Navigating the Evolving Landscape of Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing (SEM) stands as a pillar in the realm of digital advertising, elevating a brand’s visibility by securing premier advertisement placements on search engine results pages (SERPs). This channel has become irreplaceable for many marketers in driving qualified website traffic by engaging users with relevant ads that match their specific search queries.

It’s evident that there is a growing importance of mobile and local SEM in brands’ media mix – specifically as a performance-driven channel. However, the way consumers are using search is evolving, as they turn to voice and visual search technologies to add convenience to their experiences. 

The incorporation of AI and advanced data analytics into SEM is also dramatically changing the landscape, requiring businesses to consistently evolve their search strategies to stay at the forefront of digital marketing innovation and best meet the consumer’s needs. 

Major Trends and Changes in SEM

SEM is constantly in flux, shaped by the continual advancements and updates in search engine algorithms. Understanding these shifts is essential for marketers looking to maintain a competitive advantage in digital advertising.

Search Algorithms and Their Impact on SEM

Major search engines like Google continuously strive to enhance user experiences, resulting in frequent and significant algorithm changes. Over the past year, Google has implemented several important updates:

  • April 2023: Replaced first-click, linear, time decay, and position-based attribution models with data-driven attribution to better align with evolving consumer behaviors.
  • May 2023: Introduction of AI-driven innovations at Google Marketing Live, refining both Search and Performance Max campaigns.
  • August 2023: Implementation of the Limited Ads Serving policy to improve ad clarity and build trust.
  • September 2023: The Helpful Content Update launches, focusing on seamless transitions from ads to landing pages that directly answer user queries and enhance the search experience. This highlights the need for marketers to develop content that resonates with the audience’s expectations and addresses their primary concerns about brands and their offerings.
  • October 2023: Introduction of search themes in Performance Max to refine ad targeting.
  • November 2023: Google shifts towards privacy-focused ad strategies, moving away from third-party cookies and instead emphasizing the use of first-party data and contextual targeting.
  • February 2024: Enhancement of AI-powered Search ads as well as the introduction of AR & VR features for shopping, aimed at improving ad engagement and consumer insights.

Each update underscores a shift towards more personalized, efficient, and privacy-conscious marketing strategies, challenging marketers to innovate within the constraints of enhanced user privacy and advanced technological capabilities.

The Rise of Mobile and Local SEM

In today’s digital ecosystem, mobile optimization and local search strategies are paramount. Mobile-friendly websites should balance aesthetics and usability, aiming for fast loading and easy navigation for users. For local businesses, the integration of location-based keywords and localized ad targeting into their SEM strategy is indispensable. This focus enhances visibility on SERPs, especially for searches with local interest, thereby connecting businesses with their highest-intent target audiences more effectively.

Voice and Visual Search Innovations

Voice and visual search technologies are reshaping the SEM strategies. Voice searches, powered by digital assistants and smart speakers, tend to feature longer, more conversational queries. This change means we need to use different keywords that match the brand or campaign’s main focus, like questions and phrases. 

Visual search, leveraging AI to allow image-based searching, enhances web interaction, particularly in shopping and information discovery. Integrating visual search into SEM strategies can significantly boost user engagement, conversion rates, and brand recognition while providing insightful consumer behavior data, making it a pivotal element for more successful and efficient marketing campaigns.

Adapting to the growing trends of voice and visual search requires websites to be user-friendly and equipped to provide accurate, easily accessible information. SEM practitioners must continually update their strategies to align with the evolving preferences and behaviors of their audience, ensuring their campaigns remain effective and relevant.

Effective SEM Strategies in Today’s Digital Marketing

Today, effective SEM strategies have become pivotal for standing out amidst intense competition. These strategies have evolved significantly, transitioning from outdated techniques to sophisticated approaches that prioritize user experience and content quality.

  • Content and Keyword Strategy Adaptations: The move away from keyword stuffing to strategies that focus on user intent and content quality reflects a significant shift in SEO and SEM practices. Originally, keyword stuffing aimed to improve SERP rankings but often led to poor user experiences. Today, search engines favor high-quality content that delivers on its promises, aligns with user behavior and intent, and satisfies users’ needs. This change is important because voice and visual searches are on the rise. Content must be engaging and specifically designed for natural language queries.
  • Leveraging Data and Analytics: Data analytics, powered by AI and machine learning, plays a crucial role in refining SEM strategies. Platforms like Google Ads employ these technologies to analyze large datasets, considering factors like user behavior, demographics, and past performance. These insights allow marketers to optimize their campaigns more effectively, adjusting bidding strategies in real time based on dynamic user behavior patterns.
  • Integrating SEM with Overarching Digital Marketing: For maximum impact, avoid thinking of SEM as a separate initiative and instead incorporate it within a broader digital marketing strategy, considering the intertwining of SEO, social media, and email marketing. This cohesive approach ensures that all channels work together towards a common goal, enhancing the overall effectiveness of the marketing efforts. 

Future of SEM and Staying Ahead

Rapid advancements in technology, such as AI and data privacy, are not only influencing but also redefining the future of SEM, necessitating that marketers integrate these elements into their strategies for sustained success.

  • Continuous Learning: As the SEM industry evolves, marketers must also evolve, adapting to changes to maintain a competitive edge and bringing a spirit of experimentation. 
  • Leveraging Campaigns for Experimentation: View campaigns as opportunities for testing and learning, diving deep into analytics to gather actionable insights.
  • Holistic Data Tracking: The cross-platform tracking capabilities of GA4 allow for a comprehensive understanding of marketing efforts across channels, facilitating more efficient budget allocation through detailed data attribution.
  • Industry Insights: Staying informed through industry publications and resources is vital for learning about the latest SEM developments.

Adopting ethical practices is crucial not only for building trust with consumers but also for ensuring long-term success and compliance with regulatory standards. 

Here are some key considerations:

  • Clear and Ethical Communication: Deploy honest, transparent advertising with high-quality, relevant content, adhering to ethical guidelines and responding to feedback to enhance trust, improve user experience, and provide value.
  • Safeguard Privacy and Ensure User Consent: Adhere to privacy laws and respect user preferences, providing clear options for data tracking and personalization consent.
  • Promote Equity and Inclusion: Ensure ad targeting is free from discriminatory practices and embraces inclusivity, catering to a diverse audience without exploiting vulnerabilities.
  • Sustainability Consideration: Prioritize sustainable SEM practices by optimizing resource use and minimizing digital waste, reflecting environmental responsibility.

Emphasizing a blend of technological innovation, adaptability, and stringent ethical standards lays out a strategic blueprint for thriving in SEM’s dynamic future.

5 Ways to Maximize Programmatic Dollars Amidst Economic Uncertainty

As economic uncertainty looms, marketing dollars matter now more than ever. However, this challenge presents an opportunity for brands to re-evaluate their programmatic marketing strategy and discover innovative approaches to maximize media investment. While it’s critical to continue on with proven marketing strategies that consistently deliver against business goals, refinement and experimentation is the name of the game within the programmatic ecosystem to position the brand for success and drive growth well beyond the downturn. 

Here are five tips to ensure your investment in programmatic channels is efficiently driving brand goals and positive ROI:

#1 – Prioritize high-value audiences

Advertising to a broad and undefined audience often results in reaching users who are unlikely to convert. An important first step of media planning is gaining a deep understanding of the audience you are trying to reach and what motivates them. 

  • Conduct Audience Analysis: Utilize data-driven research tools, analyze existing customer data, and review past campaign performance. This approach helps identify users demonstrating interest and intent, setting the stage for a highly targeted audience strategy. 
  • Focus on Likely Converters: Prioritize your programmatic media spend toward audiences with a high propensity to convert. This strategy reduces ad waste and ensures your media budget is invested in segments most likely to generate significant impact.
  • Balance Your Retargeting Efforts: While retargeting can yield strong results, it’s crucial to balance your investment in this area. Over-relying on retargeting can lead to spending unnecessarily on users who would likely have converted anyway, and will be a recipe for disaster with third-party cookie deprecation. Diversify your approach to capture new potential customers without neglecting those close to conversion.

#2 – Eliminate inventory inefficiencies 

One of the benefits of activating programmatically is accessing inventory across the entire open web, enabling efficient reach and scale. However, not all inventory is created equal and investing in poor quality placements may inhibit ROI goals. Platform algorithms use ad engagement metrics, such as clicks or video completions, to assess the quality of an inventory source. However, it lacks human logic by not considering the user’s intention with the engagement, such as accidentally clicking on an ad. Therefore, it’s critical to incorporate supply path optimization (SPO) into your media approach to have a granular understanding of where your ad dollars are being spent and how it contributes to the overall campaign’s success. SPO analysis highlights which inventory sources drive the most efficient conversions, informing optimizations of media spend toward the most valuable placements. This translates into a campaign that uses each ad dollar effectively to maximize ROI.

