As CMO of Pepperjam, Maura oversees the brand including digital marketing, messaging and creative, social responsibility and communications.
It’s said that in times of crisis, the way in which people respond to adversity is just as unique as the people themselves — no two reactions are ever exactly alike. When a crisis arises, some marketers may deflect to making rash or knee-jerk judgment calls and others may tend to delay reaction, while others opt to stay the course, choosing not to react at all. Despite the variations, what is typically the same is the impetus for the reaction.
At the root of every reaction lies one common denominator: uncertainty. Simply not knowing the full score or consequence of a situation can accelerate a wrong reaction or, in some cases, propel complete inaction. It’s the uncertainty that usually drives people to abandon best-laid plans or stick with what they are familiar with because there is some level of comfort, no matter how small, in defaulting to what you know and, perhaps more importantly, what you believe you can depend on.
To illustrate this point, you need only look at times of major uncertainty, including the dot-com crash in the early 2000s, the tragedy of 9/11 and the impacts of the Great Recession. Each teaches us lessons that took marketers back to their roots, back to marketing channels that create true connection, going beyond a one-and-done conversion, transcending into relationship building.
The benefit of coming out on the other side of any crisis is that hindsight is 20/20. But for many marketers, this Covid-19 pandemic crisis is different from anything else they’ve had to face. In a matter of weeks, if not days, life came to an abrupt halt and there isn’t a clear blueprint on exactly how we reach the other side yet. As most of the country embarks on its plan to reopen their respective economies, tensions still swirl around what the safest, most responsible way to do this looks like. So, in the meantime, the ultimate question is: Where do marketers turn right now in a relatively unpredictable economy?
What consumers need more than anything right now is to establish or re-establish trust with brands — all brands. Whether you’re in the market for hand sanitizer or clothing, trusting that the brand will deliver quality, convenience and value are paramount.
The affiliate channel was built on this concept. Within the affiliate model, retail marketers (brands) partner with carefully chosen publishers in order to tap into the power and reach of the publisher’s audience. These partnerships essentially assist in amplifying messaging with the ultimate goal of completing some form of agreed-upon conversion.
It is at this time — and only at the time of conversion — that a commission is paid to the partner for their contribution. The affiliate model is all about building relationships over time and eventually gaining trust. Simply put, every time a consumer turns to a publisher for a review or a recommendation, they are exercising trust. Publisher partners have built their business and their brand honoring this, and they take that responsibility very seriously.
In times of uncertainty, the reality is that marketers need tried-and-true mechanisms to deliver the results they need, especially when the objective is topline revenue.
Recently, a survey issued by Commerce Next indicated that marketers seem to be decreasing investment in traditional primary (read: paid) media channels in response to Covid-19. In fact, the data also shows that, of the marketers surveyed, affiliate spend is the marketing channel that brands plan to maintain the most (43%).
Once marketers have determined the desire to incorporate affiliate to their marketing strategy, the following primer will keep one on track and ensure that all are aligned internally:
• Delineate and nurture subject matter expertise within the channel.
• Zero in on overarching goals and then pinpoint KPIs on which all stakeholders align.
• Ensure that affiliate data is integrated alongside your holistic digital marketing data.
• Acknowledge that data is your guide going forward, as it will allow you to course-correct and optimize.
• Treat the engagement with key stakeholders as one of continuing education and socializing how the channel works, and all achievements and learnings.
Marketers are turning to the channels that they know and trust. These are the channels that have provided dependable results over the long-term. What they are not are ill-timed pilot programs. In some respect, that has been some sense of quiet in the attempt to propagate this contrived channel and we’ve even seen some industry constituents go so far as to revert back to the exclusive use of the term “affiliate marketing” because they know its longevity, dependability and, most importantly, its ability to deliver the results marketers need right now.