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Does A Media Mix Mindset Limit Marcom Effectiveness?

November 25, 2009

Should media allocation strategies continue to play a preeminent role in marcom planning decisions?

To answer this question, let’s begin with an analogy:  how investors make decisions.

Investors typically hold one of two basic philosophies: top down or bottom up. Top down investors analyze the markets, determine which asset classes (stocks, bonds, commodities, etc.) offer the best risk/reward opportunities, and allocate accordingly. Once the basic allocation mix is decided, these investors will allocate further within each asset class. For example, stocks have several characteristics: growth vs. value, large vs. small, emerging vs. developed countries. And within these characteristics lie various sectors: financials, healthcare, telecommunications, etc. The resulting portfolio of investments will ideally reflect this series of macro to micro decisions.

Bottom up investors see a market of stocks, not a ‘stock market’. They start their decision making process by analyzing a wide array of investments, and their portfolios are the result of picking individual securities – a bottom up process. Warren Buffet is a well-known bottom up investor.

When it comes to marketing communication decisions, most brand marketers adhere to a top down philosophy, relying on techniques such as media mix modeling to provide a framework for budgets and strategy. This philosophy makes a lot of sense when your marcom universe consists solely of one-to-many channels (TV, radio, print), where commercial messages are directed at a passive audience.

But does the top down philosophy break down when the importance of one-to-one marketing communications grows in importance, where the consumer is viewed as a participant instead of an audience? Do media mix models adequately weigh conversational marketing activities such as experiential marketing, social media, customer service, and sale training?

And what does a bottom up approach look like? Do we begin by imagining possible consumer experiences first and let the media mix chips fall where they may? Or do we create better media allocation models? Or simply continue using the current models while acknowledging their limitations?

I would hope marketers recognize the pitfalls of following an exclusive top down approach. We shouldn’t limit the potential of more interactive marketing communication channels by following a philosophy devised in a one-to-many media world.

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