However, this new course probably needs to include a series of optional modules. Why? Because one size does NOT fit all. So, you’d need to cover how to create a digital marketing strategy for:

  • B2B
  • Banks
  • Charities and nonprofit organizations
  • Colleges and higher education institutions
  • Consumer goods
  • Ecommerce websites
  • Events
  • Healthcare and hospitals
  • Law firms
  • Luxury brands
  • Manufacturers
  • Mobile apps
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Newspapers
  • New product launches
  • Real estate
  • Restaurants
  • Startups
  • Tourism and travel agencies

In other words, there are almost as many unique digital marketing strategies as there are pizza toppings. And marketers also need to know how to develop different digital marketing strategies for different marketing objectives, including to Increase brand awareness, generate leads, or increase sales.

Until OMCP can develop the strategy standards for digital marketing training providers and standardized testing, some education providers – including the team of subject matter experts that I worked with recently – have been using illustrative case studies to provide marketing leaders and executives with an up-close, in-depth, and detailed examination of digital marketing strategy as well as its related contextual conditions. And then we use a capstone project to assess their ability to apply what they have learned to create a successful digital marketing strategy for their own markets or brands. As you can see in the image below, I’ve used small group capstone projects in the Rutgers Mini-MBA program in Digital Marketing as qualitative instruments for assessing executive learning for years. So, they’ve passed the test of time.

How to analyze digital marketing strategies for consumer goods

Now, because we piloted this approach for a bespoke digital marketing training program, we were able to select case studies that offered relevant sets of circumstances. Why is this important? Because the typical case study may offer interesting information, but it often doesn’t teach useful lessons to marketers in different fields.

For example, the marketing team that we just worked with wanted to see case studies from other companies in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industries. This made perfect sense. So, I shared a series of success stories such as:

But, I also shared a case study entitled, “Kraft Heinz: Isn’t Anyone Going to Help That Poor Brand?” Why? Because you can often learn a lot of valuable lessons by analyzing a competitor’s failure.

Then, to assess whether the marketing team could apply what they had just learned to develop a new digital marketing strategy, we gave them a couple of weeks to complete a capstone project. Because the marketing team was located in multiple countries around the globe and worked on a variety of brands – some iconic and some niche – we told everyone they could create a digital marketing strategy for their own market or brand. This ensured that the online training course wasn’t a distraction from the day jobs. But, we gave them the option of developing a digital marketing strategy for Brix, a niche, local product from Québec, Canada. Why? Because we thought it would teach them some useful lessons.

Now, I can’t reveal what the marketers that we worked with submitted for assessment. But, I can share the digital marketing strategy that I developed for Brix, because it’s not one of their brands. Hopefully, this will help you to learn how to create a digital marketing strategy for 100% natural energy gels – even if you aren’t a marketer of a niche product from Québec.

How to develop a digital marketing strategy for consumer goods

We started where most marketers start: Determining our marketing objective. For Brix, the objective of a digital marketing strategy was to reinforce the brand mission, purpose, and value proposition. We asked marketers to be inspired by what was out there, but let their imagination run free and be creative. We asked them, “How would you uniquely position this brand online?” And we suggested that they use the 5W1H (which is shorthand for “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.”) journalistic approach to uncover all there was to know about the brand.

Since having a strong unique selling proposition (USP) is of critical importance – because it distinguishes this brand from its competitors – we asked marketers to describe the brand attributes and brand USP of Brix. Here’s my take at the assignment:

  • Brix is a niche, local product from Québec, Canada. The product is 100% pure maple syrup with a unique consistency that makes it ideal to refuel your energy naturally.
  • We should use Google Surveys to discover whether consumers in Canada think 100% natural, authentic, unprocessed, no artificial colour, or no preservatives distinguishes Brix from its competitors. The price of the survey will vary from 10¢ to $3 per completed response, depending on the number of questions (up to 10) that we ask.