#3 – Leverage AI for operational efficiencies

In times of economic uncertainty, every resource counts. To maximize the impact of your media investments, AI can augment your team’s capabilities and streamline operations enabling you to do more with less. AI-powered solutions, like dynamic creative optimization (DCO), reduces the human hours needed to manually develop and assign each creative since DCO automatically generates and assigns the most effective creative variation in real-time. Delivering highly personalized and performance-driven creative can improve engagement and messaging resonance for each individual user, leading to overall stronger media results.

It’s critical to roll out AI to your teams with a focus on responsible usage and governance. The upfront investment of AI training and policy development will set your team up for success. 

#4 – Optimize user frequency 

Frequency metrics tend to be overlooked due to focusing on metrics that ladder up to business goals, like ROI. However, it’s important to actively monitor frequency to ensure media spend is not resulting in wasted impressions. Oversaturating users with brand messaging can lead to ad fatigue or a poor user experience potentially creating negative brand associations. High user frequency can also indicate media dollars are being spent on reaching users who have already performed the desired action.

Utilize frequency as an optimization lever to ensure your media dollars are efficiently invested in creating valuable brand engagement and driving results. Every brand’s customer journey is unique, so there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to optimal frequency. Consider the steps and length of the audience’s journey to set realistic goals. Then, continually monitor the frequency compared to performance and utilize conversion path analysis to hone in on the optimal level of brand interaction with your audience. 

#5 – Embrace omnichannel strategies

Users interact with brands across multiple touchpoints throughout their journey, including traditional and digital channels. To maximize the impact of your media investment, develop an omnichannel approach tailored to your audience that provides a holistic and streamlined brand experience. 

  • Research Your Audience’s Behaviors: Assess which channels highly index with your audience’s behaviors and preferences to align media with how users consume content. 
  • Optimize Channel Mix: Strategically select the channels that ladder up to the overall marketing and brand goals. For example, if your audience has an affinity for video and the goal is to increase brand awareness, leveraging a high reach channel, such as Connected TV (CTV), is an efficient way to capture attention. 
  • Develop an Integrated Strategy: Once the optimal channel mix has been identified, create a strategy that maximizes the strengths of each channel to amplify a consistent brand message.

As marketing leaders navigate economic challenges, leaning into innovative and data-driven approaches will ensure every media dollar invested efficiently contributes to brand and marketing goals. Through continuous campaign optimizations aimed at reducing impression waste to prioritize investment on the audiences that matter most, brands will be well positioned for continued growth.

The Green Influence: How Social Media Stars are Steering Sustainable Commerce

Sustainable commerce has grown to include more than just eco-friendly products on store shelves in the digital commerce world. It’s about creating a movement – a lifestyle that reduces environmental impact and promotes ethical practices, focusing on changing consumer habits and business models for a healthier planet. 

A significant force behind this movement? Social media influencers. Influencers have emerged as pivotal figures steering the movement towards a more sustainable world, leveraging their significant sway over public opinion and consumer behavior. 

Critics initially accused influencer marketing of promoting over-consumption during the 2010s, yet a notable shift has quickly followed. Brands and influencers are increasingly using their platform and follower relationships to promote eco-friendly commerce practices, proving themselves to be essential allies in the quest for environmental sustainability.

The Responsibility of Influencers in Promoting Sustainability

With 46% of consumers demanding brands to lead in sustainability efforts, there’s a clear call for brand accountability in environmental initiatives. But how can influencers help a brand succeed in reshaping their marketing efforts?

  • Visibility and Awareness: Influencers are a secret weapon in sustainability marketing, driving personalized awareness that goes beyond the impressions of traditional advertising. By showcasing sustainable lifestyle choices, influencers not only promote products but also inspire a shift in consumer behavior towards more environmentally responsible actions.
  • Authenticity and Trust: Consumers are more likely to trust and emulate the green practices of influencers they follow, especially when those influencers share their authentic experiences and the tangible benefits of their eco-friendly choices. This trust fosters a deeper connection between consumers and sustainable brands, bridging the gap between awareness and action.
  • Engagement and Community Building: Influencers excel in creating communities centered around shared interests and values. Their platforms become forums for discussing sustainability, exchanging tips, and encouraging eco-friendly practices. Shopify highlights how influencers can really connect with their audience, turning casual watchers into engaged supporters of the eco-friendly movement.

Navigating Challenges and Shaping the Future of Sustainable Commerce

Addressing the challenges in sustainable commerce and influencer marketing requires a multifaceted approach, requiring a shared responsibility from both consumers and the brands themselves:

  • Combat Greenwashing: Brands should ensure all claims are backed by credible certifications and clear, accessible evidence of their sustainability efforts. Transparency in marketing and product labeling will help build consumer trust.
  • Bridge the Digital Divide: Increase accessibility by offering diverse, inclusive content and solutions that cater to various demographics and technological access levels. This could involve optimizing content for low-bandwidth environments or leveraging different platforms to reach a broader audience.
  • Maintain Authenticity: Brands should prioritize partnerships with influencers that align with their values and are passionate about sustainability. Brands and influencers alike should maintain transparency regarding their sponsored content and openly share the criteria guiding their partnership selections.
  • Educate and Engage: Both brands and influencers can play a role in educating consumers about sustainability. This includes sharing information on the importance of sustainable practices and how individual choices can make a difference.

The role of marketers in harnessing the power of social media influencers for promoting sustainable commerce is more vital than ever. As consumers increasingly prioritize ethical and environmentally-friendly practices, marketers have the opportunity to steer their brands towards greater sustainability. By supporting and amplifying their message, we can all be part of the solution, driving forward the movement for a more sustainable and ethical world. This approach not only meets consumer demand but also builds lasting brand loyalty and trust. Dive deeper into the world of ethical marketing by exploring our white paper on Simple Strategies for Sustainable Marketing. Download now and take a step towards driving the movement for a more ethical and sustainable world.

Using Integrated Media to Position Financial Services Company As Industry Thought Leader

Brief

Coegi’s financial services client wanted to use content marketing to establish themselves as a marketplace leader by growing brand presence alongside a competitive landscape and providing value to financial professionals and consumers through retirement planning content that educates, supports, and inspires action. 

To accomplish this, Coegi and the financial services firm strategized to establish a B2B2C content strategy focused on reaching both financial professionals and retirement-aged consumers through partnerships with well-known publications.

Highlights

17.8
Million Impressions


188,000
Clicks


110,000
Total Engagements

Challenge

The brand leverages a B2B2C model. While the majority of their objectives focus on targeting financial audiences, it is also important to increase brand awareness with consumers to aid in the sale of their products.

Their primary national advertising objectives are twofold:

  1. Brand Awareness – Increasing awareness of the corporate brand across consumer, financial professional, and prospective retail audiences. 
    • Extending their brand promise and messaging into the B2B space
  2. Thought Leadership – Establishing brand recognition and trust among financial professionals and consumers 

The brand had an opportunity to increase brand awareness with consumers. The data showed that unless they were already customers, consumers were less familiar with the brand. The consumers that did know the financial services firm believed their key differentiators were their ability to grow their investment and provide competitive fees. But there were bigger issues at hand:

  1. Consumers were still learning about annuities in general and, therefore, were difficult to convert into purchasers
  2. Financial professionals were not frequently recommending annuities, including the client’s

Solution

Partnering with the brand, we focused on the following key areas to help gain market share:

  • Helping change financial professionals’ perspectives about the value of annuities 
  • Positioning the brand as a trusted leader in the annuity space
  • Explaining how the brand’s solutions can provide value within a sound financial plan and, in turn, how it will help the financial professional grow their business

Based on the brand’s content calendar, the teams assembled a smart strategy to show Coegi would use content marketing partnerships and advertising to help raise their market share by slightly over 1%:

  1. In a traditional advertising driven industry, we would lean harder into digital channels to keep up with innovation, connect with users, and build a data-driven strategy that would differentiate them from competitors.
  2. We would focus these dollars to more cost efficient and effective channels that align to a digitally-minded consumer.
  3. We would work alongside established publishers to continue to build its digital presence and opportunity via a content strategy that would solidify their position as an industry thought leader.

