Marketing Code: Why Agencies Need to Learn Software Development

Marketing Code: Why Agencies Need to Learn Software Development

The world’s fixation with technology isn’t new.

CES is has grown so big people need Segways to get to their keynotes, Intel has posted the highest revenue in it’s 42 year history and according to Gartner worldwide IT spending will be $2.5 trillion in 2011.  This is a number which is more than 3 times worldwide advertising spending.

What is new is that after years of curiously watching their IT colleagues wrestle with ERP supply chain systems, marketers are being dragged in.

Amends on a set of rich media ads aren’t covered in e-mail, they are managed through an extranet bug tracker.  The campaign planning to redesign a brand site starts with a workshop to agree use cases.  Under half way into a six-month project to launch a set of in-store displays we learn a three day delay on approving the concept will shift the launch date three days.

This is the world of systems integration and you only need to consider a few of the activities that make up marketing today to see why we marketers really need to learn software development.

Online Advertising

We know online spend has increased past 10% of worldwide media spend.  For some of our clients it is 80%.  We also know churning out thousands of basic animated gif banners doesn’t have the impact we need so we start looking to increase relevance by using dynamic banners.

Computers can manage thousands of message combinations and present them based on all kinds of attributes -– if you program them.  When you decide it would be useful to target them based on the recent purchase data in your transaction system?  You have a software project.

As Eric Wheeler, former head of OgilvyInteractive in North America and current CEO of 33 Across says, “Agencies need teams that are rooted in technology, data and have a ruthless commitment to increasing return for their clients.  This requires great campaigns and custom tools to manage them.”

Brand Sites

We all know that when our customers have a question they go online.   Apple has taught us that design and functionality are crucial to building market share and advocacy.   The basic brochureware sites originally launched ten years ago didn’t require much application development, but they also didn’t really engage people.

A product selector like Ford’s car configurator can allow customers to spend more then 20 minutes studying your product, and quickly becomes the most important touchpoint in the purchase process.

At times brands let sales teams create their brochures — and it shows.  Would you let your network support engineer have a try?

If we want to manage these projects, we need to bring technologists into our teams.  We need to understand how great applications are built, how to manage development pipelines based on analytics and perhaps most importantly how systems integrators avoid the software runaways that can cripple a business.

Downloadable Apps

There have been 10 billion applications downloaded from the Apple App Store.  Among them are over 6 million downloads of the Zippo Lighter simulator, 4 million of Kraft iFood and 3 million of the Audi A4 Drivers Challenge.  All of these applications are driven by marketing objectives.

While the App Store has been a clear success, it is limited to Apple iOS platform.   The marketers behind them now need to decide if their apps are going to be ported to Android, Blackberry, Symbian and Palm, while considering what their next release is and how to manage branching their code base.

Given the popularity downloadable apps, it isn’t surprising the business model has been replicated.  At the end of 2010 Samsung reported it’s TV App Store has had over 2 million apps downloaded to its smart TVs.  The Verizon Fios Widget Bazaar launched in July 2009 and Sony has Bravia applications for both its TVs and Blu-ray players.

And if you believe our TVs will become “smart tv” by taking a browser-centric model?  Firefox’s Add-Ons library has over 2 billion downloads and Google has launched the Chrome Web Store.

Product Differentiation

With so many people using laptops, smartphones, tablets and interactive kiosks daily, it isn’t a surprise product teams are looking to use technology for product differentiation.

Nike ID was a product configurator that added fulfillment more then ten years ago.  The Domino’s Pizza Tracker is a customer service tool that drove a brand campaign.

As marketers we can cede this software development to the technical teams and sit back until called in to communicate the product launch, but that is also ceding our control of the brand.

Companies like Hewlett-Packard have a reputation for being driven by their engineering teams, but today more and more companies are being defined by their software over all else.  As Stefan Pepe, General Manager at Gilt Group and former Director at Amazon said, “the retail part of my job is a far second to getting functionality that really works for our customers live on our websites.”

The reality is this is only a short list of how technology and software development are encroaching on the traditional marketing function.   We all need to understand our computers as well as we understand our customers because to put it most simply, they aren’t putting microchips in less places and microchips run on code.

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