It's practically a dirty word these days, or at least something that keeps more

It’s practically a dirty word these days, or at least something that keeps more than a few marketers up late into the night wondering if they’ve made the right media decision. It doesn’t have to be that way. But Mike Welling, formerly at Unilever and now an independent business and marketing consultant, offers up several solutions and this theme: Understand your target.

Media fragmentation is creating tectonic shifts. Message saturation, media savvy consumers and new technologies that make it easier to avoid unwanted messaging mean that effective media planning is more critical than ever.

So you’d better have a robust understanding of your consumer (i.e. how they conduct their daily lives, their values and how best to reach them.) To this end, the planners need a broader understanding of media vehicles; resources suggest this will likely favour bigger, specialized media planning agencies. Media planners should actively push the providers toward investing in research into who is engaging with their media vehicles and how.

Broaden your perspective on what constitutes a media vehicle and then ensure consistency in your brand expression. Sponsorships, corporate social responsibility initiatives, even your customer service desk, are all vehicles for engaging consumers.

Hone your target market definition – and this should include values and attitudes, not just demographics. The good news is that a tighter definition means that you can be braver in your creative; you will be less worried about your message trying to be all things to all people. Don’t forget: The number-one driver of ROI in brand communication is the effectiveness of the message (and that means it has to be worth noticing.)

To avoid spreading your resources too thinly, rationalize your brand portfolio and put greater emphasis on leveraging a master brand. In our ROI-obsessed world, many don’t understand the concept of a master brand and how to nurture one. Time to start learning and fast. Marketing is changing. Embrace the change or prepare to be left behind.

Mike Welling is former VP brand development at Toronto-based Unilever where he worked for 18 years and won several Cassies before leaving in January to take time off and do some consulting. He is currently also board member and vice-chair of the Association of Canadian Advertisers.