Choosing digital content partnerships required an exercise of evaluating: audience, content quality, distribution, reach and value. This analysis pointed to these front runners: Kiplinger, Investment News, Bloomberg and Barron’s. The goal was to maximize reach with large publications (Barron’s & Bloomberg) while maximizing engagement with niche publications (Investment News & Kiplinger), authentically aligning the publisher’s editorial content with the brand’s subject matter experts. 

Results

Across four publishers and twelve pieces of content, the campaign generated a total of 17.8 million impressions, 188,000 clicks, and 110,000 total engagements from October – December 2022. Niche publications like Investment News and Kiplinger had the highest engagement rates, both publications reaching an average time on page of over 4:00, while larger publications like Bloomberg and Barron’s garnered the largest reach, with 10M and 15.4M unique views respectively. Consumers resonated with a more indirect approach to annuities by tying content to timely, relevant topics such as women and the recession, while financial professionals resonated with a more direct approach. Coegi extended content reach across platforms by layering programmatic and social campaigns, accounting for 28% of overall impressions.

The Kiplinger content piece “How to Get Retirement Income You Can Count on for Life” had the highest page views (24,516) and longest average time on page (4:39), indicating the importance of applying statistical research in a relevant, easy-to-digest format. Investment News podcasts garnered an average of over 1,000 downloads, on par with their engagement benchmark for Retirement Repair Shop, and “Demographics & the Coming Retirement Crisis” had the most downloads with a final count of 2,184, exceeding the benchmark by 118%. 

Bloomberg exceeded their contracted content impressions by 26%, and shorter, snackable content performed better on publications with high reach and numerous sponsored placements. The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s content “Psychology of Retirement Planning” program delivered 43,000 page views, exceeding the page view goal by almost 40%, while “Retirement Uncertainty” resonated with financial professionals and high net worth individuals, resulting in strong engagement as users spent 40% more time than average.

Key Takeaways

Through data-driven media and targeting recommendations, relevant content partnerships, and innovative thinking, this campaign was able to reach the target audiences in authentic environments by providing educational and informative content. This success was driven in part by tailoring content to different audiences and platforms, and applying statistical research in a relevant, easy-to-digest format. As the partnership between Coegi and the financial services brand continues, we will no doubt continue to see impressive results and strive to keep finding innovative solutions to enhance the traditional financial services advertising model.

The Power of Independent Agencies with John Harris of Worldwide Partners

This Q&A is an adaption of a conversation between Coegi’s SVP of Marketing Innovation, Ryan Green, and John Harris, President of WPI, where they offer invaluable perspectives on the changing landscape of CMO roles, the evolving needs of brands, and the advantages independent agencies have in meeting a brand’s marketing needs. 

The following is an edited transcript of The Loop Marketing Podcast. Click here to listen to the full episode on one of your favorite streaming platform.

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Ryan Green: Hello everybody. Welcome back to The Loop Marketing Podcast. I’m Ryan Green, the Senior Vice President of Marketing Innovation at Coegi, and I’m honored to be joined by John Harris. He’s the president of Worldwide Partners. 

As a little bit of a background, Coegi just joined Worldwide Partners this year. Worldwide Partners is a group of independent agencies, about 80 agencies worldwide that cover the full gambit of marketing services, from creative to production to branding to media and data services. John has done a spectacular job of bringing together some of the brightest minds, a worldwide of agencies and innovative groups, that are really contributing to some breakthrough marketing and advertising campaigns. It’s an honor to join your network and it’s an honor to have you today John. So thanks for joining us.

John Harris: Ryan, Thank you and we couldn’t be happier to have Coegi joining the network. You’ve been a fabulous edition and really contributing at a very high level. So, officially welcome and looking forward to our conversation.

Ryan: Yeah, and it’s a pertinent one as so much is changing in marketing even before the pandemic but certainly afterwards. The value of truly collaborative partners to brands I think, the lens of that has changed – at least the 10 years that I’ve been at Coegi, but certainly recently too. Independents have an interesting strategic advantage in a lot of situations to be able to really integrate with the business goals of the brands that we’re representing and to bring forth the right tools and the right people to cut through a lot of the red tape, to be more quick and nimble. 

I’d love to hear more about the genesis of your involvement with Worldwide Partners. What ultimately led you to found the network? What’s your background?

John: Sure, well, I’ll start way back when, but I’ll be brief because I’m not sure everybody wants to hear my whole history. I first started in marketing working for a radio station in Houston, Texas as the station mascot. So if you think those big old wooden radios that were rounded at the top. The mascot was called the Runaway Radio, it was a red one with a lightning bolt on the top and a slit over my head and had white tights and big red shoes, and had no peripheral vision in this costume.

Ryan: I’m disappointed that you did not wear that today for the podcast.

John: Yeah, well, I thought about it, but my job was to go to station events and interact and dance with the listeners. We would do a broadcast on a Saturday morning at a McDonald’s. We were promoting McDonald’s breakfast and meals.  At the time local radio station jocks were celebrities so people wanted to see them. We’d have 500 people show up while we were doing a live broadcast and at lunchtime we would go to a car dealership and broadcast from there, and another 500 people would show up, and 300 of them were at breakfast with us. Then that evening we would do something in a nightclub and broadcast, and another 600 people showed up, and 300 of them were at the car dealership. So I was just fascinated by a brand’s ability to literally move people from place-to-place and I think that’s where I first got my bug for this very early on.

I first got into the agency business working for Wunderman at a holding company, managing sports marketing for Miller Brewing Company. From there, I moved to Colorado to work at an independent agency that was actually a reverse trend of what we’re seeing now, which was Coors taking their in-house marketing team and then outsourcing it. So a new agency was set up and they recruited those of us from around the country that had beer experience. When I came there, I was fortunate enough to work on Coors, Procter & Gamble and McDonald’s. After that I went client side at a fast casual restaurant chain called Smashburger. Then, I went to the performance marketing space and back to the client side as a CMO. 

Finally, I was on LinkedIn and saw an ad that said Global Advertising Network in Denver, which is where I live. Those words do not end up in the same sentence very often. I explored this and saw that there was an independent agency network out there. I wasn’t familiar with the independent agency network model, and I saw an opportunity to take some of the background that I had at the agency side and at the client side. In both of those, it was really building out service platforms. As a client, I was selecting my performance media agency, I was building a creative team, I was finding the right experiential partner and bringing them together to collaborate, as you talked about earlier. Then, on the agency side, I was building cross-functional, cross-office teams to service clients. So the opportunity to do it at the global level and do it with independent agencies was just a fascinating opportunity for me. So, now you and I are here seven and a half years later having a conversation.

Ryan: That’s a great background and I love always working with people that have an unorthodox background. 

Let’s dive in a little bit about independents, right? I think that’s the one thing that brings us together. When you hear talk about the value of independent [agencies] and the partnerships we bring, maybe to somebody who for the first time that they’re considering picking an agency at all, or getting out of the holding company and into a realm of new possibilities, how do you talk about the value that independents bring versus either in-house teams or holding company agencies?

John: Yeah, I think, what’s been an incredible trend of clients moving more and more towards independent agencies. I think we had this moment, I don’t know, seven or eight years ago, where you were seeing more independent agencies being invited to pitches that may have typically been the territory of the large holding companies. I think that moment turned into a movement because clients are recognizing that independent agencies can bring a level of agility and speed. 

You mentioned the collaborative spirit early on and it’s really an entrepreneurial spirit, right? If you look at a holding company model, these are publicly traded companies. They have an obligation at the end of the day, no matter what, to deliver a positive return for their shareholders. In the independent agency world, you have the freedom to do what’s right for the clients. Sometimes that is investing more in a client’s business. And, when we do that as an agency, that’s not the client’s problem – that’s our problem. It’s our decision to make because we’ve had the ability to do it, but it really changes it from a shareholder mindset to a stakeholder mindset. I think independent agencies always put senior level talent on the business because, let’s face it, clients don’t need just arms and legs, they need heads. You’re a senior representative on the Coegi team and I’m sure you are working with your clients each and every day. So, having the business leadership, the business mindset, and ensuring you’re having the most senior level people working on your business each and every day, is a significant value that independent agencies bring to the table. 

Also with freedom comes the freedom to challenge. Clients will come to us and they’ll say, look, here’s what we want you to do. Independent agencies are always going to say here’s really what we think you should do and challenge, not in an argumentative way, but in a collaborative way without the fear of saying, “oh my God, if we lose this account, then we’re not going to get our bonuses.” You just have people who bring it every day and come with a business mindset, and they’re going to get it done no matter what it takes. I think that’s a very, very unique value proposition that independent agencies have alone. 

Clients aren’t going to hire us just because we’re independent. At the end of the day, we have to bring those behaviors and demonstrate that we can actually move their business forward. That is ultimately what clients are looking for.

