It’s hard to believe we are already rounding the corner of 2017, with Holiday and 2018 staring at us square in the eyes. I realized this last week, when I walked into a well-known convenience store and noticed an entire aisle full of cheap Halloween costumes, candy and accoutrements accompanied by the sweetly putrid scent of too much candy corn in one location. Scary? Very. The scares don’t stop there, though. As we’ve mentioned in earlier content, patterns of consumption, demands of elevated customer experiences and hyper-personalized expectations are changing and continue to change at a rapid clip in the marketing landscape, from retail and travel to hospitality and restaurants, and on all fronts. While we at Olson 1to1 believe that technology is the great experience enabler, we also know those experiences fall flat without a solid foundation. That’s why as a marketer or brand, your 1:1 strategy, creative and analytics need to be not just good, but also hard-hitting and remarkable. Below is our take on what that means.
For marketers, the core of any sound strategy is insight. That may sound obvious, but so often these days, much of the research conducted does little more than skim the surface of the types of insights that can impact your marketing efforts. Much of the findings focus on the tactical and pretty much stop there. Things like “X percent of customers prefer their first name in the subject lines” or “Y% of millennials expect recommendations based on what similar customers like in their communications.” These are arrows in every marketer’s proverbial quiver, and they do little to serve the customer at her core. They do little to uncover the drivers of her brand loyalty, of that glue that is so very vital in today’s ocean of options. This simply isn’t about qualitative vs. quantitative, coolhunting vs. cohorts. It’s about digging deeper and applying a framework of empathy to your customer lens. For example, what motivates your customers? What drives their loyalty and inspires advocacy? Why do they care? As marketers and strategists, we need to take a step further and uncover the cultural nuances of what makes our customers tick. It’s about understanding them holistically—as people—and then crafting a strategy that delivers experiences that move them. As people.
Rise of the Analyst-Creative
Let’s face it, the days of “Big Idea” creative are changing. As are the days of walking into a room full of executives and pitching them on some grandiose notion-slash-revelation. These scenarios live mainly in our minds or on AMC reruns. I’m not devaluating good creative and bold thinking, after all, the legendary George Lois did once say that “ideas are what make the world go round.” It’s just that creative has got to work much, much harder these days. No longer is it enough—from a creative standpoint—to come up with one single idea, one big design, to flip on one light switch and build an entire campaign that requires no fussing of the dial once it’s live. (Olson 1to1’s Executive Creative Director, Jim Specht, feels pretty adamant about that). Designers and creatives these days must be able to transcend the merely visual and create experiences that are informed by relevance, stage, and moments that are ultimately driven by small data and the subtle behaviors, preferences and experiences which are refined over time through those insights. In fact, I would argue that the best creative is small. Not big. So small it’s invisible. Think about it: these days, the best creative experiences are those that are so intuitively woven into that moment/experience/interaction, so natural and so seamless, you don’t even notice it, irrespective of channel, journey, stage, device or segment. Felt and experienced, but not cumbersome. And while marketing automation, artificial intelligence and programmatic advertising are enabling marketers to do much more much faster, it still remains only marginally personal and very much, well, artificial.
Humanize Your Data
Data may not be changing, but the types of data we are collecting, the volume, and the way we are using it are. In their 2013 annual report, IBM famously claimed that roughly 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created per day (in 1992, an estimated 100GB of data was created per day). Just think … that’s the number 2.5 followed by 18 zeros. Overwhelmed? You’re not alone. As marketers, we’re sitting on so much data that sometimes it feels almost impossible to figure out what to do with it and how to filter out the noise. Not that long ago, analytical practices centered on the efficiency of discounting and supporting these efforts with incremental response models, whose investments went primarily towards customers who were unlikely to return on their own but highly likely to respond to an offer. Left behind were best customers, uncontacted and un-nurtured, their return visits taken for granted. New channels of communication mean that customers can now be reached at minimal cost, with a shift towards delivering a better customer experience over offering steeper discounts. The challenge for analytics teams now is being able to proactively anticipate experiences and offers that deliver recognition and a rewarding experience, at the individual level. For example, being able to leverage predictive models that score customers in real-time and in-database as new transactions arrive (retail), advance bookings occur (travel), or new website/social/mobile/app activity is detected. Or proactive and integrated lifecycle messaging that improves over time through machine learning and client-specific customization as more and more data are collected. It’s no longer enough to be personal. We need to humanize it.