Next, we asked marketers to define the target audience and their main attributes. Drawing from their understanding of Brix’s current business, they needed to identify current key target audiences and any new potential ones. This step included defining the target customers and describing their demographic profile (age, gender), psychographic profile (their interests), and their precise wants and needs as they relate to the product.

Why? Because being able to more clearly identify target customers will help pinpoint advertising (and get a higher return on investment) and better “speak the language” of prospective customers. Again, I did what I was asking marketers to do. Here are my insights on audience attributes:

  • Segmenting our target customers by their demographic profile may not be as cost-effective as segmenting them by their psychographic profile (their interests).
  • Clearly identifying runners, triathletes, cyclists, hikers, and sports enthusiasts will help us to pinpoint our advertising (and get a higher return on investment).

As for target customers, here are my recommendations:

  • According to Statistics Canada, 75.0% of Canadians speak English (24.8 million), while 23.2% of Canadians speak French (7.7 million).
  • So, if we want to “speak the language” of 98.2% of our prospective customers, then three quarters of our content and creative needs to be in English and one quarter in French.

Then, we asked marketers to map the consumer journey and key desired outcomes. We asked them to describe the typical consumer journey for the audience most likely to use Brix products and also the desired outcome at each step. This included identifying what could motivate those audiences and simplify their tasks and well as which prompts would be most likely to result in desired outcomes.

Now, I can’t share what the marketers turned in, but I can tell you what I did. I mapped out four key touchpoints in the consumer journey for Brix using the See, Think, Do, Care framework that Avinash Kaushik, the Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google, spelled out in July 2015 on his Occam’s Razor blog. Here’s the fruit of that labor:

  • See: A runner may discover Brix online through search results or on social media. With 4,000 followers, Brix has a strong presence on Facebook, but no presence at all on other social media.
  • Think: He or she may consider choosing Brix when it engages with them through relevant online content or it interrupts them at the right point as they shop. The Brix website is weaker than the brand’s social presence on Facebook.
  • Do: He or she can buy Brix through an e-commerce store, the Facebook shop feature, specialized sports boutiques, or a few generalized sports stores. The e-commerce store is a third-party service built for small businesses, which has limited features.
  • Care: An influential runner may share their favorite Brix experience with the people they know through digital channels. For example, Arianne Raby (pictured above) and Mathieu Blanchard (pictured below) are already Brix Brand Ambassadors.

Now, writing down your consumer journey and communication touchpoints takes time, thought, and tweaking. In other words, the ingredients of a successful digital marketing strategy don’t come in a box that you can just open, pour into a bowl, add water, and microwave for a couple of minutes.

After mapping the consumer journey for Brix, we asked marketers to create a digital media plan. We asked them, “How could you bring Brix digital presence to the next stage and which tactics could help them grow?”

We suggested that they use a table to provide a good digital media plan. We told them to assume there were no financial constraints, but we expected the plan would be reasonable given that Brix is a small business. And we asked them to provide a simple description of the digital media plan. They were not required to provide any media/creatives.

Before presenting my digital media plan, I added a slide from Mary Meeker’s latest Internet Trends Report. One of the biggest surprises that I saw in the report was the chart below which shows the results of a Global Web Index Survey of more than 50,000 Global Internet users aged 16-64 from March 2017 to December 2018. The chart show the percentage of global internet users who use select platforms more than once a day. As you can clearly see, YouTube is up from 22% in Q2 2017 to 27% in Q4 2018, while Instagram is up from 13% to 19% over the same period. Meanwhile, Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitch are essentially flat.

As you can see below, my digital media plan included $121,968 for Facebook video and display ads. Now, Brix doesn’t have an Instagram account now, but I recommended that the brand add one as soon as possible – based on the trends presented above. And you see programmatic and search campaigns are included in the table, but there are no ad dollars for either of these channels yet. But, I also recommended that Brix add a YouTube channel and upgrade the e-commerce store on its website as soon as possible. This would take several months to implement, but I wanted the owner to see where they fit in the digital media plan.

