Innovation: How can brands keep up with unpredictable audiences?

Tug Life: Human Vs Machine

In a rush to stay relevant to keep up with the changing consumer needs and expectations, many brands are investing in new technologies to help them innovate. But does the key to reaching dynamic audiences lie purely in technology?

This subject was talked about at length at Tug Life: Human Vs Machine, a four-day pop-up expo in London run by digital performance marketing agency, Tug.

Speakers from Axe, Google, SI Partners, Mondelez and Guinness Book of World Records in a day of presentations spoke about how brands need to evolve to become innovators in their space. Overall the consensus was clear; brands need to evolve to stay ahead of their competition.

Brands that are still stuck in their old-ways will not get very far, according to Heike Fischer, global brand director at Axe, Unilever. Speaking at the event, she explained how Axe was forced to adapt quickly – as it became apparent that their representation of masculinity was no longer resonating with its male target audience of 15-18-year-olds.

After Axe’s survey found that 98% of men had been told to ‘man-up’ in their lives, Axe decided to shift its core message from masculinity to individuality, liberating men in the process. For Fischer, responding to culture change had a huge impact on the brand’s image.

“Brands need to stay on top of changing culture like shifting perceptions of concepts like masculinity and what it means to “man up” and young men asking Google “Is it okay to hug your dad?" she said.

But the role of artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies cannot be diminished in the marketing process. Forrester has predicted that AI will drive faster business decisions in marketing, product management and eCommerce – helping to close the gap from insights to action.

Stephanie Jarzemsky, UK sales lead for Google Analytics 360 Suite, said brands have a huge opportunity to differentiate themselves in the market by tapping into their data. A common challenge for brands is getting real, actionable insights from data and using it to deliver engaging customer experiences. Data sources are often not properly integrated within organisations, sitting in siloes. The Google Analytics Suite addresses this problem by using AI in its platform to connect and analyse data.

“Companies need to join up the data. It’s the key to unlocking opportunities in reaching customers,” she said. “Our priorities should be shifting from ‘mobile first’ to ‘AI first’.”

Does this mean that humans will no longer be needed? Not so, argued Sam Olsen, director at SI Partners. “The rise of machines doesn’t mean humans are suddenly redundant,” he said. “It’s all about intelligence amplification and an effective use of information technology in augmenting human intelligence.”

While the consensus on the day was technology enables brands to innovate, they still need to constantly evolve their marketing strategies to stay current with their audiences.

In fact, brands have a duty to keep up with audiences and modify their strategies accordingly. As Philip Jackson, global brand strategist at Mondelez put it: “Brands, don’t be narcissists. No one, especially customers, wants a relationship with a narcissist.”

For Sam Fay, SVP of global strategy at Guinness Book of World Records, brands need to embrace their differences – as this will set them apart. “Brands need to unleash their super powers with imagination, dedication, differentiation, validation, and amplification,” she concluded.

This is the final piece in a series of articles The Drum has published each month based on the topics covered during the week at the Human Versus Machine expo in London. Check out our coverage on the impact of new technologies in various sectors here.

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