What’s next for data-driven marketers? Avoid being ‘brand regressive’

Ginger Conlon hosts RampUp's Creating Data Narratives panel; photo courtesy of eBay

“Marketing is nothing if not a me-too industry. Once one big company asks for a new deal, everyone else will, too.”

LiveRamp chief executive officer Scott Howe made that assertion during an intimate press breakfast at the identity resolution vendor’s customer conference, RampUp 2019. Howe also made several predictions, based on where technology and the largest advertisers are headed:

Second-party data will be “an explosive area of growth,” as more and more partner companies (such as a hotel and an airline) share permission-enabled data to deliver more relevant communications and offers to their shared customers.

TV will be a mega-trend next year. “It’s going to tip; it’s just a matter of when,” Howe said, adding that TV “will be one of the most exciting and disruptive things that will happen next year.” He noted that key players are “dipping their toes in” to test areas such as data-driven linear TV and connected TV/OTT. “We’re hearing a lot of buzz because it’s working,” he added.

B2B is the next big thing in data for targeting, measurement, and strategy. B2B marketers will adopt many of their B2C counterparts’ approaches to using data for more personalized, relevant marketing.

Howe also predicted significant growth in programmatic. This is no surprise considering LiveRamp’s involvement with the Advertising ID Consortium — an open identity solution aimed at democratizing identity for the ad industry — and the company’s announcement that it will now offer programmatic demand-side platforms (DSPs) perpetual free access to IdentityLink for Real-Time Bidding, its people-based identifier.

Marketers moving forward

Several companies leading the way in data-driven marketing took the stage during RampUp to share how they’re getting the most from data while managing through all the changes in technology and customer expectations that are ever-present today.

In his keynote Q&A, Chris Curtain, chief brand and innovation marketing officer at Visa, talked about balancing a focus on the future with learning from what’s worked in the past. “We’re a big marketer and advertiser from a brand perspective at Visa,” he said. “We have the same questions with our CFO as everyone else: how do you know what’s working; and, if it is, is it the most efficient and effective it could be?”

Curtain said that marketers tend to come into strategic conversations with the success story and don’t spend enough time thinking about optimization based on what doesn’t or might not work. “One thing I do is a pre-mortem,” he said. “If something might fail, we need to understand why and get institutional buy-in on that.” And then they go forward.

In terms of working with data, Curtain discussed balancing data and creative: “We want to be the most scientific company [in terms of] linking our marketing with actions consumers take. At the same time, we want to be the world’s preferred brand. Yes, we want to be targeted with our messages and have consumers feel [that we understand them as individuals], but for us to be successful, we need to reach billions, not millions, of consumers.”

Curtain explained that Visa’s goal is for consumers to feel that the message they receive is the right message for them. For example, Visa may tell customers traveling to France about the best restaurants there ahead of their trip.

“Part of the art of science is if you get it wrong, it’s embarrassing,” he said. “It’s brand regressive. It’s clear [to the customer] that the brand thought they knew you, and it’s clear that they don’t.”

To support all this data-driven work, Curtain hires what he refers to human Swiss Army Knives — marketers who can do multiple things well. This includes collaborating with key teams in other areas of the business, as well as being “energy givers,” curious, confident without being arrogant, and having purpose and mission. Curtain likened these multi-talented marketers to professional athletes who must be selfish and selfless at the same time for their team to be successful.

Focus on the right data

Some marketers have an overabundance of data. So, their journey is all about ensuring that the data they use to inform their marketing strategy and creative is the right data.

“Data informs everything we do,” said Bob Rupczynski, vice-president of CRM and media at McDonald's Corporation, during a panel discussion on building a customer-driven organization. “When you have more than 65 million people in your stores, you have more data than you’ll ever need.” What information you really need, he said, is data that you can activate in real time to stimulate a response from customers. If it doesn’t accomplish that, Rupczynski said, then you probably shouldn’t have that data to begin with.

Brooke Skinner Ricketts, chief marketing officer of Cars.com, noted during the panel that she has access to about 40 million data points every day. Her path forward is using that data in harmony with creative. “How do you leverage art to inform science and leverage science to inform art? That’s my focus,” she said. “When it works, it’s amazing.”

And when it works, customers respond. “We’re aiming to change behavior,” Chris Whalen, vice-president of global research, media, analytics and social for Kimberly-Clark Corporation, added in reference to using data to inform creative. For example, the Kleenex tissue category was in decline because consumers thought of it as a “sick box,” he said. By blending emotion and data, Kleenex created TV and digital ads focused on care with its Share the Care campaign. That approached started to regrow the category.

“Do you want to walk off this side of the cliff or the other side of the cliff?” Whalen posited. “That’s what thinking ‘all art’ or ‘all science’ is like.”

Ultimately, all these marketers are moving forward through understanding. “People are realizing that not all data is created equal,” said Steven Wolfe Pereira, chief marketing and communications officer of Quantcast, adding that the value of first-party data is being made eminently clear by the successes that direct-to-consumer companies are enjoying today. “We’re all drowning in data; we don’t have the ability to make sense of it all,” he added. “We’re on the cusp of 5G, which will bring on even more data. So, finding ways to get the most from our data is my focus.”

For these marketers and others, speed is of the essence in gaining that understanding. “The world is changing rapidly. Identity and data will be the cornerstone of transformation in the coming years,” LiveRamp’s Howe said. “Anytime you interact with a company, you have a better experience when they can light it up with data.”

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