At SAP, a big multi-national software company, native advertising is a big part of the marketing mix, but it doesn’t come without challenges. The key here is to look at the challenges as opportunities and to keep trying so you can learn from your mistakes, says Irina Pashina, Senior Director, Content Marketing at SAP.
We interviewed her when she attended Native Advertising DAYS in 2017.
Below are highlights from the interview which have been slightly edited for clarity.
Providing the right content at the right time of the journey is key for any brand, company, and organization.
The right content at the right time
What characterizes the way I work with native and how we at SAP work with native is the way we look at the entire customer experience.
Our foundational belief and my belief as well is that providing the right content at the right time of the journey is key for any brand, company, and organization. That’s how we look at native advertising as well. So it’s a standard supporting tactic in providing great customer experiences along the entire customer journey.
We have an integrated approach to media and to content. We have an integrated media team and they drive an integrated media experience as well. So whenever native advertising is identified as a right tactic for a certain campaign to drive certain business objectives, it’s used.
We were actually the first partner of Forbes in the BrandVoice experience and program.
The native flagship
One of the key and flagship programs we launched quite a few years ago is the SAP BrandVoice via Forbes. We were actually the first partner of Forbes in the BrandVoice experience and program. That’s an ongoing thing and we’re doing really well.
Tim Clark, my colleague, is driving that program and the key there is authenticity and employee brand journalism. We are very strong at that and that’s an ongoing practice.
In addition to that, we use other formats of native advertising, mostly for early stages of the customer experience. That’s proven to be helpful.
Another very big challenge I see out there is knowing the audience.
The challenges of native advertising
The biggest challenges using native at SAP are the biggest challenges out there for all marketers, actually.
The first, I think, is the need for this user-centric approach in everything we do. The other thing is being very selective when we work with publishers, be it locally or globally.
Transparency is also a challenge. We always want the sponsored content — our paid media content — to be labelled as such. That’s a must.
Another very big challenge I see out there is knowing the audience. Knowing it to the extent that we always provide relevant content to them. Wherever they are. Which is a big challenge for all of us working in marketing nowadays.
If we are there for them at every step of the journey, they’ll ultimately trust us and we know that trust is the ultimate currency nowadays.
Challenges are also opportunities
Challenges are always opportunities as well.
So there is the other side of challenges: Looking for more ways or better ways to get to know our audiences. To really translate that into experiences — whatever we know about them, wherever they are — and translate that into experiences for them to not only meet expectations but also exceed them.
And to make sure they trust us all the way. If we are there for them at every step of the journey, they’ll ultimately trust us and we know that trust is the ultimate currency nowadays. We also know that customer experience happens mostly without the involvement of the brand or the company. And that’s a challenge but also an opportunity to use content and reach audiences wherever they are.
We have to keep trying out new things, even if we fail at first. We have to keep learning.
The focus on customer experience end to end will remain a very strong focus. That involves, of course, native advertising.
The need for 100 percent relevance in every piece of content we provide will continue to be in focus as well, no matter where and how. But also using new piloting and new approaches to native.
Furthermore, we have to keep trying out new things, even if we fail at first. We have to keep learning. Learning, in general for marketers, is extremely important. So being a fast learner is almost part of the job description. So becoming more effective learners and doers and connecting with the audiences in an even more relevant manner to create an end-to-end great customer experience.
I think that’s the way ahead.
Irina Pashina has been named one of “100 Significant Women in Native Advertising 2018”