Why are big brands still searching out successful digital strategies?

Why are big brands still searching out successful digital strategies?

Some big brands are still looking for the best way forward in the transition to digital and are facing a variety of challenges along the way, including internal issues, the need for more dynamic media approaches and the pressure to stay up-to-date in a quickly evolving space.

Digital marketing has been an adjustment for all companies, but, in a way, it has improved the efforts of small- and medium-sized business more than larger brands and enterprises because it has evened out the playing the field. Brands like Coca-Cola, P&G and Mondelez are pouring major resources into digital marketing, but recent changes to their approaches such as big hires, reconfigured departments and budget shifts suggest that finding a strategy they can commit to remains elusive. 

One impediment is the internal hurdles big brands face when trying to implement new marketing tactics, particularly as fresh developments continue to burst on the scene — such as Snapchat’s ascendency this past year — making it difficult to determine where the most value and ROI might be found.

“They struggle to get digital marketing because of the different channels there are to choose from and the resource it takes to implement it effectively,” Mark Russell, marketing consultant at bmicro, told Marketing Dive. “Digital marketing thrives off the ability to act fast — just look at trending hashtags on Twitter and newsjacking the media.”

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With digital marketing, smaller and mid-size brands are better able to compete, meaning big brands aren't going to win simply by throwing around more money to get noticed. Where traditional channels such as linear TV spots and national print campaigns require budgets that only the largest brands could bring to the table, digital channels offer a wide variety of price points for advertising as well as opportunities to reach an audience via more organic outreach. And technology allows SMB marketers access to tools that automate huge email campaigns as well as many high-level marketing functions such as data analytics for personalization and targeting.

While big brands have been active in digital marketing for years, a recent flurry of dustups to their marketing strategy suggest they are still struggling to the meet the challenge. Coke recently hired its first chief digital marketing officer to optimize its digital efforts and not just put ads on social media. Coca-Cola CMO Marcos de Quinto also recently said that TV advertising has a better ROI than digital, and added that the company is trying to transform into a digital company.

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Last fall, P&G revamped its Facebook advertising approach to reduce its targeted advertising on the platform in favor of a broader brush to promote its consumer products. The company has also reduced the number of agencies it works with by 50% as it looks to be more efficient. 

Also last fall, Mondelez shifted strategy when it created separate heads for e-commerce and for media and digital, responsibilities that had previously been combined under one executive. The move points to the growing importance the company is putting on e-commerce. 

Soon after putting its digital agency under review, Pepsico moved its social media in-houseand started allowing third parties to bid on other digital marketing activities.

One reason big brands may be struggling is that their marketing teams and infrastructure were built to support traditional media buys, but digital advertising requires a wholly different strategy.

The issue is traditional tactics attract a passive consumer sitting in front of TV or reading a newspaper, but digital marketing puts the customer in charge of searching for relevant information, always ready to filter or click away from content that isn’t relevant.

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"Not only is digital a different medium, it’s a different audience that has new expectations when it comes to advertising," said Annalea Krebs, founder of influencer marketing company, Social Nature.

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