This post is by Ben Silcox, Head of Data and Technology at Havas EHS.

205 million results returned in 0.31 seconds. Always-on marketing is clearly a popular topic. Once you get beyond the slide-ware of conferences and presentations; the two questions that really seem to matter are: Where to start and what to do first.

To start – define what 'always-on' might be when viewed from a consumer experience:

There are two fundamental elements that define always-on marketing:

  1. It is 'pulled' from the consumer. What does this mean?

  2. Here's a simple example; you can 'push' an email or digital banner ad out to the biggest audience you can find, hoping some of that sticks and someone will buy a flight on your airline. Keep doing this over and over again and hope you get enough response.

Alternatively, listen and understand the rhythms of different types of consumers – enable the offer for a discounted flight to be discovered at 8pm on a Sunday evening because previous search, site & social activity you analysed tell you this.

  1. It is anticipatory. It hinges on a deep understanding of consumer behaviour; the nuances and the similarities. It is: trying to provide something in advance of the consumer wanting to find it. It is: doing this within a context (time, place, location, emotion) that enables the consumer to easily and simply engage with your products or services.

A constant consideration but be what 'always-on' isn't. It isn't: trying to find a newer better way of doing what businesses have always done with marketing – the consumer's world and expectations have changed.

It isn't: bombarding consumers at a greater speed and with a greater volume. Often it is described as being 'omni-channel' and 'real-time' and in many businesses this is ends up being more parts of the business, sending more communications across more channels to more people. The result: a jarring, disconnected and challenging experience to make sense of; for example: sending an email on a Friday night for a product sale, only to have the store where it is being sold offering something different.

'Always-on' done well

Two particularly good examples of 'always-on' marketing:

The Barclays Pingit project created a mobile payments application that was available to any consumer anywhere – frictionless payments across mobile phones without having to be a Barclays customer. This service driven product has now become the largest acquisition channel for Barclays current accounts. Available at anytime, anywhere – but ultimately consumers want it as it adds real value.

The Share a Coke established originated in Australia is an example of mass-personalisation. Originating in social media channels and evolving to include digital out of home – a consumer activity to personalise a coke bottle or can to share and talk about. The experience was slightly different in each channel and delivered with a consistency that was striking and effective.

There are some key considerations for any marketers or agencies looking to provide a step in the right direction:

  • Understand the context. In always-on marketing, context is everything. Locations, rhythms, competition, locations, emotion all have an impact. The context of how our products and services are used, talked about, bought and viewed will define our ability to deliver always-on marketing. Where we understand and can capture data that allows us to insight to this contextual consumer behaviour..

  • Understand the consumer. Always-on marketing is the ultimate extent of consumer-centric marketing. It requires a deep understanding of the patterns, motivations, considerations and analysis of consumer behaviour. It requires this to cover all elements of the business, and anything that impacts the consumer experience – either directly or indirectly..

  • Understand the data. Always-on marketing is ultimately data-driven; and without using both your own data – and the exhaust data from the broad digital world – you will not be able to understand and know enough to deliver true always-on marketing..

  • Become Service & Product driven. Always-on is not advertising, it requires a view of brands and businesses being of service to consumers, practically and or emotionally useful. Understanding consumer requirements is being able to predict, create and deliver services & products that they might want. Providing the vehicle for them to 'pull' your business into their daily world. Think Mint for financial services, or GSK's Hay Fever application.


Where to start? There are three simple steps that companies need to make to begin this journey. Being very clear about these steps, getting internal agreement from senior executives, and being fully committed are the minimum pre-requisites. Without these, only minimal benefit can be gained.

  1. What are your objectives? Revisit and be very clear about your business objectives and what you want to achieve. Take market share, grow acquisition, improve loyalty, drive awareness – all will result in different application and planning for driving your always-on lifestyle..

  2. What is your data landscape? A clear understanding of your data assets, the quality of them, the data they hold will define your key challenge – making sense of this and aligning it to understand and anticipate customer behaviour. Many businesses only consider data at a channel & function level – mapping this to understand the meta-data at a consumer level can be incredibly insightful..

  3. What experience will matter? Defining the experience you want your consumers to have is a great starting point – it will help to define the gap from where you are now to where you want to be. It will allow you to understand what success will look like – and create a compelling vision that you can align the business behind..

There is no one right answer to what and how to deliver always-on marketing – you can ask 10 experts at the moment and you will get 10 different responses.

The one clear expectation you should have; that has been consistent across all our clients going on this journey is this: your business will need to change.

The way you work, the consumer-first view, the ownership & use of data, and the marketing function – all end up changing. The speed and focus with which you can do this will determine your ability to become ever more relevant to your consumers.

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