Ryan: Yeah, I’ll definitely steal the stakeholders vs. shareholders verbiage. That’s really significant too because a lot of times it is the owners that are still involved with creating the strategy and pushing our clients forward too. A lot of times I think that’s probably pretty obvious with branding creative shops. The work almost speaks for itself, but that’s also true with media.

As an independent media agency that has seen the proliferation of programmatic and automated media buying, I can tell you that that’s not true. In fact, the push for shareholders as the primary focus has hidden a lot of fees and a lot of baggage underneath the surface at holding companies that don’t really exist with independents from the media side. Is that something that you’ve seen? Or am I just painting a rosy picture of why independent media agencies actually do have a strategic advantage by bringing the client’s business first, by bringing senior people who aren’t doing the bait and switch from pitch to execution? 

John: Absolutely. Well let’s tackle it from a couple of fronts. I think on the media front, there is a perception that bigger is better. That this antiquated idea of buying power is what’s driving, what is an extremely democratized digital media environment now. I mean, the programmatic tools that either agencies have, in some cases, have built, or have access to, have 100% leveled the playing field. So this is no longer a story of “what is your media spend?” So I think technology, the platforms, have democratized it. 

I also think that when you look at the upfront side, even on the digital side of it, holding company agencies are buying this inventory. If you’re not their top client, you’re not going to get the best inventory. So that doesn’t happen in the independent space, right? We go at this and put the value of the relationship with the media publishers over the spend. We have agencies that have all of the same level of access to alphas and betas from these major publishers that the holding companies have and we’re not coming in with a pre-packaged solution. You guys are bringing this at a very, very customized level based on what the client needs, not based on what a holding company agency might have to sell. So you’re absolutely right. It’s no longer the case. 

Then the bait and switch that you referenced, we were in a pitch yesterday. A global pitch with a major brand that I can’t share right now. We told them, this isn’t the pitch team. This is your team and it was myself and the senior level executives, and these are the people that are working on the business. So, yes, that’s what you’re going to get from an independent agency. So it’s a big advantage.

Ryan: When you look within independents, what are the things that you look for, especially as you’re attracting and evaluating independent agencies joining your network? What are the things that you’re looking for that differentiate good and great?

John: Let’s start with the customer, the CMO, and why our value proposition as a network is relevant to the CMO and then how that cascades down to the agencies that join us and what separates good from great. 

Change is a constant for CMOs. They are consistently having to innovate, to push the business forward. Resources are limited; we could all use more resources. They articulated that there were some internal gaps in skills that they had with their team that they needed to support with outside partners. There was almost, maybe a level of anxiety around having to constantly prove marketing value. That this is not an expense, but rather, it’s creating value for the organization overall. That’s a matter of driving growth, so this is not an easy job as a CMO. 

There’s a high degree of pressure that comes with it. You are trying to do two things: you are trying to minimize risk and you’re trying to maximize impact. So when you talk to the most progressive CMOs, what they’re doing is, they’re building out these marketing ecosystems. It’s around subject matter expertise. 

So when they are trying to identify the right agency partners that may manifest itself in an RFP, what they’re really doing when they issue an RFP is they’re issuing an RFE, which is a request for expertise. Sometimes that expertise is by market, it’s by industry vertical, it’s by audience, it’s by channel, it’s by capability. At the end of the day, by surrounding themselves with experts, just going back to the CMOs goal, they want minimized risk and maximized impact. That’s how we’ve engineered the network, and this solution can meet the very precise needs and business challenges of today’s marketers and through one of the largest and most fastest growing independent networks in the world. 

What makes this proposition unique is that the agencies [in Worldwide Partners] are 100% committed to collaboration within each other. We’ve talked about the holding companies, we talked about the fact that they’re publicly traded and that they’re using acquisition to create scale and diversification to offer clients and deliver value to shareholders. In our model, we’re actually set up as a reverse holding company. I didn’t “found” the network, right? I don’t “own” the network. The network was founded 85 years ago which is crazy to think about, and the agencies actually own the network. 

My accountabilities are to a board of directors of agency leaders around the globe and we work together to set the goals and the strategies. What happens here is, rather than the network dictating the terms to the agencies, the agencies are actually dictating the terms to the networks. So what that means for clients is, you’re going to get some of the top independent agencies in the world. We have experts in 90 different industry verticals, we have everything from performance and digital media agencies to creative agencies to experiential agencies to PR agencies. 

So let’s go back to what CMOs want. They are saying, I need this in this market with this capability. For example, I don’t just need a pharma agency, but I need a pharma agency in New Jersey that has child oncology experience and a UX capability, and med ed tech capabilities. What we’re able to do is when a remit comes in is say, yes, we have that. Yes, that may sound like a holding company, but what’s fundamentally different is we have not acquired all of these agencies and said, you guys come together, push clients between each other’s offices, cross sell services and make our shareholders all this money. These agencies are working together because they’ve chosen to work together, not because they have to work together. That element of opting in is the only incentive that they need to work together, because every agency has made a personal commitment that I want to be a part of this. We’re going to give you everything you need and nothing that you don’t, right? We’re not here to oversell. 

So, that’s kind of how we’ve shaped the network proposition. 84 agencies in 46 countries, 40 of them are full service, 12 media, 6 creative, and 26 specialist agencies.

Ryan: The brilliance of it is thinking and really tapping into what the CMO needs. You talked about how they’re trying to build an ecosystem, and you’ve built an ecosystem essentially that can cover all of those CMOs needs and be able to pick the three needs that they have to fit their ecosystem. Everything becomes customized to what their brand, their business needs. 

That being said, I think even the title Chief Marketing Officer, is under siege a little bit. There’s Chief Growth officers, Chief Revenue Officers that you’re seeing more. I’ve been to a couple of the ANA conferences that have Chief Media Officers that are separate from the Chief Marketing Officer. There’s always the friction between finance and the CFOs wanting to have an ROI calculation for every single breath that the CMO takes. So being able to sit and understand where they’re coming from, where their challenges are, and what their customer’s challenges are too, goes another layer deeper. We’re able to do that and I’m so thankful to be part of Worldwide Partners because I’m smarter now as a marketer. Because of the collective experience that I’ve gotten from working with such a great ecosystem of agencies that you’ve built.

John: If I might build on something that you said when you were talking about the evolution of the title of CMO. Chief Growth Officer, Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Product Officer, Chief Commercial Officer, it all comes back to what I talked about earlier of the requirement of demonstrating value. I don’t want to make this about myself, but I think it’s important for us to all understand this context. When I became a CMO, I was thrilled. I was invigorated because having been on the agency side for 15 years, where you are consistently trying to uncover the right insight and bring forth strategies, now I was gonna be on the other side of the table. I was going to get to make the call, right? It was on me. So I went into the role thinking that now I’m going to be able to work on the brand of the business and make the decision. 

But the reality of it is, 95% of that CMOs job or Chief Growth Officers job, or whatever you want to call it, has absolutely nothing to do with media and with making decisions on creative campaigns. It is a marketing operations role. It is managing through a matrix organization. It is looking and understanding the impact of adding a different label to one sweater and the cost implications of that on EBITDA. It is doing menu board optimization and understanding what’s more profitable. Do we do a free drink with a burger or a free fried egg with a burger? You are forecasting out the operational component of the marketing implications. 

So when you think about it, if agencies are not focusing on the 95% of what the CMOs job is, you are nothing but a commoditized resource. If you’re only focused on delivering the 5% of their role, then you are replaceable. Not to get ahead of, one of our questions I know we’re going to explore is, what makes a good independent agency a great independent agency. The great independent agencies are saying, I need to be up here in this 95% helping and adding value to my client’s job there. Not just in the, just purely in the media and the creative side of it.

Ryan: Then leading into the question that you know was coming, do great agencies then have a really intimate understanding of the customer, of our clients, and are empowering the brands that we’re working with to have even more astute understanding of those customers to empower the CMO, to bridge those conversations between the spreadsheet and the customer?

John: Without question. I think that with the great independent agencies, quite honestly there’s no shortage of data. But, what the CMO and the CEO don’t need is another dashboard. They don’t need a weather report. They need someone who’s going to extract the meaningful data from the dashboards and say, this is happening, and why do I care? What are the implications of this for my business? What are we going to do differently because of the data? I think that’s where agencies have an opportunity to really, really support clients. The ability to interpret the data into something that’s meaningful and actually contextualize the data. Great agencies are doing that for their clients and really kind of defining your value to the client within that ecosystem by doing so.

