fractured marketing

Fractured Marketing: What It Is and Why It’s Preventing Customer Connection

RJ Licata, Sr. Director of Marketing

Key Points

  • Fractured marketing is the failure to fully align all of a brand’s marketing campaigns and channels under one strategy.
  • Fractured marketing impacts most industry ecosystems and results from issues like channel-specific overinvestment, broken customer journey, bad customer data, non-holistic philosophies, and more.
  • Brands that want to heal the fracture should prioritize understanding customers through search intent data and building the infrastructure to authentically connect with customers.

What is fractured marketing?


Fractured marketing

The failure to fully align all of a brand’s marketing campaigns and channels under one strategy.

Fractured marketing results in difficulty connecting with customers when they reach out in search of solutions to their problems. 

Brands that prioritize omnichannel marketing may get results, but without a strategy that prioritizes consumer connection, and consumer needs, an omnichannel approach can still be fractured.

Fractured marketing isn’t a minor issue, it’s a fundamental weakness at the center of today’s paid marketing approaches, which overly focus on transactions.

Why does it matter?

Reaching your audience only at the transactional level, or when and where you pay for promotion, misses millions of consumers who are looking for solutions across the entire funnel.

Pay-to-play only works while you’re paying, but what happens once the spending is over? This means that brands must build the digital infrastructure to be there when consumers reach out, no matter where they are in their buying journey.

Status quo marketing practices interrupt or ask permission and then serve up transactional content. Unless the target is primed to buy, this often creates a mismatch between customer needs and your offering — especially for brands that lack the infrastructure for higher-level awareness. 

When brands spend big on ads, their ability to realize market share gains and capitalize on customer attention is minimized if their other marketing efforts are fractured. That’s why brands need to reprioritize their marketing dollars in a holistic way that includes the entire funnel — not just transactions.

Here’s why marketing is fractured

Marketing is fractured for dozens of reasons, from bad data and misunderstood customers to overinvestment in interruptive marketing techniques. Here are some of the biggest reasons for fractured marketing:

Relying on the wrong data

Much of marketing is powered by first and third-party data. With first-party, you know where it comes from but third-party data sources are opaque. This is a problem, but the fundamental issue is that third-party data does not reveal your customers’ actual desires.

Search intent data does. Search intent data is a rich resource of consumer behavior across all Google users. This consumer intent data can be expertly mapped and used to reveal what people are searching for and how brands can help them. Think of this as your always-on, brutally honest, real-time focus group.

Search intent data can, and should, lead marketing strategy, but it goes beyond that. It can lead, shape, and evolve business strategies based on what customers are actually asking for in an unbiased and honest way. 

Every day, people reveal their honest desires on Google. This trustworthy data can be used to understand the market, make investment decisions, attack new spaces, and much more.

Disconnected customer journey

Today’s customer journey is anything but one-size-fits-all. Brands need to shift their approach if they hope to connect with consumers. Today’s “awareness to transaction” process focuses heavily on forcing a purchase decision. But building awareness and providing up-front value by solving a consumer’s problem is more effective at creating customer connection.

Many marketing teams focus too strictly on the bottom of the funnel — forcing a transaction. They neglect the rest of the buying journey. This leads to marketing that only targets the fraction of people who are ready to buy. And it misses or creates misalignment with everyone else.

While transactions are the ultimate goal, there are many content marketing goals to be achieved higher in the funnel. Ultimately, the higher-level awareness-focused work builds the infrastructure, trust, and relationships needed for great conversion rates, lower acquisition costs, and higher ROI.

Building trust, positioning yourself as an authority, solving customer problems, creating mutually beneficial relationships — these and more need to happen way before a transaction. Missing these key elements while pursuing transactions leaves you fighting to stand out against the competition.

What do audiences really want?

Audiences aren’t just looking for a product or service, they’re looking for information and solutions to their problems.

Brands that position themselves as problem solvers whenever and wherever people search for solutions gain awareness, build trust, and create lasting customer relationships.

That’s great marketing.

It’s vital to identify the problems your target audience has and serve up content that addresses those problems.


Glossier discovered that consumers who read their content on “Into the Gloss” are 40% more likely to purchase products from Glossier than competitors.


For instance, a glasses brand could use consumer search intent data to learn that its customers want answers about maintenance, types of UV protection, and the effectiveness of blue light filtering.

With this insight, the brand launches a content hub with articles highlighting the best maintenance routines for different types of glasses, breakdowns of different UV protection levels, and when blue light filtering is really worth it. This content helps consumers learn and helps the glasses brand connect with them at critical points in their buying journey. 

Consumers that interact with the content brands create are more likely to trust and return to the brand, ultimately making a purchase.

Lack of holistic philosophy

Businesses operating with a holistic marketing philosophy focus on aligning their disparate marketing efforts, unifying their messaging, and building long-term relationships with customers. This involves being mindful of the entire buying journey and creating content not just focused on sales, but on fostering trust, building a relationship, and helping their audience.

