The Changing Face of Data & Advertising (and the Shift Towards People-Based Marketing)

By Divya Dhaliwal, Manager, Marketing Sciences, Mindshare North America

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We live in an age of the consumers. People historically haven’t been as connected, empowered, or given as many choices as they have at their fingertips today. Connected across social platforms, absorbing content across publishers and channels, consumers are mass producing demand signals daily. There’s no shortage of data, or ad-tech/mar-tech companies to help make sense of it all. And yet, the question that arises from all this is:  How do we as marketers prioritize and use all this information to do right by consumers?

The underlying theme of this seminar, like many others throughout Advertising Week, has been stressing that the future of our industry is rooted in people-based marketing. Powering a seamless customer experience and personalizing messaging efforts requires us as marketers to, dare I say, revisit, and evaluate how we use data, what data sources we leverage (while keeping in mind things like the implications of GDPR, potential applications of blockchain, and more).

The task at hand really is one of data sophistication and automation such that we as marketers can shift our focus on the creative, conscious, and relevant application of data in efforts to best serve the needs of consumers. Here are a few thought starters:

  • Test and Learn: American Express SVP of Global Merchant Analytics, Atul Dalmia, made a great case for the importance of investing in test-and-learn opportunities that translate into business outcomes and allow AmEx to tailor their offerings across channels based on the needs of their loyal customers. As marketers, we’re called to be more iterative and agile by leveraging test and learn opportunities to fail faster and more often. In a race towards personalization, garnering insights rooted in data and experience ultimately translate into growth for the business. Net net, iterate often, and fail fast.
  • Tie Back to Purpose: while there’s plenty of data that we can leverage to develop personas (i.e. attitudes, motivations, and consumer affinities), the most important thing for us as marketers is ensuring we understand the “why” behind its use. Doing so, forces us to take a harder look at the data we are leveraging for audience targeting. What’s the hypothesis or question we’re trying to solve? Are we targeting for the sake of audience targeting?
  • Linking Behaviors and Tapping into Trigger Points: Saejin Park, GM Director of Global Data Monetization, made a holistic example of how GM’s OnStar Service leverages its data to identify customers who need new cars post-accident. Before jumping in on the sale, they are offered “a ride home” or other in-the-moment situationally and emotionally relevant solutions. By tapping into the emotional weight of a traumatic experience and “humanizing” the use of the data collected to identify the accident, GM demonstrates how it’s able to provide higher quality customer experience – the foundation of how loyalty is built.

Subscription oriented models are forcing companies to understand consumer journeys and the quantitative monetary value of customer experience. Dollar Shave Club, acquired by Unilever a couple years ago, is a great example of a company that understood that customer journey and lifestyle. Wayfair also stands out as an e-commerce company that skillfully converges ad-tech and mar-tech. Rather than relying on the classical constraints of silo-ing data in a channel-specific approach, Wayfair’s data strategy lives a bit differently. With a single view of customers across all touchpoints, they’re able to personalize based on the needs of that customer based on touchpoints, and customer lifetime value. By placing a heavy focus not only on their retention strategy of the 13MM+ users they have, but also on customer lifetime value of future acquired customers, they can understand what they are truly worth to the business.

While not all brands are direct-to-consumer or e-commerce in nature, there’s much to learn from the likes of Wayfair and Dollar Shave Club. The foundational principle still holds true: customer experience is the north star for us as marketers. Without a channel agnostic customer experience approach to communication strategy, brands are likely to steer off course.