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Think beyond RoI: Elisa Steele, CMO Yahoo

09-May-2011
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Think beyond RoI: Elisa Steele, CMO Yahoo

How can brands use the digital medium to effectively move the needle on their profits? According to Elisa Steele, CMO Yahoo, we need to go beyond this question, and look beyond RoI to make the most out of digital, and paradoxically, get a better RoI.

Steele said, “There is a lot of data today, perhaps more than is ideal. Marketers must trust their instincts. Branding is not rational, but emotional. Take chances and be willing to change what you’re doing, because advertising is not just a science, it is also an art. The right message at the right time does not feel like a commercial, but can instead be used to initiate conversations.”

Steele, who was in India recently, also talked about why she believes that the digital marketplace will grow quickly here. She noted, “The Indian consumer, like the international consumer, is increasingly online. Marketers are taking cognizance of this fact, and are starting to move online as well.”

She added, “In India, we’re seeing technology leapfrog. More people are going online using mobile phones than PCs, and tablets are coming in fast. Marketing that worked yesterday does not work today, and that’s also making predictions difficult. Could anyone have predicted the iPad?”

However, Steele suggests that advertisers should look to create integrated marketing, which makes use of all touchpoints, instead of thinking in silos. She added, “What will work is to make your messages work in concert. Traditional marketing plays a very important role, but consumers also consume information online. Planners can’t just think digital, but must also fine tune traditional marketing to take advantage of new media.”

She added, “Marketers can only fulfill brand promise with the whole organisation coming behind them. The brand is the business, and not just the advertising. Dividing people into silos worked in the past, but that logic is outdated today.”

Talking about how brands can use digital to reach out to people effectively on multiple levels, Steele shared the example of Hippo’s Twitter campaign. She said, “The drivers today are social, local, mobile and video. We need to touch all these points and provide personally relevant information to our audience to activate conversations. There is an excellent example from India about this. The brand asked people to report on Twitter if they could not find Hippo in stock in a shop. There was 76 per cent increase in sales.”

The issue is to be able to think beyond silos and short term RoI goals. As Steele said, the ability to change one’s decisions and try new ideas quickly is one of the greatest strengths of the digital medium. With the audience now in place, brands must embrace the medium as well. The brands that are able to do this well will be able to derive great benefits from it, while others will be left behind.

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