Marketers are no strangers to managing complex relationships and campaigns.
But as digital ecosystems (of vendors, platforms, agencies, business, etc.) expand and the lines between sectors blur, marketers are rethinking how to build value and their own roles. In our latest Discussions in Digital podcast, Brian Gregg, a senior partner who coleads the marketing service line, explores how marketing leaders can make ecosystems work for them. Participating in the discussion are David Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia, Brian Goffman, vice president and senior solutions-group leader at McKinsey, and cohost Dianne Esber, who coleads McKinsey’s West Coast Consumer Tech practice. This is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Darwinian battles in the marketing ecosystem
Brian Gregg: The term “ecosystem” has really taken off in the digital world recently. How do you define it?
David Morgan: For the customer, it’s the media companies that intermediate between them and the businesses that want to make contact with them. For marketers, it’s typically agencies or contract services that do the intermediation. What’s happened in the digital world—where you didn’t have established supply chains—are hundreds or thousands of companies in between that are intermediating them.
Brian Goffman: For publishers, things have gotten increasingly consolidated. There was an early Web where anybody could put up banners and be successful. Then the shift to mobile was a pretty dramatic change. But Facebook, LinkedIn, and eventually others navigated it. Snapchat is kind of a native mobile product. But even when you look at the traffic or the time spent on mobile apps, it’s really consolidating, and the big players are only getting bigger. So that part of the ecosystem is truly Darwinian, in that the winners are sitting at the top of the food chain.
One ecosystem I’m really interested in, and I think is not yet well understood, is the voice ecosystem in the home. Voice-recognition technology was a real sleeper, a kind of call-center optimization and cost-cutting move that didn’t work very well. But these systems are now truly mind-blowing in what they can do, and the penetration rate and growth rate is off the charts. So you’re going to have multiple voice-based ecosystems in your home, and they’re each trying, to some extent, to own your home. They’re also trying to own the channel into your retail.
I think the complexity of that ecosystem, even as a leader of your own individual ecosystem, is incredibly difficult, and that makes a consistent message very, very challenging. That said, the payoff for doing it right is gigantic.