Challenges for brands vary by category and size. At the Digiday Brand Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, this week, brand marketers shared their various woes under Chatham House Rule, like dealing with Amazon, managing brand founder expectations and dealing with influencers.

Figuring out an Amazon strategy is a must.
“Being on [Amazon] was kind of unavoidable. We tried to not be on Amazon for the longest time. But no matter if you decide to be or not, you’re going to be on Amazon. There are resellers who buy products, resell them on Amazon, and you don’t have control of the brand experience. A lot of negative reviews can come out of that, and it reflects poorly on the brand.”

“We had to revamp our Amazon strategy. There are a ton of knockoffs of our products there. Amazon really punishes you if you’re not on Prime, if you’re not paying for ad space to be a sponsored post and there are some patent trolls out there who will claim they had your product first. We had to spend a ton of money revamping our entire Amazon exposure out there. It’s helped our brand soar, but Amazon is a full-time job to control other retailers out there who are selling your product online when they aren’t supposed to be.” 

Managing in-house marketing is difficult.
“If you want to take something in-house, it takes a lot of work and eventually you’re going to need the amount of headcount you have at your agency, but it’s going to be under your control. The relationship with our agency will get tougher toward the end [when we’ve in-housed everything].” 

“If you’re super open [about taking things in-house,] it’s much better than trying to do things behind the agencies’ back because they’ll just stop working, they’ll be like ‘F-you’.”

“Whatever you do [in-house or agency], you get the best work when you’re working with a team who will tell you ‘no’ or that ‘your idea is bad.’ Sometimes bigger corporations need an agency to step in to tell them that something is a bad idea, that they don’t have the pulse on culture.”

No one wants to pay agency-of-record retainers.
“Agency-of-record retainers are so high, and if you’re a small brand, you can’t support it. It’s much more cost-effective to do a big project when you need someone to give a strategic vision or define the look and feel and then have someone junior or in-house do the execution.” 

“Even if you end up spending more over time it feels better to some brands who are very new to spending on creative to do project-based work rather than retainer.” 

“When you’re paying a retainer, it feels like people at the agency are onto the next thing and business development is looking for the next retainer payer. By clearly defining the project, it forces the team internally to really be thoughtful about where we’re trying to get to and the agency doesn’t take it for granted. I’ve found that the turnaround time on project-based work is a lot shorter. With a retainer, the agency will stretch it out for months because of the retainer fee.” 

Internal structure is still a problem.
“We’ve have segmented out our channels. I handle digital. We have a separate social team, so I don’t touch social at all. A lot of times, we can find ourselves being really siloed and we’re not cross-promoting. Or we’re doing double the work that we all need to be doing. We also have an in-house creative team and outsource with an agency so there’s definitely duplication of the work happening.”

“Our team is too small, and the number of people who want something from marketing is vast. We’re trying to figure out how to balance what we can achieve for the brand and what everyone else wants. And everyone in the business thinks they know about marketing.” 

“With startups, there are often times where the founder is not the brand marketer but they are the brand vision. There’s a really tough dichotomy because you want to lean on them since they understand the brand but they also don’t understand what marketing costs. They’ll say they don’t want to do paid social but they want exposure. There are a lot times where tactile marketing strategies that most of us have employed before don’t line up with the founder or CEO sees as needed.” 

No one has attribution figured out.
“There’s a lot of brand media you can’t measure. You can’t measure a TV commercial or an out-of-home billboard but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.”

“I always push anyone we work with to work under one system [for attribution]. Tracking becomes a lot harder when everyone is using their own preferred system. You have to pick the system of attribution that works for you and make sure whoever you work with is on your system instead of you being on theirs.”

All eyes are on TikTok.
“We’re trying to figure out when to dip our toes into TikTok. Our brand and social media teams are studying TikTok and immersing themselves in it. [But the underage community is hard to understand,] a lot of the [popular TikTok personalities] are under 18.”

“TikTok is very intimidating.”

“TikTok stars are much cheaper than Instagram because they still don’t know what to charge.”  

The end of likes will make influencers more accountable.
“With our brand, we’re moving so quickly, so to find content creators and influencers we want to work with, the number of likes is a big part of the consideration. Likes going away on Instagram will require us as brands to have a more authentic conversation with influencers before working together now. We’ll need to see how often their posts are shared or saved — right now that’s all private information for them.”

“Influencers have been the shiny object for a lot of marketers. A lot of brands [for whom it doesn’t make sense] have been using them. Now, with likes going away, it’ll make influencers more accountable. Influencers will have to actually report back to you and prove what you’re paying them and why it’s worthwhile.” 

“I haven’t been in a conversation in the last three years where somebody didn’t want to use influencer marketing.”

“I do marketing, but I’m also an influencer. Brands are sending out emails saying they need access to more analytics. I’ve never thought likes do anything; it’s all about your reach. Now brands are finally catching onto that.”

“Attribution for influencers is really, really hard. There’s a disconnect between putting too much focus on things that are truly effective in brand building and things that short term and that can give us the attribution. We go with what can be attributed because we can prove it. In my experience, we do that because marketing can be first at the chopping block, so it’s important to prove value, but then you negate your long-term strategy because you can’t track those brand-building aspects as easily.”

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