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The Secret Sauce

Marketing Mattters 5An effective use of ‘Big Data’ is an important part of many digital marketing campaigns but big ideas and creativity are the secret sauce when it comes to ensuring that the message sparks an emotional connection with the brand, writes Ann McDermot.

Today’s consumers are overwhelmed with choices. On billboards, social media and online, brands vie for their love and attention. Whether it’s buying a dress, booking a holiday, or reserving a hotel, sites that incorporate an array of choices are becoming more and more popular. This is particularly true of the hotel industry, where there’s an increasing preference to shop on aggregator sites, like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity and TripAdvisor. On sites like these, travellers get direct bookings, usually with lower commissions than those charged by Open Travel Alliance members.

Another key trend is the growth of community-based accommodation platforms, like Airbnb, dubbed the ‘ebay of travel’. Across all of these platforms, reviews and recommendations bring peace of mind for travellers, and a refreshing breadth of choice in quality and price.

These rising trends and changing landscape affect consumers and brands in many different ways. For a start, they increase the pressure on individual brands. In Europe, OTAs and metasearch websites drive 70% of bookings, potentially pulling clients away from hotels they may have been loyal to in the past. They have also created a battle for the ownership of the customer experience, and for the all important customer data. Without that information, brands are missing the opportunity to really understand their customers, to glean useful insights and to target them in an effective way.

The most successful brands right now are those who are seriously plugged in to data. They’re leveraging the right information and insights to create real, one-to-one connections with customers on and off-line. Many brands already have access to a huge amount of data, and the key is to harness it and set it to work to dramatically improve business outcomes. That might mean enhancing customer experience and driving loyalty, or improving customer acquisition, retention and conversion rates.

Data helps brands to understand customers and how best to target them. But modern marketing has to be much more than that. To be truly successful we need to win consumers’ hearts, amid the chattering conversations of so many brands, offers and propositions. The magic happens when data and creativity combine to attract the right customers. That means creating engaging, disruptive ideas that work beautifully with customer data to build powerful campaigns that turn heads.

Historically, data and creativity have been on opposite ends of the advertising spectrum. The ‘data crunchers’ and the ‘creatives’ were seen as an odd match. But today, the most progressive agencies are marrying the two, and placing data and analysis at the core of their creative output. Forward-thinking agencies are moving away from the outdated idea that data is a straight jacket for creativity. They now see that when it’s used cleverly, the expanse of data available for project doesn’t stifle creativity, but actually creates a fertile ground for original and innovative campaigns.

Today, brands need to work really hard to be heard across so many devices, platforms and social media channels. They need to create one-to-one conversations with potential customers and deliver the right message, at the right time, to the right person. Big data will help us to target the message, but big ideas and creativity are the secret sauce in making sure that the message sparks an emotional connection with the brand. So, there should be a place for the data crunchers, the real time analysts, and the creative geniuses in advertising agencies.

Ann McDermott is Senior Vice President of Client Services at Epsilon Dublin.

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (November 2015)© to order back issues please call 016611660

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