Ryan: Makes a lot of sense. So, what are the elements that make the strongest brand agency relationships? Agencies don’t wanna have a two year lifeline either. We wanna be partners for 20 years. What are the elements that make those long lasting, trusting, impactful partnerships? What advice do you have for brands to seek the agencies that are ready to partner for the long haul?

John: Building on the previous discussion about what makes great agencies, I think great agencies understand where they can add the most value. They’re not trying to be everything to everyone. Agencies hate it when I talk about specialization because it feels like it’s this limiting thing. But I actually think specialization can be an advantage in that it allows you to scale. In other words, if you’re the best at x, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, clients are going to find you because they’re looking for a level of expertise. If you are an expert in delivering that value for clients, you should be able to charge a premium and clients will be willing to pay it because you understand where you can add the most value. 

You talked about trust and that’s an outcome, right? We always say we want to be partners, we don’t want to be vendors. But there’s something that we have to deliver to earn that right. I used to tell my team, when I was running an account group, that our job is to get our clients promoted. Just sit with that for a moment. If your KPI at Coegi was I’m going to get my clients promoted, what does that look like? It looks like, okay, why do they get promoted? They’ve had a high degree of performance in the business. They’re driving growth, they’re innovating, they’ve managed change. If you’re in the mindset of we’ve got to deliver a 10 to 1 ROS, or if you’re in the mindset of, I’ve got to get this person to the next level, you’re going to do everything you can as an agency to understand their world. Let me have a real clear understanding of what your path to performance and growth is and what are the KPIs that you have as an individual and how do I help you hit those? 

We’ve got to push the clients. Clients have to let us in and not be protective of the data and the drivers they’re having in their world. I think if you put yourself in that mindset in service of the client to get them to the next level, you are going to succeed and they’re going to succeed. We’ve been working with 3M for 15 years. We’ve been working with Las Vegas tourism for 40 years. We’ve been working with ActiVision for 17 years. These are unheard of relationships and it goes back to where we started, about the value of independent agencies, how they put the best people on the accounts, and how they’re committed 100% to putting stakeholder, which is the client, above everything else. Trust is an outcome of a behavior set. My belief is if you said that’s my KPI, I’m going to get my client promoted, you’re going to have a very long standing relationship.

Ryan: That’s a great KPI for account people in particular. How can I get you promoted is a more succinct way of getting to that. Are there any other thoughts that you’ve had to wrap up the conversation? Anything else that you’d like to say before I let you go?

John: I would just say the idea of understanding who you are as an agency, I think it’s absolutely critical. I think it gives you the ability to make decisions about every aspect of your business. We are very good at helping clients connect with their highest value customers. That’s exactly how Coegi positions itself. It guides every decision you make. It guides the type of investments you make in your organization. It guides the type of people that you hire. It guides the type of clients that you know you can be right for. That notion of freedom, you’re seeing independent agencies make smarter decisions about the partnerships with clients. They know when they’re right for a client and they’re open with the client if they feel like maybe we’re not the right solution for you and that’s okay because they have the freedom to not have to chase everything. When you know the pieces of business that you have the right to win when you’re going into the new business opportunities, because let’s face it, pitching is a lot of work and it’s a lot of time not just on the agency side, but on the client side of the business. The data has just come out that pitches are costing clients up to a million dollars in time. Independent agencies are saying no to the wrong opportunities, saying yes to the right opportunities, and I think the more that that happens, you’re going to see the partnership between clients and agencies just flourish. I’d leave a collective group of clients and agencies that are on this call to say let’s lean into the partnership opportunity, not treat each other as vendors, and really kind of work together to elevate everybody’s business. I think our industry’s going to be in a greater place moving forward.

Ryan: I love it John. Thank you so much for joining us and looking forward to everything that’s to come from our partnership. Thanks again.

John: Yep Ryan, a pleasure. Thank you.

Inside the World of Influencer Marketing with Tagger Media’s Peter Kennedy

This Q&A is an adaptation of a conversation between Coegi’s SVP of Marketing and Innovation, Ryan Green, and Peter Kennedy, the founder and president of influencer marketing company Tagger Media, which was recently acquired by Sprout Social. You can listen to the full episode of the podcast here

Read on to hear Peter’s insights on the startup journey, and how he was able to adapt and build a successful company by focusing on customer needs. ______________________________________________________________________________________________

Ryan: I’m happy to be joined by the founder and CEO of Tagger Media, Pete Kennedy. Thanks for joining us today. I know we have some big news to talk about but would love to hear a little bit about your background, a quick elevator pitch, and resume of how you got here today.

Pete Kennedy: Thanks for having me here. I’ve been doing stuff for a long time, but I’ve always kind of started companies. That’s always been my thing. So I’ve started companies in the independent travel space back in the.com era, I started a medical device company, I started a water sports recreational business, and then obviously most recently started Tagger Media about eight years ago.

Ryan: So, I don’t wanna bury the lead here. Tagger just got acquired by Sprout Social, so congratulations. I’m sure that was quite the process. I’d love to hear, and I’m sure our audience would love to hear a little bit about what happens during an acquisition – how do you know that the company that’s acquiring you is the right fit? What was that process like?

Pete: I think selling a company is harder than actually starting a company. Crazy enough. When they say that the deal changes a hundred times a day, it really does. We talked to Sprout probably in December of 2022 for the first time. They reached out and said, hey, we’re kind of looking at this space. The real conversation happened [in the late spring of 2023], and they came out and we met with their CEO, their president, head of business development, and what we were looking for is an opportunity to win in this space. 

Sprout has 30,000 customers and they’re all doing influencer marketing, ’cause it’s such a major part of the media mix and it’s obviously such an important part of the social space as well. What we were looking for is not only a company that we could scale with in a major way, but also the right cultural fit. This team is absolutely amazing. A lot of people are coming from Salesforce at that company, which is interesting. So they have this growth mentality and we have like maybe 10 sellers around the world. They have like 600. So it’s just this machine that we can jump into which is great, and that the entire team is so excited about Tagger and the ability to sell influencer to all their customers. 

Ryan: Let’s step back a little bit to when you first were kind of coming up with the concept of Tagger. Most businesses, and you’ve started a number of them in various industries, we’re trying to find a problem to solve, right? So what was the problem that you were really looking at and where did you see your ability and your team’s ability to find a unique solution with Tagger?

Pete: It’s so interesting, that ideation stage. There’s like five stages of a startup, right? There’s ideation, there’s launch, there’s validation, there’s growth, and then there’s maturity or exit. Ideation stage is so much fun and there’s two ways that you can really do this: One is, which is the smart way to do it, identify a need, and then create solutions based on that need. Or you can create an idea that you think is interesting that might pertain to a market and then you build that. We actually did both of those things when we started Tagger. 

We first started with this idea, and the idea was we wanted to disrupt the music industry. The music industry spends billions of dollars every year trying to find new artists and then promoting those artists. They do that by having boots on the ground all over the world. They have music bookers, they have doormen at venues who are seeing artists that they think are interesting, sound producers, all these different people. A lot of times they’re able to find these people very early on, but what we did is we said, well, let’s listen to everyone who matters in the music space, primarily on Twitter at the time. If everyone’s talking about “Ryan”, we could predict that “Ryan”’s gonna go somewhere. Not surprising. The most popular people early on are gonna go somewhere and it really had nothing to do with listening, likes, or views, which that market had been somewhat gamified. 

So we created this platform where we just tracked all these people, but we had to create databases of all these musicians. We had to create databases of all these people who were talking about musicians. When we turned on the platform, we found, like Dua Lipa eight years ago, we found Billie Eilish eight years ago. I mean, we found all these amazing artists and go to the music industry, right? To validate this concept and they all said, what do you idiots know about music? I was like, nothing, but listen, we’re doing what you’re doing, but we’re doing a million times a day and they said, we’re not interested. (Now, fast forward, most of those music companies are clients, not to find artists, but to find influencers.) 

Then I went to New York and I took 40 meetings in like a two week time period. And every time I was just pitching a new thing because we had this really interesting platform where we could understand audiences and their propensity, and we could find artists and all these things, but we didn’t know what we had and how it might apply to someone else’s business. Gary Vaynerchuk over at VaynerMedia, “Gary V”, his team heard what we were up to. We got a meeting and they heard about these crazy people running around New York meeting with everyone. Gary and his team were like, listen, we love your data, we love how you can understand audiences, but you need workflow around influencer marketing. 

