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Brand safety a major concern, companies must be more careful about ad platforms they choose, says Chris Higgins of Netcore Cloud

In a conversation with, Chris Higgins, Senior VP, Marketing, at Netcore Cloud, a leading marketing automation and customer engagement platform, explains how brands can reap maximum benefits out of limited spends while ensuring zero spillage

Chris Higgins

Brands need to think carefully about where their ads are being delivered, and who they choose as partners, said Chris Higgins, Senior Vice-President, Marketing, at Netcore Cloud. 

With brand safety becoming a major concern for most advertisers on the digital medium, especially amid the pandemic, Higgins said brand safety requires work from both brands and the digital space.

“Many brands use programmatic platforms that aim to target individuals, without considering the context of where the ad might end up. Several brands also tend to become insensitive or opportunistic while trying to create campaigns in response to breaking news leading to a downfall. This may not be useful,” said Higgins. 

Netcore Cloud is a leading artificial intelligence and machine learning powered marketing automation and customer-engagement platform. 

For years, brands have been struggling towards developing a deeper understanding of their customers and keeping up with the ever-evolving changes in consumer behaviour. Adding to this, the pandemic has created a drastic shift in buying trends.

Talking to about how brands can realise maximum return from their ad spend, he said publishers also need to give more control to advertisers on the context of their ad spots, such as surrounding topics. 

Netcore Cloud currently works with 5000+ B2C brands in India, Asia, the US, EU and MENA. It tracks over 100 billion consumer behavioural events every month to enrich its partner-base to make intelligent and informed decisions on optimising marketing efforts.

The pandemic has fuelled the move to digital with traditional brands looking at e-commerce to recover from shop closures. Brands are looking at direct-to-consumer initiatives to build their relationship with customers. Brands that relied heavily on OOH or BTL promotions now have to switch to digital advertising to survive. 

This increase in investments also comes with a pain point of its own as marketers often complain about the leakage of spends on digital mediums.

Asked how brands can avoid this, Higgins said, digital is a channel, like any other. It is only cost-effective for certain products and audience groups. Even Amazon and Flipkart run TV and newspaper ads for a scale and audience range that is hard to match on digital. The basics of advertising are always the same—you present the right message to the right audience at the right time to trigger a response.

“Just showing a digital ad doesn’t guarantee a result, the same as how you don’t take action after most TV ads that you see. Spillage can be caused on account of an incomplete understanding of one’s target audience and media habits. It could also result on account of entrusting a media channel that has been exaggerating its ability to target an audience, which it is incapable of,” he said. 

Going by this, he said that clearly defining one’s audience is the first step towards ensuring that the communication efforts are venturing in the right direction. Based on this understanding, the brand then needs to carefully identify and hire communication experts who are well-equipped to cater to this audience. Doing so will allow the brand to personalise its communication effectively, ensuring more relevance and spillage reduction over a while.

He deep-dived into why personalisation is essential to narrow down the targeting of customers and how it goes way beyond just addressing the customer by his/her name.

He said, “Personalisation truly is about understanding your customer so that you can delight them. It helps to identify the right message, at the right time, to the right user and using the right channel. This empowers a brand to create a unique experience for every user associated with him.”

Today many brands struggle with personalisation because it sits at an intersection of marketing, product, technology and revenue, all of whom can have different opinions. To gain the benefit of personalisation, the project needs a senior sponsor who can ensure completion by making it a company priority, he said.

Consumer psychographics is another way for brands to better understand their TG. It helps brands to understand the ‘why’ behind the purchase.

Although as important as this is, Higgins believes today many partner agencies don’t have access to the data required to generate this understanding and so are unsuccessful in providing value to brands. 

He explained, “This could be on account of several reasons — either the brand could be resistant to divulge core customer information, or the brand itself may not possess the data required. Another shortcoming here is that although sales teams tend to have a more innate understanding of customer psychographics, agencies are hired by the marketing team. The best solution to this is better integration among teams. Brands should be creating a shared, rich understanding of their customers that goes beyond basic demographics, and using this to empower all messaging and campaigns.”

To make the best out of consumer understanding, brands are often advised to efficiently leverage data and automation. The same helps brands with identifying new, potential markets. However, there are some categories of brands that shy away from investing in it.

Higgins said large e-commerce sites have generally done well at managing and leveraging data, a great example is Amazon’s move into house brands and products. While department stores have always followed this approach, Amazon, with the use of real-time data, will be better resourced to work faster and in more niches.

Cloud kitchens are leveraging data to reach new markets while helping existing restaurants succeed on food ordering apps. Furthermore, ride-hailing apps have used their rich pool of data to venture into delivery services. Adding to this, there are several newly emerging fintech products that are successfully reaching new markets through an understanding of the audience and digital behaviour.

In the past year, there has been a rise of direct-to-consumer channels, especially among small entrepreneurs. Many traditional business set-ups were quick to embrace the digital model to thrive.

Explaining this shift, Higgins said while brands with deeper pockets can stay afloat using advertising to generate demand through recessions, smaller brands with limited budgets need to be more agile and develop a secure channel for deeper engagements with customers.

“Going forward, brands would need to continue to introspect and evaluate whether they require to re-shape different aspects of their business to stay relevant. This could be anything right from the positioning of the product or the distribution channel to alternative use-cases or the product itself; staying agile will be key to staying resilient to the impact of the pandemic in the days to come.”

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