Brands: Lead Your Agencies With Insights, Not Channels

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Consumers expect brands to deliver increasingly personalized experiences.  But consumers’ dynamic and shifting behaviors across a sea of platforms and devices—combined with their conflicted feelings around personal data privacy—have made it tough for brands to keep up.

Today, a typical marketing program relies on “push” based strategies that don’t allow for feedback or flexibility, separates execution from data and analysis, forces marketing teams to operate in silos and separates new channels and tactics like mobile or contextual targeting from more established ones like email or website marketing.

As a result, consumers receive apparently random messages and offers across various channels that don’t synch up with the time they spend researching a brand’s products and content. Or worse – consumers are stalked by targeted messages that are using outdated or incorrect insights.

To better streamline consumers’ experiences, brands need to improve the way they work with their agencies to develop integrated marketing strategies. By leading strategic discussions with data-driven insights about their consumers rather than with spending goals on specific channels, brands better enable agencies to explore more creative ideas that engage consumers with rich, relevant content.

 

Stepping Up To The Plate With Better Insights

To run more successful integrated marketing campaigns, brands need to arm their agencies with relevant data that depicts a more holistic profile of the target consumer and their communication habits and quirks, not the individual channels. For example, what if retail brands could hand their agencies the following type of description of a priority target:

John Smith is a 34-year-old male sales executive who enjoys outdoor activities, live sports and entertainment and luxury adventure vehicles. During his morning and afternoon commutes, he spends time on his phone checking the news, the latest scores, and occasionally listens to short podcasts. To shop for electronics, he typically researches at work on his desktop in between meetings or when he has downtime--visiting major review sites, checking blogs, or watching product videos. After work, he’ll spend more time researching, and possibly look for upcoming sales or discounts. This typically continues for a week or two before he finally decides to make a purchase on Amazon during the day or walk into a local Best Buy store on a weekend.

In the above example, the insights aren’t led by any one specific channel; rather, they focus on painting a visually rich picture of a person going through his natural—and relatable—daily routine. More important, creating and sharing real consumer data profiles more effectively informs the various campaigns to reach John and other consumers.

Contrast that example against more typical agency brief:

  • Target audience: Male, 25-34 years old, HH: $150,000+
  • Geos: Major DMAs nationwide – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City
  • Channels: TV, Email, Social (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)

As an agency, which brief would you prefer from your client? In the first example, the ‘universal profile’ of John Smith helps the agency better understand the consumer at a more personal level by describing his interests and research habits. In the latter example, the humanity of the consumer has been completely stripped away, which explains why so many campaign built on this type of research fail to engage with consumers.

 

Bye Channel-Based Marketing, Hello Insight-Led Engagement

Brands should lead their agencies with insights that will help them create a virtuous cycle of communication and feedback and increase relevance with consumers in real time, across channels. Therefore, marketing programs become a feedback loop that starts with a marketing action connecting with consumers; followed by insights from consumers’ reactions; and finally, a refined action based on new learned marketing outreach rules to deliver more relevant messages. In this new world, John Smith’s actions and engagement with the brand are immediately processed and informs the messages and offers he receives in real-time; leading him down a more natural succession of decisions towards a final purchase.

A great example involves pizza maker Domino’s, which established a long-term goal to reach over 50% in digital sales by 2015 from just over 20% in 2011. A couple years ago, Domino’s introduced Pizza Profiles, which allowed customers to save an Easy Order—their favorite food bundled with their preferred payment method, order type (delivery or carryout), and address or favorite store. Consumers embraced the convenience of their Pizza Profiles, enabling Domino’s to amass valuable data about their consumers—how often they order, what they like to order and how they like to order.

Domino’s was able to leverage these insights with a new email campaign in 2013 called Domino’s Dollars: when customers ordered two or more $5.99 medium pizzas online or via their phones, Domino's sent them a promo code worth $5. When it first began, Domino’s spokesperson Chris Brandon commented, “We're excited as anyone else to see how it goes and how our customers and fans respond. If it's something that they respond to well, we'll figure out ways to continue doing it.” Domino’s was able to exceed its goal of getting 50% of all orders from digital channels and continues to launch many targeted digital promotions today, illustrating how customer insights drive successful adaptation in a brand’s marketing efforts.

To date, the rapid ascension of multiple communication platforms has made it harder for brands and agencies to successfully execute integrated marketing. By reprioritizing insight-led engagement as the core of strategic campaign discussions, brands and agencies can streamline communications with consumers wherever they may be, rather than remain beholden to any specific channel.