I asked the most important question: what is influencer marketing? Because I had absolutely no idea. And he said we have 30 people running campaigns for these big brands around the world and we’re really doing it on Excel spreadsheets. So if you can take our workflow, and by the way, they were hiring like a thousand influencers per campaign. Absolutely crazy and they said, if you can take our workflow and put it into a platform, we’ll be your first customer. 

So I moved to New York for a month, and I lived with them to really understand what they actually needed. Instead of just making a spreadsheet on a platform, we wanted to take that workflow to figure out how we can make it easier. My development team’s in Poland, so I was going back and forth during that month. But by the end of the month, we were able to deliver them a product that worked for them. 

Then it was really interesting. We then brought on a couple more clients. So we could have gone big and just raised money and hired all these people, but we didn’t, we slowly got another client and then another client. We focused on agencies because they had the biggest pain points. Just like I did with Vayner, we would get a new client and then I would go sit with them for weeks and just go in their office and I’d watch the bouncing ball: Like, you discover influencers, but why are you discovering those influencers? Is there a strategy? Who’s the strategy person saying we need to go do that? I’d go meet with that person and then we would have to go pay these people. I’m like, well, who pays these people? They’re like, oh, that’s, accounts payable. I go talk to them. I’m like, well, what are your pain points? So it was interesting, within like a year, I would walk into every agency or any brand, and I would know more about their business because I lived with all these different people to really understand what their needs were. That’s really how we did it. So I was able to identify a need based off of them telling us “this is what we need,” then really just going in and understanding everyone else’s needs so that you can build a unified platform that works for both brands and agencies.

Ryan: So, continuing on that, what are some of the ways that influencer and content marketing has changed and how have those changes evolved the way your platform has changed? You talked about having a modular concept for different workflows with different agencies in house brands, et cetera. But the marketplace has changed quite a bit too externally, so what things have you seen change over the years and how has your company reacted to those changes?

Pete: Yeah, definitely. There are multiple different ways it’s changed. First of all, what you get from influencer marketing has changed dramatically, right? 

Back when I started this, it was very much a PR focus where it’s just like, let’s get these mentions out there. It kind of was replacing newspapers, magazines, and traditional PR because that had kind of died off and was really being replaced by influencer marketing. So it was very much awareness building KPIs. But that shift, that allowed money to flow into this space, is when agencies and brands started to look at this more as a paid media execution versus a PR execution, right? So we would go into agencies, especially PR agencies and train them about paid media. 

Really, Vayner was the one who kind of got me on this. I mean, the Chris Aldi who was running their influencer business, he works for us now, but he started Gary’s paid media business. He’s like, no, this is paid media. This is what it is. So, even if you’re paying someone or you’re giving them a free product, you’re giving them something that costs you money, it’s paid, right? So I think that was a big change. 

Then the platforms made it easier to report on these campaigns and measure an influencer campaign the same way we measure your other media mix. That was massive. For Procter and Gamble to put $200 million into this business, they need to be able to measure this the same way we measure their other media mix and that was vital. 

Then a big shift that we’ve seen, especially over the last two years, is we’re not selling our platform to the influencer marketing team. We are now selling to the strategy team, the analytics team, the growth team, the new business teams at agencies, the technology team. All these different teams are using our platform really to get a holistic view of what’s happening socially, right? Social listening is important. Sprout has this amazing social listening platform and they’re listening to everyone in the world. What we do is we fine tune that down to the people who actually matter in terms of moving culture and those are influencers or creators. So having that view is helpful when you create that strategy. 

Then I think the last thing that’s changed dramatically is just, AI and, well, I’m sure we’ll talk about this, but AI has just allowed us to really get a better understanding of what’s happening, being able to ingest billions of bits of data, consolidate that down to really specific things so you can be like, okay, yeah, It’s raining, but how do I make it rain harder? Or how do I make it stop raining? You need a platform like ours to do that.

Ryan: When we think about who, what, when, where, why and we’re talking about AI, I think AI has a lot of potential in the first four, and it’s that fifth one that seems to still be the human element of it. I think that’s almost true in your platform to some degree as well. I know you have why definitely covered there but that’s where the humans are spending most attention. Thinking about the, why the marketers behind the screen are interacting in that area, probably the most, if I were to summarize.

Pete: Well, I think that that is actually where AI comes in the most, to be honest with you. Let’s say that your client manufactures pickup trucks. Well, why are people buying your pickup truck versus someone else? How did those customers — marketers always say the customers actually position your brand. Marketers don’t position the brand, right? The consumer positions the brand, not marketers. So if we can take all the content from influencers about pickup trucks over the last eight months, it’s probably a million pieces of content. I can’t actually go through all that content to pull out nuggets, but I can put that through AI.

What AI will do is they will look at all of that content and they will pick out themes like within two seconds: Towing capabilities, technology, interior comfort, all these different benefits. Then you can then stack rank how your brand fits within each one of those based off of mentions. So if your pickup truck is mentioned the fewest times in terms of towing capability and the few times you were mentioned, you have the worst sentiment. Everyone’s saying your towing capabilities are horrible. You as a marketer was like, I think our towing capability’s amazing. Well, the market doesn’t and the people who move culture are actually saying the opposite of what you think. 

So as a marketer, my strategy now on the why could be, oh, towing capabilities important for this industry because it’s the most talked about benefit with all the benefits of the pickup truck and we’re the worst. We probably need to create a campaign around our towing capabilities. Maybe we need to go back to the product team and say, listen, our towing capability sucks. We need to make it better. But I think AI allows you to filter all this data to understand what are the benefits and where do you stack up along those benefits?

Ryan: There’s obviously positive use that Tagger has with AI. Another thing that is a benefit to us is being able to sniff out fake followers and bots and things of that nature too. As AI becomes more sophisticated, as there are deeper fakes, things like that, is there a roadmap that Tagger has to help marketers at scale, identify where there’s nefarious content? Where we’re to avoid certain areas so that when we are looking at a plan with 2000 content creators on it, that we’re able to get the 200 out that may be coming from a negative place to make sure that we’re focusing our spend on what’s gonna move the needle and what matters?

Pete: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think that fake followers is definitely something that is important but there’s two things that I think are even more important. 

One, it’s content, right? That’s what we’re also seeing. Like I said, we’re selling into all these different departments, but that influencer content is being used across the entire customer journey. So for example, yeah, you’re gonna run a campaign and it’s gonna be an awareness building campaign, or maybe you’re trying to get conversion. But that customer journey, okay, they’re gonna see that influencer content and then they’re gonna start to see other social media ads about that brand. As you know, you have to see something multiple times before you go buy it. Well, what we know is that influencer content performs 300% better than branded content — on TikTok It’s like 3000% better. Why? Because it’s user generated content and does better than branded content. So now we’re seeing all this influencer content being used in paid media ads and then when you go onto these product pages on an e-commerce site, we’re seeing influencer content because again, it does better than branded content. 

Then when we look at like cart abandonment emails, they’re AB testing that with influencer content, it’s actually converting better. So all the way along this customer journey, what you’re seeing is the influencer content. So yes, if your sole purpose is I just want to go out and buy an influencer, hire their audience essentially, and use that as my conversion, yes, fake followers is super important – but to me it’s like, let’s go find creators who make amazing content. Who creates content that’s authentic to themselves and authentic to their audiences because we, through our affinity data, we can really understand, like, do these audiences care about these things? Then let’s go take that content and use it across our entire e-commerce, our entire customer journey so that we’re getting the most outta that content. So fake followers are becoming a little less. 

Then we’re also looking at more in terms of first party data and saying, well, do certain influencers convert better than other influencers do? When you start to be able to get more and more of that data, then it’s like, Ryan, you might have a hundred thousand followers and maybe 50% of them are fake, but you convert better in healthcare than anyone else. I don’t really care. Now, maybe what that means is instead of paying you based off of your a hundred thousand followers, yeah, I’m gonna pay you based off of you having 50,000 followers, but if I know that your conversion is so high, your followers don’t really matter because I’m paying you based off of what you’re gonna convert from me anyways. Again, not always. There’s multiple ways to think about that and I think fake followers are getting less and less relevant and more about, well, what can we do with this data and what’s our ROI on this campaign as a whole?

Ryan: Switching gears a little bit. Thinking about brands that really do well in the content marketing space, there’s obviously some brands that have built the almost entirety of their marketing function around influencers. I have some brands that don’t spend a dime on influencers and that are performing very well for themselves. 

What are a couple examples that you see of brands that are using creators and influencers appropriately, making it part of their bigger ecosystem, but using that to really drive their brand growth, their conversion growth, their sales, all of it? 

