Johnson & Johnson regional strategist admits company struggling to process cross-platform metrics

One of Johnson & Johnson’s top regional marketers has admitted the FMCG giant is struggling with how to use Nielsen’s Digital Ad Ratings – one of the first attempts to compare digital metrics with TV ratings.

The admission comes after Google Australia managing director Jason Pellegrino called on the industry to collaborate to create a true cross-platform measurement system, as more marketing execs starting to question digital metrics.

Michaela Cortez

Michaela Cortez: ‘We don’t want it to fall into the wrong hands and be used the wrong way’

Speaking to Mumbrella Asia after a Millennial 2020 panel debating the increasingly redundant term that is “digital marketing”, Michaela Cortez, APAC head of global strategic insights for Johnson & Johnson, said the company is faced with a “barrage” of data from Digital Ad Ratings, but not a satisfactory way of reading it yet.

“I think at this point, they’re [Nielsen] not able to answer all the questions we have,” said Cortez, a former employee of the research company. “So we’ll be selective in sharing the data with our stakeholders. Unless we know how to interpret the results, we don’t want it to fall into the wrong hands and be used in the wrong way.

“We’re at the pilot stage, and it seems that it’s the only one [way of comparing traditional and digital metrics] available. So at the moment we’re working with them to agree on how we read all of these measures, and what should be use as the industry standard.”

J&J also uses Media Mix Monitoring, which has a digital component, and partners with the likes of Facebook and Google to dice the data on a more granular level to link advertising to sales. However, Cortez conceded that the process is “a little bit fuzzy.”

For this reason, some J&J brands have held back on spending more money on digital because it is seen as venturing into the unknown. Some want to spent 100% of their budgets on digital, “but we usually say ‘hang on,’ it’s probably not the right thing to do,” she said.

When a digital campaign delivers high ROI, reasoned Cortez, “our thinking is that it is doing that in conjunction with traditional media not in isolation. If you do digital alone, I don’t think you’ll get the same ROI.”

Cortez also had a word of warning for brands that are over eager in their attempt to stay ahead of the curve with technology. There was a need to avoid what she called “shiny new things syndrome,” new tech that sounds good but serves no purpose for the consumer or brand.

“We’re all trying to figure our way through it. Many people promise that you’ll get a hard answer, but unless you own the end-to-end when you make the final sale linking it to hard sales metrics will always be a challenge,” she said.

Equally sceptical of how the offline and online worlds of ROI are coming together was the APAC director of marketing for Kimberly-Clark’s baby and child care business, Rahul Asthana. “No one knows the right answer,” he told Mumbrella after the panel debate.


‘It’s a matter of doing something, learning, building, and then doing it better’: Asthana

Kimberly-Clark, the company behind brands such as Kleenex, Kotex and Huggies, is using the next best thing, which is to use metrics that correlate to sales, such as customer registrations and acquisitions, then measuring ROI against that.

“It’s a matter of doing something, learning, building, and then doing it better,” said Asthana, who was a voluble critic of the way most companies are structured for the digital age.

Responding to a question from the audience about the need to break down silos between sales and marketing in the digital age, Asthana said he was in full agreement.

“If you truly believe in an omnichannel world – which we do – then every selling channel is an engagement channel, and every engagement channel is a selling channel,” he said.

Companies with separate sales and marketing teams were very “20th century,” he commented, adding that Kimberly-Clark had started to integrate its digital teams with marketing, although it was still early days in this process.

“We have made brand leaders accountable for overall brand strategy of which digital is just a part,” he noted, echoing the views of outspoken marketing expert Professor Mark Ritson, who said recently that the term “digital marketing” would soon cease to exist.

Talent is a big issue hamstringing companies struggling to adapt to the digital era, Asthana noted, and there was a need for traditional marketers to up-skill to keep pace with a changing consumer environment led by millennials.

“A lot of us grew up in a world that was not so technology driven. We just need to make sure that people know enough [about digital] so that they’re not scared of it,” he said.

“So with terms like programmatic buying or CRM or marketing automation; don’t retreat into your shell and say ‘I don’t know what this is, so I’m not going to engage,’” Asthana cautioned.

There is also a need for a change in mindset to enable brands to respond faster and adapt marketing to change instep with consumer behaviour, Asthana observed.

“We’re telling our folks it’s ok not to have the right answer to begin with, but it’s criminal to keep waiting until you get the right answer.”

“It’s better to go out with your best guess and fix on the go rather than launching with something perfect. Because the chances are that what’s perfect today is obsolete three months from now,” he said.

Companies need to restructure their marketing budgets to build in more flexibility as a result, he added.

“There was a time was when we spent 90-95% of production budget before launch, making everything perfect and getting it right. Now you get feedback within 24 hours on whether your campaign is working or not.”

So Kimberly-Clark’s brands are now spending about a half of the production budget upfront so they can make the necessary adjustments if need be.

Brands achieving consistency across channels was a key theme for the session on keeping pace with millennials, with Cortez from J&J asserting that this group will desert a brand that behaves in what she called a “schizophrenic” manner.

“For consumers there’s no such thing as digital versus traditional. They [millennials] are expecting a seamless, cohesive brand experience,” she said.

“No one wants to be associated with a schizophrenic brand, especially millennials who are big on authenticity – and there’s nothing more telling than a brand that appears differently in different channels.”

Speed is also critical to match the ever-rising expectations of millennials.

“Technology has shortened the feedback loop between the consumers and the brand. Within a few hours people give you feedback. You can’t wait before you respond,” said Asthana.

“You need people with an agile mindset, and those working at the front line need to drive that engagement otherwise you end up looking old fashioned – and that’s the worst thing that could happen when a millennial audience is watching you.”


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