Winning in Tough Times – Oscar Eriksson on Growth in Economic Turmoil

Oscar Eriksson
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”Paradoxically, it has never been easier for digital brands to create relative advantages.”

In a world grappling with economic uncertainty, leaders are scripting new growth narratives to navigate tougher waters. Whereas both brick-and-mortar and eCommerce businesses across the US and Europe see times of decline in performance and marketing efficiency, Oscar Eriksson’s track-record of growing brands in the digital landscape offers a unique lens amidst the economic turmoil. As global economies traverse unsteady terrain, the voice of Oscar Eriksson reverberates as a compass steering beyond mere market fluctuations. In the past years, he has created record-breaking digital growth across a range of industries and within both start-ups, scale-ups and global brands. CEO Weekly met with the award-winning brand leader to talk growth tactics and strategic shifts creating advantages for digital brands.

Signal Strategy in action

“Recessions are an integral part of the macroeconomic cycle,” Eriksson asserts. “Our response to these challenges shapes our trajectory and thereby future positioning. They are a call to innovation and to reimagine strategies. This does not happen through a magic, guru-like playbook. But through deeper analysis of underlying patterns followed by immediate, bold pivots based on just that. We usually call this “Signal Strategy”. It is a more fluid and dynamic way to work than we’ve seen traditionally. A few strong pivots based on signals can make all the difference, as we have seen in the past 24 months.”

What is meant by Signal Strategy and how does it materialize?

“Signal Strategy in marketing has been a thing for a while now. In short, tougher times and less available resources mean increased pressure on details, as I see it. Baseline and blended KPIs like CPM, CTR and CPC become less indicative of forecasted performance and market reactions. Mainly because they are meta-pieces of data and secondarily because the platforms themselves tend to be favorably skewed in their reporting.” 

“Instead, we obsess around understanding the underlying drivers and triggers that build up to the more widely reported KPIs. These “signals” are found deeper below our content and messaging. Like identifying where, why and how a segment or cluster watched at least 3 seconds of a creative, not analyzing only the ad or campaign as a whole. Same thing with measuring the actual events taking place within the first 5-15 seconds after someone visits a site or app. Not only looking at the full session or consolidated chunks of sessions. We want to understand the real intent behind every action. Then, we can tailor great stuff around those insights, assuming we acquire large enough sets of data that talented people can cluster in tangible ways. The whole value of applying Signal Strategy is working with the underlying signals that, at scale, create the more easily discovered outcomes and numbers. This way, we are often a few steps ahead of the competition.”

Interesting. So how are these signals discovered in-action?

”Today, there are so many accessible power-houses when it comes to that discovery part. Moving from meta-like analytics that the traditional platforms provide, towards more real-time displays that tell the story behind any outcome, has become a hygiene factor. Like Northbeam for true, omni-channel attribution along the consideration funnel. Like Hotjar or Crazy Egg for user behavior, decision-patterns and hurdles along the sales funnel. Or Heap to quickly turn clustered data flows into personalized communication across all channels. And maybe most vital, targeting softwares like Proxima or Placer in a world of more opaque prospecting practices.”

A content playbook enabling scalability and growth

“Something else that I believe puts anyone ahead, is making the tough decisions that ultimately free up resources to break through the noise in the market. For example, most brands overestimate the pure financial investments you need to make in content today. Sure, great content, and lots of content is great. However, we have been able to add back a significant share of our overall budgets by creating content leaner and more scalable by pulling vital resources in-house, without tampering with brand guidelines and positioning.”

“One example is how we produce, A/B-test, personalize and repurpose content across a large number of channels with very simple and efficient tools. These tools are available for anyone. For example, leveraging Midjourney or Lumen5 for video creation using AI to turn content into videos. Or Stencil, Animoto, Shakr or Canva to customize large sets of content templates and graphic variations, ready to be launched in creative stacks for rapid testing, using Signal Strategy if you are into that. When it comes to A/B testing creatives, we usually find quite different outcomes between the ad platform’s analytics, compared to using for example MagicX, Qwaya or AdEspresso. Sometimes you can arrive at statistical significance in your testing through these tools faster, so I would always keep them in the digital tool box.”

Is the agency model dying?

We enter into another subject during our conversation. The one of operational planning to maximize efficiency, agility and ultimately return on brand- or marketing investments. A permeating pattern of Oscar Eriksson’s decisions is the one of moving from relying on external agencies, towards executing most of the workstreams in-house. 

If content production can be streamlined and scaled in-house, do we see the same pattern across for example media agencies and other stakeholders?

“There are of course great marketing agencies out there, but I tend to discover a few problematic issues with agency reliance. One of my issues is the sense of ”black box” experience; that the agency has this magic formula for success in terms of targeting, creative stacks and campaign structure that you simply cannot live without. Another issue I have with most agencies is the quality of strategic reasoning being translated into a board room or to a group of executives. More than looking at a certain ROAS-number, my leadership peers and I want to understand short- and long-term plays as part of a holistic omni-channel strategy. While this might be very clearly visualized in a pitch or sales process from an agency, my experience is that this is so much more obtainable once you have pulled performance marketing and similar workstreams in-house. If you know what you are doing, if you have a crystal clear vision for the brand, if you understand your audience deeply, relationally and emotionally, and if you have the right people in place, I am convinced that going in-house is the right call for most brands aiming for serious growth going forward. There are a bunch of additional factors in the realms of agility, creativity and culture connected to this as well, but that might be too much of a rabbit hole to dive into today.”

The future of brand leadership – a game of subtle cues

As we delve into the strategies and insights shared by Oscar Eriksson, it’s evident that the landscape of brand growth is undergoing a transformative shift. Signal Strategy emerges as a guiding principle in these uncertain times, advocating for an approach that seeks to uncover the subtle cues beneath the surface metrics. The evolving role of accessible tools in predictive analytics, the reimagining of content creation, and the nuanced decision to shift workstreams in-house all signal a broader industry shift. In the dynamic world of brand leadership, the next chapter promises to be as riveting as the insights shared here, inviting us to stay tuned for the unfolding story of growth in the face of uncertainty.


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