Pete: Companies that do it well are finding influencers that are authentic to their brand category, but whose audiences also care about those things. I think Lululemon’s done a really interesting job of this, because yes, they’re out there promoting all of their clothing, which is great. But they’re also partnering with mental health influencers as well because they know that that’s an important part. So when brands are partnering with influencers to, yes, talk about their products, but more importantly they’re talking about things that matter to their audience. Mental health is something that matters to their audience and they realize that. 

So, back in the day, influencer content used to be polished and beautiful and just everything. And now it’s real because people are looking for social connection and they’re kind of rejecting this social comparison, you know? I think that companies like Lululemon have realized that. You’re gonna see every size model in their content, you’re gonna see them talking about issues, not about working out, but about mental health, things that matter to their consumer. 

Then another company that I think did some interesting stuff was Behr Paint. They create paints and they have a bunch of different colors and they partnered with Emily Zugay and she’s this hilarious influencer that basically takes all of her paints and then she destroys the paint colors and renames them. So she might take like, green or something and call it like, cute green or way more clever than what I’m gonna come up with. But again, it’s kind of rejecting this high gloss social comparison and being real and hilarious. Brands are able now to kind of take the polish off of themselves, I think which is kind of interesting as well. Letting an influencer who, this is what she does, and that’s why she has a big audience, literally kind of like destroy the brand in a way because, you know, that that’s what people are looking for. So I think those are two pretty interesting examples. But, there’s hundreds of brands that are doing a great job of promoting their companies, but really bringing in social issues that matter to their audience, which is gonna be different from a brand next door whose audience is completely different.

Ryan: Very brave of Behr to strip off the gloss, so to speak. I think that leads into my next question: what changes do you predict will come in influencer marketing over the next couple of years? You’ve talked about the change from that curated content to a lot of more unfiltered content brands that are looking to partner with longer term ambassadors. Then just one-off activations with individual influencers as I’m sure you’re looking at how your company’s going to grow with the recent acquisition. Where do you see the marketplace going?

Pete: Yeah, again, I think that you’re gonna see more and more influencer content being used across the entire customer journey. I think that’s gonna be a big shift. Honestly, though, I think AI is gonna be a major addition to the influencer marketing process. Again, it’s not gonna replace anyone’s job, it’s just gonna allow them to be better at what they do. 

So a couple examples would be, just sending out communications with creators, being able to analyze that creator’s content and their voice, and then writing emails to these creators. You have to ask these people to work with your brand and not every creator wants to work with your brand. So being able to create a voice that’s gonna resonate with the creator using AI and be able to do this across a hundred influencers at the same time, is gonna make you way more efficient in your job. So that’s one quick example. 

Another example is just to take all of your content as a brand and look across all these creators instantaneously to find that perfect match of tone and thought and content in order to find those right creators. I also love this idea. AI does a great job of summarizing content. What it doesn’t do a good job of yet is to say, hey, here’s what’s happening in my industry. I have a hundred thousand dollars. How should I spend that? It can’t do that yet. I think in the future it might be able to, because again, it can just summarize data pretty well, but it can’t tell you how to spend your money. 

Ryan: So can I surmise that there may be some changes or enhancements to your platform that artificial intelligence is gonna be able to fuel?

Pete: Oh, we’re already doing it right now. So, I’ve already seen a lot of this. Like I’ve seen all this stuff already on our platform. We’re still developing it and we’ll be launching it over the next month or two, but yeah, it’s just gonna make your life so much easier.

Ryan: Coegi’s going to be a beta tester for that.

Pete: A hundred percent. I mean, there are certain agencies that are thought leaders and you guys are ahead of the curve with most of this stuff. So obviously we always look for partnerships with you guys to help us drive that product development. That’s really where our product development happens, is with you guys, it’s like, what do you guys need? What are you guys thinking about how the market’s going and how can we build based on those needs?

Ryan: Well, we’re excited to see what that looks like both, with the quick wins and those longer ones that’s fresh off the press. I’m really excited to continue to partner with you. 

Pete: Amazing. Thanks, Ryan.

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5 Social Advertising Trends for 2024

Advancements in technology and evolving consumer behavior are continuously shaping the social media landscape, presenting brands with an opportunity to evolve alongside the consumer to meet brand goals.

Users are no longer looking to social platforms as only a way to connect with friends, but rather as a mechanism for shopping, searching, and enjoying entertainment.

So what should your brand focus their social media strategy on? Keep reading to discover our top five social media trends for 2024 and tips on how to effectively incorporate them into your strategy.

Social Media Trend #1: Growth of Influencer Marketing

Investment in influencer marketing is expected to see strong growth in the next few years due to its effectiveness in building trust and authenticity for your brand. In 2024, there will be an increased focus on leveraging short-form UGC videos, testing out generative AI, and mindfully selecting creators that foster a diverse and representative social media community. 

What You Need to Know:

Influencer Marketing Tips:

  • Establish clear goals and measurable KPIs before selecting a content creator. For example, if your influencer marketing goal is to drive increased engagement, select a creator that has a loyal and highly engaged audience.
  • Collaborate with content creators that align with your brand’s tone and have a follower community with interests that match your product or service offering.

To learn more about tap into creators for your marketing strategy, check out Coegi’s guide to influencer marketing

Social Media Trend #2: Paid Subscription Models

Global governments are continuing to hold social platforms accountable for adhering to user privacy regulations. With the increased regulations, social platforms are looking for solutions to maintain an optimal user experience, including offering paid monthly subscriptions for users to opt out of ads. 

What You Need to Know:

Paid Subscription Model Tips:

  • Influencer marketing is going to become important in a paid subscription model since the content will not be categorized as an ad. Use this time to start honing your influencer marketing strategy to learn what works best for your brand.
  • Organic social will be another effective way to reach users in an ad-free environment. Focus your efforts on building your brand’s following across social media platforms and learning what content resonates well with your core audience.
  • While the development of paid subscription models is currently focused on the EU market, other markets may follow. Be sure to keep up-to-date on the latest platform releases.

Social Media Trend #3: Generative AI

AI had a large impact on the marketing industry in 2023 and is expected to continue with increased momentum in 2024 as social platforms continue rolling out AI features. From AI chatbots directly integrated within the platforms to audio generation tools, the way users and marketers engage with social media will be in a constant state of change.

What You Need to Know:

  • Due to strong user engagement with Snapchat’s My AI, the platform is looking for ways to leverage the chatbot to boost advertising.
  • Meta released two Generative AI tools for audio creation – AudioCraft to create audio and music from a text prompt, and Voicebox to assist with editing audio.
  • Meta AI is a virtual assistant – including 28 familiar individuals, such as Snoop Dog and Kendall Jenner, that users can interact with across Meta platforms.

Generative AI Tips:

  • Generative AI is going to elevate the importance of brand’s maintaining authenticity. As deepfakes and AI assistants circulate across social platforms, users will look to brands to be a source of truth and familiarity.
  • Create internal guidelines and policies for the usage of AI to ensure it is being used ethically and responsibly.
  • Read our article – Do’s and Don’ts of Using Generative AI for Creative – for more information on how to effectively use AI.

Social Media Trend #4: Social Platforms Utilized as a Search Engine

Social media platforms continue to serve a dual purpose, namely among younger users, to connect and engage with friends and to utilize as a search engine for finding products and services. This shift in consumer behavior should be accounted for when planning your marketing strategy.

What You Need to Know:

Social Search Tips:

Social Media Trend #5: AR/VR Advancements

Gone are the days of one-dimensional internet usage as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology advancements are spurring an “immersive internet.” Users are seeking a more engaging experience across the web and social platforms, giving brands an opportunity to better meet their audiences’ needs and preferences.

What You Need to Know: 

AR/VR Tips:

  • Leverage Pinterest Try on product pins to enable users to virtually try on products wherever they are, increasing engagement and attention.
  • Meta augmented reality ads create an engaging and unique experience where users test out products and interact with your brand.
  • It’s important to keep your brand’s product catalog on social platforms updated so users can virtually engage with your brand and build affinity.

If you want to discuss how to apply these trends and tips to your marketing strategy in 2024, reach out to schedule a discovery call with the team at Coegi.

Using Multicultural Influencers to Drive Vaccine Consideration for Moderna

Brief

Moderna was seeking to drive preference for their COVID-19 booster with multicultural consumers by using authentic, relevant creator-driven storytelling. 