Next, we asked marketers to describe how success will be measured. We said, “Help the owner understand what matters by describing the key success metrics he should keep an eye on.”

Specifically, we told them to describe a minimum of three key performance indicators, which could be used to measure the success of their initiative. And, as you can see from the slide below, I used a different set of KPIs for each of the four different stages of the consumer journey to measure the success of our initiative.

Why so many KPIs? Well, you measure awareness differently than you measure engagement, conversion, and loyalty. And, as Kaushik says, “You don’t have to hold your See content and marketing initiatives hostage to an immediate conversion rate (and judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree!).” That’s why I also recommended using brand lift studies on Facebook and Instagram to understand how our ads impacted the metrics that matter, such as ad recall, brand awareness and message association.

Next, we asked marketers to describe their key recommendations for improving Brix’s digital presence. Remember, we had asked marketers to be inspired by what was out there, and we had encouraged them to let their imagination run free and be creative. That’s easy to say, but hard to do.

So, I’d also hidden the solution to this seemingly impossible challenge in plain sight. Hint: It can be found in one of the three success stories that I had shared earlier. Spoiler alert: It’s in the one entitled, “How Red Bull Quietly Changed its Video Marketing Strategy.”

Now, if you dig deeply into the Brix website, you will find a page that says:

  • Brix is the official energy gel supplier for the 2018 Canadian Army Run.
  • Bromont Ultra’s 55km course will be named the Brix 55 to honour the brand’s contribution to the event.
  • Brix is already planning to participate in 14 other events.

This sparked an idea that generated the key recommendations that I would have made to the owner of Brix:

Digital Marketing Strategy for Brix

  • Mario Plouffe, the founder of Brix, had a passion for running, so he initially promoted the benefits of Brix to hikers and runners by building walking/running trails on a mountain on his property.
  • Now it’s time to promote the benefits of Brix to active sports enthusiasts who are looking for an energy source that is easily absorbed by your body during physical activity.
  • Red Bull promotes its energy drink to extreme sports enthusiasts with action sports clips and highlights from one-of-a-kind competitions like UCI Mountain Bike World Championships and Red Bull Rampage.
  • Brix should promote its 100% natural energy source to runners, triathletes, and cyclists with action sports clips and highlights from marathons, half marathons, 5K races, triathlons, and cycling events in Canada like the 2018 Canadian Army Run and the Bromont Ultra.

Digital Content Strategy for Brix

  • From now through the end of the year, launch video and display ads on Facebook because Brix already has a strong digital presence on that platform.
  • As soon as possible, add an Instagram account and reach out to local Instagram influencers.
  • In January, add a YouTube channel and reach out to local YouTube influencers.
  • In January, upgrade the e-commerce store on the website and add a video blog (vlog).

Finally, we asked marketers to create an executive summary. We told them to complete their executive summary last, even though it will become the first thing that they would present. As the name implies, this page merely summarizes the key highlights of your marketing strategy. An executive summary will be helpful in giving other constituents of the organization (employees and advisors) an overview of your strategy. Here’s the one that I came up with:

  • Red Bull promotes its energy drink to extreme sports enthusiasts with action sports clips and highlights from one-of-a-kind competitions like UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, Red Bull Rampage, Red Bull Crashed Ice, Frozen Rush, Straight Rhythm, Soap Box Race, Flugtag, and Volcom Pipe Pro.
  • Brix should promote its 100% natural energy gels to runners, triathletes, and cyclists with action sports clips and highlights from marathons, half marathons, triathlons, and cycling events across Canada.

Now, I wouldn’t call this a digital marketing strategy template, because you can’t just search for Brix and replace it with your brand. But, I would call this a digital marketing strategy framework, because it provides marketers with aide stations along the ultramarathon route that they’re now running.

That’s why it takes time, thought, and tweaking to learn how to create a digital marketing strategy for consumer goods. I encourage you to share your comments in the Leave a Reply area below. I’ll share them with OMCP, which is developing the strategy standards for digital marketing training providers and standardized testing.

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