Brands and organizations that think of marketing as separated by channel and goal tend to overinvest in a few channels and focus on prioritizing transactions over customer connection. In doing so, they miss opportunities to capture higher-level attention. 

Limited ability to capitalize on marketing wins

Major marketing efforts — think Super Bowl ads — win massive attention simply because they make a big splash in front of millions of viewers. This is great, but attention alone does nothing without the proper online infrastructure (landing pages, blog posts, offers, forms, etc.) to actually capitalize on the buzz.

These kinds of high-profile stunts only turn into marketing wins if brands have somewhere to send the audience and a way to capture the attention’s value. Otherwise, they get the costly buzz only to be forgotten in the noise within days. Such has been the fate of many well-meaning brands.

Interruption and permission overinvestment 

A major part of fractured marketing is confusing certain types of promotional tactics as the entire strategy versus using them as tools that are part of a holistic strategy. Two big overinvestment areas like this are interruption and permission marketing.

Interruption marketing like banner ads, pop-ups, and other intrusive methods, while sometimes effective, annoy consumers and diminish the customer experience. Over time, and with too much reliance on interruption, brand trust, and equity start to erode.

Permission marketing — opt-ins like newsletters, special offers, and other promotional material. They can be effective, but even if it’s top-notch and innovative, these methods don’t get the engagement ROI to justify major spending.

Both of these tactics play a part, but instead of investing the majority of their budget between interruption and permission, brands should reorient their investment towards expanding their digital footprint by creating great content aimed at solving customer problems. Instead of asking permission or interrupting your audience, be present and ready to help them on their terms, when they actually ask for help.

Combatting fractured marketing

We’ve laid out the problems and the myriad reasons that brands experience difficulty connecting with customers higher in the funnel. Now, let’s look at some of the mindset shifts and actions brands can take to start evolving their strategies. 

From a bird’s eye view, there are three big starting points:

1. Establish and control your owned assets

Earlier, we discussed establishing the proper online infrastructure to capitalize on marketing wins. This is a foundational element that can optimize not only your conversions from search, but can increase the effectiveness of every marketing channel and tool you have.

Without an intentional infrastructure that begins with optimizing the owned assets you control, creating a holistic strategy (and reaping better cross-channel ROI) is impossible.

By infrastructure, we’re talking about all the online assets you control or can influence. This includes:

  • Corporate websites 
  • Blogs 
  • Blog posts 
  • White papers and case studies
  • Social media and business profiles 
  • Bylines 
  • Ally websites, and more 

These can be mapped out on a “controllability spectrum” — a ranking from total control to zero control. Then it can be optimized to align with what your audience wants at different buyer journey stages.

Focusing on the owned assets you control allows you to develop a clear, cohesive, and tailored message for your audience. That core message gets filtered up through your digital infrastructure. If your foundation is solid, stays on point across your less controlled channels like social, ally sites, and user-generated content.

Creating this infrastructure builds awareness, helps connect with consumers, and optimizes conversions, acquisition costs, and ROI across all channels.

2. Let search intent drive strategy

But, how do you know what customers actually want at different stages of their journey? The answer is search intent. 

Every day, millions of people turn to Google to solve problems. Google search queries are revealing because, during a search, users are at their most curious, vulnerable, and honest about their desires. Data gleaned from search is therefore one of the purest, and most accurate, forms of consumer intent data available — an always-on focus group. 

Search intent insights empower brands to build the perfect journey because they reveal what the audience wants throughout the funnel. Then, brands can better deliver answers and solutions to build awareness, trust, and create loyal customers.

3. Connect authentically with customers

With an asset-focused infrastructure that is search intent data-driven, it becomes much easier to connect with your audience and customers. Build true alignment so that when people search for solutions on Google, you are prepared to provide them with answers. 

Being there when and where your target audience reaches out to solve their pain points, instead of interrupting them or serving them irrelevant content, is the key. It builds trust, brand affinity, and sparks the all-important customer relationship. 

Helping your audience establishes you as an authority in the space, builds awareness, and delivers free value to the audience. It also solidifies your trustworthiness, all while converting attention into increased sales, and decreasing acquisition costs across marketing channels.

Authentic, lasting, and meaningful customer relationships (and the infrastructure to consistently create them) are the ultimate fractured marketing cure.

Final thoughts

Fractured marketing is a very real and pressing problem that brands must come to terms with. Today’s pay-to-play model is dysfunctional, especially without clear audience search intent data and sophisticated methods of building awareness and trust. The ROI on typical marketing channels is limited (and shrinking) across many industries. 

Audiences don’t just want a product or service, they want to solve their biggest problems. More and more they turn to search engines for answers. Organic search data is a priceless resource. It helps brands identify their consumers’ wants, create digital assets that long-term deliver value, and maximize ROI across channels.

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