Highlights

28%
lift in vaccine consideration


88%
lift in vaccine discussion intent


7.56%
paid engagement rate compared to 1.86% industry benchmark

Challenge

Moderna’s marketing goal was to drive preference for COVID-19 bivalent booster by leveraging their positioning as the disruptive innovation leader in the space. They wanted to establish an enduring preference for their branded products by: 

  • Educating multicultural consumers
  • Growing urgency and 
  • Increasing uptake of the new COVID-19 booster vaccination

To establish this trust, Moderna needed to provide authenticity in its delivery when communicating with its multicultural audiences. We felt this would be best accomplished through influencer marketing

Solution

A key opportunity identified by the Coegi team was that 15.1M people within target DMAs primarily spoke Spanish. To deliver an authentic message, our aim was to support Spanish speakers’ health journeys while driving business impact for the pharmaceutical tech brand. We focused on utilizing booster messaging that was not only in Spanish, but content that was more culturally relevant. 

In order to speak to a Spanish speaking audience, we needed to learn about them in more detail. We started this process by leveraging data technology and intelligence platform, Resonate. Coegi placed an audience learning pixel across digital placements to learn about the Spanish speaking audience and their online behaviors. 

We collaborated with Moderna to identify the top US DMAs by vaccine data in combination with the highest indexing DMAs for Spanish speakers. In doing so, we were able to blend a demographic and geographic targeting strategy in an effort to build trust and affinity with a Spanish speaking audience. 

Coegi carried out a rigorous process to identify a varied mix of macro to micro influencers to generate authentic stories. These influencers were diverse – ranging from health content focused, healthcare workers to the average, lifestyle influencer.  But all were unified by sharing a value of preventative health and translating why vaccination against Covid-19 is important to them. Throughout the campaign, our team partnered with 13 influencers and delivered content to 15M Spanish-speaking individuals across the country.

We asked each creator to generate three pieces of content that authentically communicated the power and benefits of Moderna’s COVID-19 bivalent vaccine booster. Focusing on compliance while building the highest level of interest, relatability, and trust, we requested that the messaging of each piece answered these three questions:

  • Why is COVID-19 still relevant?
  • Why get vaccinated or boosted?
  • Why trust this brand’s product?

Results

Our influencer content performed well through multiple measurement perspectives. The content outperformed influencer benchmarks with some of our influencer content going viral – one piece of content earned a total reach of 414,000 which exceeded the influencer’s follower count by 2,000%. 

Coegi also leveraged a post-campaign brand lift study to measure more advanced impact learnings. According to the study, our influencer content delivered a 28% lift in vaccine consideration and a 88% lift in discussion intent, outperforming the Kantar benchmark by 4x. 

Organic Influencer Content

  • 1,447,404 Impressions
  • 732,297 Reach
  • 13,686 Engagements 
  • 6.36% Engagement Rate

Paid Influencer Content

  • 16,942,764 Impressions
  • 13,185,622 Reach 
  • 1,617,533 Post Engagements
  • 7.56% Engagement Rate vs 1.86% industry benchmark 
  • 2.28% Estimated Ad Recall Lift 
  • $5.25 Average CPM vs $8.75 industry benchmark

Key Learnings

We attribute a lot of our success to the authentic and real content created by our partnered influencers. The healthcare and pharmaceutical vertical poses many challenges. But with our focus on producing genuine, authentic messages for the Spanish speaking audience in the United States, we were able to provide engaging content in a form this audience could relate with.  

To learn more, check out Coegi’s guide to influencer marketing

Growing Scale and Efficiency Reaching Financial Services Professionals with Search Marketing

Brief

Coegi works closely with a financial services company whose advertising focuses on establishing themselves as a marketplace leader by growing brand presence alongside a competitive landscape and providing value to financial professionals and consumers through retirement planning content that educates, supports, and inspires action. 

This financial services firm partnered with Coegi to reach financial professionals and retirement aged consumers through a B2B2C omnichannel strategy. One component of this strategy included search engine marketing, which presented robust opportunities though with initially limited scale. 

Highlights

-92%
Cost per Click and Cost per Action


2,504%
Increase in Impressions Served Against 1st Party Audiences


$4
Cost per Action Compared $49 Before Optimizations

Challenge

The financial services company wanted to drive sales growth opportunities by engaging with prospective advisors through relevant content, utilizing first party CRM lists across a variety of channels to ensure media was reaching their specific audiences. The pull nature of the search channel resulted in minimal scale and high costs, impeding the impact of this channel within the media ecosystem.

Solution

In order to continue to reach these niche first party audiences while maximizing exposure across all possible channels, the team incorporated discovery ads. Adding this placement provided a higher volume of page visits at a lower CPA while maintaining tight control on users exposed to the ads.

Results

By expanding inventory to include discovery ads, the team was able to lower CPA and CPC by 92%, while increasing impressions served against the first-party audiences by 2,504%. This shows the importance of utilizing all inventory options to maximize platform results.

The Impact of Content Marketing on Your Brand

Now more than ever, consumers desire a more meaningful connection with the brands they follow. Your audiences crave behind the scenes videos covering meaningful origin and philanthropic stories, the colorful, entertaining brand voice on social media, and highly personalized written content that feels truly authentic. There is no better way to do that than investing in a content marketing strategy. From everyday people to celebrities to brands both large and small, everyone is realizing the power that content has over driving action along the customer journey. If your brand is not investing in thoughtful content today, read on to learn more about why every brand should be incorporating this into their marketing strategies.  

Why Content Marketing?

Whether you yourself are the brand or your business is the brand, content marketing is important to invest in – especially in the digital era where content is constantly consumed across multiple platforms for both personal and professional reasons. 

Here are some of the key reasons to believe in content marketing:

It’s lucrative

Content marketing can boost conversions leading to higher sales or traffic to your website, all the while signaling to google that the domain has high authority and increasing your rank in search engines. More content + more exposure = higher ROI. Invest in high quality content and your audience will invest in you.  

It’s a relationship builder

While content marketing may ultimately lead to higher sales, it shouldn’t be  about selling, but rather helping. By taking this approach, content marketing can help you increase loyalty thus building trust and creating a sense of community surrounding your brand. Make sure you are tailoring your content to your audience’s biggest questions and what they value. 

Your competitors are using it

97% of businesses use content marketing, and that includes 73% of marketers.. Don’t fall behind and let your competitors get the upper hand. Use multiple different types of content to be seen as a thought leader among similar brands and meet business goals at each stage of the customer journey. 

Choosing Your Content

The process of choosing which content types to lean towards looks a little different for every brand. There are a vast number of content types like social media posts, infographics, blogs, podcasts, videos, and paid content marketing with reputable publishers. It’s important to start by assessing what makes the most sense for your brand.

Take a look at the infographic below to begin aligning your content marketing goals with your overarching brand goals.

Defining Your audience

Your audience should play a large role in determining your content. Start by narrowing down your audience’s potential topics of interest and looking at which platforms your audience is conducting the most research or spending the most time engaging with. 

Developing your message strategy

It’s important to set content goals to measure how well your content is performing. This can help you decide which pieces of content or messaging themes are performing well to refine your strategic approach moving forward. 

Aligning brand goals with content formats

As you pinpoint your target audience and set content goals to develop a sound messaging strategy, you need to identify your brand goals. Pinpoint the primary KPIs you’re looking to measure to determine which types of content best serve your purpose. 

Overcoming Tricky Hurdles

While there are many reasons for brands to invest in content marketing, it is important to understand that there are a few hurdles to overcome to see the ROI brands desire. 

Benefits aren’t immediate

If you’re thinking about tapping into content marketing with expectations of immediate success such as high engagement and conversions, you need to temper your expectations. Building a content strategy is a time consuming period marked by trial and error. It takes great time and resources to discover what makes sense for your brand and for your audience in particular. Don’t rush the process. 

Maintaining originality

With 97% of businesses already using content marketing, it’s clear that the industry is highly competitive. This can make it difficult to differentiate your brand from your competitors. Your competitors are often creating similar types of content on the same platforms and channels, trying to capture the attention of the same types of consumers. Make sure you aren’t spending too much time trying to “keep up with the Joneses” and are instead focusing on creating content that creatively showcases how your brand can make the consumers’ lives better. Tap into your creative juices based on consumer insights to find ways to make your content standout.

A shortage of ideas

Constantly coming up with new content ideas can leave marketers feeling burned out. But while the instinct may be that new content is better and more exciting to your audience, it’s important to think smarter not harder. Find ways to revamp your existing content, and find ways to make it more valuable – both to your audience and Google.  

Overall, content marketing is a great investment for your brand. It’s lucrative, builds that connection you’re looking for with your audience, and allows you the space and opportunity to grow your brand like never before. So begin exploring content marketing efforts today – whether you’re handling in-house or outsourcing through a trusted partner.To learn more about content marketing, be sure to check out:

Coegi Partners

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