Up Close and Personal: How the Science of Marketing and Art of Advertising Come Together

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Smartphones change the way you buy products and services.

Have you taken a picture of something to check it out later? Have you looked up a product review while standing in the store? Have you sent a picture to a friend to get their opinion? Have you checked a price and decided to buy online instead? The data shows us some rapidly emerging new behaviours in how customers hear about, choose, find and buy products and services. According to Google 66% of smartphone users turn to their phones to look something up in a TV commercial. 50% of smartphone owners have checked product reviews on their phones while shopping in a store. 90% of online shoppers aren’t certain of the brand they will buy before starting to look. 45% of smartphone owners have bought something they need while standing in the kitchen. Categories and markets vary of course, but the shift is basic and fundamental.

Brands are living in the ‘Data Age’

Angela Arhendts, formerly of Burberry, once said “Burberry brings our digital world to life in a physical space… walking through the doors is just like walking into our website”. Real and digital spaces are merged into a new ecosystem based on immediacy, location and intent. Amazon is rumoured to invest in 400 brick-and-mortar stores, while online businesses such as Birchbox and Zappos are also experimenting offline. Warby Parker, the online glasses retailer, has opened 31 stores and is now one of the top-grossing retailers in the US in sales per square foot, second only to Apple. Just as websites can become retailers, now physical retailers must find ways to integrate with the digital behaviours of their customers. For Adidas we regularly create retail packs consisting of digital and physical assets that allow campaigns to be quickly and efficiently deployed. Meanwhile the online experiences we create for them allow consumers to get a more personal view of the products. The ‘right’ role for physical stores will vary by brand and by location, and smart brands will think about how to deploy their real estate in the merging contexts of shoppable digital touchpoints and retail brand experiences.

The promise of Hypersegmentation

The current advertising model that has driven our industry for the past half century will not drive the next wave of growth. Clients and agencies see the need for a new approach to consumer engagement, new brand behaviours, new consumer-based business models and the need to maximise the power of data to reach consumers in far deeper and more effective ways. The worlds of programmatic advertising, eCRM and Social media disciplines are maturing and drawing closer together. Consequently, the industry is going through a seismic shift with the rise of increasingly addressable audiences. The model of a big communication idea that could resonate with large anonymous audiences is being challenged with the notion of mass personalisation at scale. However, to really move the conversation forward we have to move beyond just thinking that data is about buying targeted audiences.

The best work is going to use data to drive creativity through design, personal relevance, location and other contextual targeting capabilities. For McDonald’s in the Netherlands we have built a sophisticated eCRM program to deliver personal and timely communication through the app we built for them. It’s based on Preference Modelling and multi-channel ecommerce but it’s not just about offers, our real ambition is to improve the relationship between the brand and each customer. This is what we mean when we talk about dynamic demand. It’s a new horizon for relationship marketing and it’s all possible because we have unprecedented access to data.

People not Robots

Even though what we can do with data is incredible we must never forget that our audience are people, not robots. We must continue to be creatively bold while ensuring we place the consumer at the center of the dialogue, empowering them with greater control and a better, more relevant user experience. We respect our audience and build marketing based on permission and trust. For our work for Heineken’s Sub we created a creative unit designed to be used in online video contexts and hence to be personalised accordingly. The interactive experience has over 40 variants to suit specific targeting opportunities as well as personalisation options. This enables us to create a true one to one piece of communication for individual customers. We need great and tangible examples like this to break free from the endless array of hype and jargon that confuse the market and hinder the evolution we all want to see advance. Let’s have a more open and transparent conversation. Let’s focus on the benefits of real-time, relevant and personal communication opportunities without getting lost in complexity and difficulty.

Data-driven creativity

It’s hard to build deep memory structures with short-term tactics like data-driven offers, nagging loyalty schemes, creepy retargeting, or ‘next best action’ pattern-recognition techniques. Long-term branding relies extensively on the creation of emotional connections even when we are using innovative techniques and media platforms.

A good example of this is the KLM #happytohelp project. We conceived a system that constantly monitored social channels for examples of customers of all airlines who needed help. Real-time listening fed a creative production capability that could respond quickly. We were able to turn misfortune into positive opportunities for the brand that could be published and shared in social media channels.

Advertising is ultimately both art and science – it’s not a fight, it’s a partnership. We create memorable brand communication by using wit, charm, and aesthetics to spark imaginations and create desire. We use precision marketing techniques to deliver the right message at the point of greatest effectiveness. The data age is a great one for our industry if we get it right.

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