Data is all around us, in business as well as in our private lives. As a marketer, the richness of data has never been more alluring than in the 21st century. Studies have been published in the last several years that herald a new age of engagement between marketing agencies and in-house marketing teams. This 2019 Marketingland article describes well the dichotomy companies are facing regarding hiring a great advertising agency versus hiring great in-house talent. It used to all be about cost in the past, now it is all about the ownership of the data and marketing innovation.
As Clint Tasset writes in his article: “Data supplies the WHAT and creative delivers the WHY. But as more brands announce in-house moves, agencies need to not feel threatened but know that it is time to evolve their service offerings and help marketers to streamline data from a variety of sources.”
As a social media director, data plays a vital role in my job every day. We use it in the most common way available to us today, which is for audience profiling and ad targeting. Let me expand on both a little further.
Did you know that as of 2015 (Bloomberg study), about a quarter of all video ads are “watched” by bots and not actual humans? This is often referred to as click fraud. A 2016 hosting study found that this number might have reached even 50% in some cases on the internet. Is it any wonder that Twitter had to remove roughly 70 million bot accounts in May and June 2018 alone? Every video view “wasted” on a bot, is wasted $ from your ad budgeting. This is why targeting becomes so important.
But let’s start with profiling. First you need to know who your audience/customer segment is. Beyond knowing their sheer demographic information, it is even better if you can find the common attributes of your highest value customers. With predictive modeling, you can find these customer’s and identify their most remarkable attributes. You will profile those who will be most loyal to your brand and spend money with you for a lifetime. Recruiting identical future customers has been shown to result in the highest ROI for your ad budget.
Once that profile is created, you can place customer attributes into your ad buying platform. There are two dominant processes for this kind of targeting.
- You can use your company’s first party data, such as a CRM system. (A note: I would strongly encourage you to use an intermediary software that creates anonymized records of your customers. Use this before passing them on to any ad buying platform for matching). This process supports programmatic and search engine ad buying, as the audience segment can be too wide without narrowing it down with very granular criteria.
- Use the attributes of your high value customer profile as characteristics and identifiers directly in your media outlet. For example, think of LinkedIn giving you job title and geographic location information on an audience. You can build your target audience to be CEOs in North America, without knowing the name of a single individual in your audience segment.
Using these two methods, you will ensure that your primary ad message hits the most relevant audience, without wasting dollars on bots or unqualified audiences. The benefits you reap from accurate targeting range from the obvious cost efficiencies, to tracking cross channel sales attribution, all the way to creating a 360-degree customer profile on- and offline.
2. Revival of the Out of Home Advertising Model
Many an article has heralded the death of traditional billboards (and out of home advertisement (OOH)). In the end, the OOH industry just went through a digital transformation. Data driven billboards are the rage now. This marketing innovation enables dynamic ads based on data driven triggers. If this sounds too techy to you, here are my three, favorite examples:
- Spotify using first party data (user data) for their billboards around the globe in their “Wrap” 2016, 2017 and 2018 campaigns. If you are unfamiliar with the “burn”, check out this list of fun billboards. You might be wondering, how this is helpful to the brand: Spotify? To answer that it would take me another blog post, so instead I will leave you with this great one by Rebecca Sentance. The overall campaign yielded a lot of buzz on social media and in online articles. While there is no way to create a 1to1 revenue attribution from this campaign, the buzz alone raised the company’s profile beyond the advertising expense.
- Dynamic billboard content driven by weather forecast: McDonald’s ran a snow report billboard campaign in Canada in 2016. On the Sea-to-Sky Highway connecting Vancouver, British Columbia with Whistler/ Blackcomb (ski resort), you could see multiple McDonald’s ads showing hot drinks with varying sizes of whipped cream toppings, featuring the snow coverage of the local peaks. If that does not make you smile, I am not sure what will melt your ice. (pun intended)
- Dynamic billboard content driven by traffic data: Skoda ads showing up in UK shopping malls, advertising the driving time to 4 desirable destinations. The ads feature real time driving time updates as well as showcasing Skoda’s high-end luxury car models in your destination city’s landscape. To read more, see Nikki Gillard’s blog post on econsultancy.com
3. Product Development
Looping back to our original topic of marketing innovation driven by data brings me to customer insights and reviews. In some companies product is ownership may reside with marketing. In others it is not, but customer data should benefit the company and all departments, not just the one who is collecting it. Data may have many origination points. Marketing is often on the receiving end of social media comments and complaints. Sometimes they even own consumer reviews, such as Yelp, BBB, Google Reviews or Amazon Wish-Lists. Then there are customer complaints over calls or emails and just simply online rants. The UX team might track customer usage patterns of digital devices and analytics sent back to the manufacturer.
All these data sources can turn into a well of ideas to any product team. Combining these data streams and extracting insights is not an easy task, but it yields rich feedback on customer pain points with existing products. It can also inspire the team to design new features that address requests that consumers may not have known to ask for.
Before I wrap up my article on marketing innovations, there is a +1 for good measure, that I want to share. I am unsure if I fully agree with Andrew Medal’s article on The Entrepreneur regarding Big Data use resulting in speed of decision making but there is an inkling of truth in his article.
4. Speed to Market
Andrew attributes the success of Oreo’s famous 2013 Super Bowl ad to streamlined decision making due to Big Data and Analytics. While I don’t disagree that the “Dunk in the Dark” campaign was a smash hit on social media, and that speed to market was definitely a key component of capturing the heart of the people, I do not believe that data was the cause of faster decisions making.
I believe that active social media listening, and alerts have played a vital role for the marketing team to be quick on their feet and release the “Dunk in the Dark” campaign, which went viral within moments of the power outage of the 2013 Super Bowl. However, I think equally important is the trust the executives placed in the marketing team to let them fly with this idea. I do not believe that Big Data can compel untrusting executives to spontaneously trust their marketing team. Which is what Andrew’s article implies.
Use Data Responsibly
And this brings me to my final consideration for this blog post. I think Data is enriching our lives professionally and personally. I believe data, used correctly, can change the world, not just the advertising world. It is equally important to empower our marketing teams and executives to trust and verify what we believe, before taking action, solely based on data derived insights. Building a team of experts in data use will take time and mistakes, but most importantly attempts. If we don’t let our teams try and learn, they cannot fail, but they can also never succeed. Let’s use data responsibly and achieve success that an entire industry can build upon with marketing innovation.