How do you take all the customer data you’ve worked so hard to collect and then leverage it to improve the experience people have with your brand, across channels?
It’s certainly not easy, according to Seth Solomons, CEO, North America, at Wunderman, an advertising agency that works with brands including Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and Nokia.
“We see a lot of clients struggling to get their arms around and understand their data,” Solomons told CMO.com in an exclusive interview. “They want to make sense of it all, but many times they don’t have the skills inside their organization. It is very difficult to translate their data into insights that inspire the ideas that drive their consumers to action.”
Read on for the full conversation.
CMO.com: Why do you think customer experience is such a big theme in marketing today?
Solomons: The importance of customer experience in a mobile-first world is one of the biggest topics of interest that I’m seeing with clients across all industries. Many of our clients are asking for our perspective as it relates to the blurring of customer experience across digital and analog. Many are also trying to keep up with millennials and want to find simple, intuitive, and memorable ways to build meaningful connections with these younger consumers. “Brand as interface” is shaping customer experiences in ways never seen before. It has always been important. It’s just becoming even more important now, especially for brands that have only a mobile presence.
CMO.com: I bet clients come to you all the time and say they want to improve their customer experience. Operationally, what happens next?
Solomons: For me, the first step has always been a genuine curiosity to understand why a customer experience needs to change. There are a lot of agencies that jump to a creative answer because that’s the currency that has always brought brands together with agencies. So much of design today is too focused on “looking good,” and that is sometimes at the exclusion of the consumers’ needs and/or the desired business outcome.
Agencies need to be well-versed in the business their clients are in–who are their consumers, what does their data suggest is working versus not working, etc.? Then you can build from the bottom up based on how you can most relevantly connect and deliver value to consumers, while still delivering a lasting brand expression. Beautiful design solves many ills, but it is not the only objective in the redesign or refinement of a customer experience.
CMO.com: Are there any other trends or themes that you're hearing a lot about from clients today?
Solomons: We see a lot of clients struggling to get their arms around and understand their data. They want to make sense of it all, but many times they don’t have the skills inside their organization. It is very difficult to translate their data into insights that inspire the ideas that drive their consumers to action. A brand that understands its consumer data can leverage it to meet the needs of their consumers in new and interesting ways, delivering better overall experiences that drive results. Data can help brands deliver a value exchange that extends beyond what traditional TV or print ads would.
CMO.com: The industry has been preoccupied with ad tech, big data, programmatic, and all those other fancy marketing tech words. But lately we’ve been hearing a lot about creativity making a comeback in marketing. Can you talk about or give some advice around how agencies can achieve that next “Don Draper moment” by merging creativity with data?
Solomons: Many of the brands we work with are asking how they can use data to create contents that more systematically connect to the diverse palette of needs their consumers have today. For many brands, this data is being used to drive conceptual creative ideas as well as fuel more efficient and effective programmatic creative.
Today it’s about delivering more experiences at the points in time that matter most to the brand’s consumers. For me, it’s no longer about landing on a single Don Draper moment. Data and an understanding of engagement expectations are what make multiple Don Draper moments possible, on the devices and platforms that matter most.
CMO.com: How do you see the industry evolving now that consumers basically have control over their own experiences?
Solomons: Brands today are really struggling to understand what their consumers want. Our job is to help our clients understand the moments that matter most to consumers, and then develop more valuable content that meets and exceeds expectations. Marketing in the past spoke to few as opposed to many; it also relied on a single insight to inform the creative process. Today, we need to be more nimble and responsive to a consumer’s questions and needs. This orientation to utility can be a critical point of differentiation for brands.
It’s tough to create “snackable” content that’s consumed in the flow of the day, as opposed to relying on more tent-pole campaign elements, like TV, print, or out of home. Everything we do must be in service to a need that we’ve identified and that is what allows us to build brand while we build transactions. These ideas and moments deliver more value so, in the end, the consumer wins.
CMO.com: How can data help guide this microcontent strategy? How can companies use data to make their creative better resonate with consumers?
Solomons: Many of the brands we work with are asking similar questions about how to best mine their data to reach the insights that drive action and, therefore, business outcomes. At Wunderman, we believe data is truth. And we’re obsessed with understanding how personal, cultural, and behavioral “truths” can be used in the development of content that adds real value versus more above-the-line marketing. In my opinion, data must be the inspiration to unlock new creativity, which can then be introduced into conversations that are already in progress.
CMO.com: With personalization being such a huge topic today, could you address how agencies can address individual consumer needs and inspire action?
Solomons: Personalization has almost become an obsession for the industry, and for good reason. There are more opportunities than ever before to help consumers get the most out of their experiences with the brands they do business with. Personalized experiences not only drive transactions but also build stronger and more meaningful bonds between brands and consumers. We work with our clients to employ several different personalization strategies, but two are proving to be more important.
First, we are helping our clients deliver the right experiences or content to the right consumers at the right time. Often this occurs on a client’s owned property, such as their dot-com experience. Consumer engagement with these properties provides a more in-depth understanding of our clients’ consumers, motivations, expectations, and tastes, which enables us to deliver more relevant and meaningful content over time. We need to be mindful of the magnitude of investment, though. Not all personalization delivers a positive ROI, so we must hold ourselves accountable to understanding the ultimate impact a personalization strategy has on a given business.
Second, we are using the learnings we garner from personalization to learn about and better develop individual consumer profiles. These profiles are now being utilized to drive more effective and efficient programmatic buying decisions. In many cases, personalization becomes significantly more impactful when married to an overall media plan.
CMO.com: Based on our discussion around customer experience, data andcreativity, and personalization, what would you say are the most important tools that marketers need to have in their toolkits today?
Solomons: That’s simple: people. People are the reason I continue to be excited about our business. It’s our responsibility to ensure that we are hiring the right talents and giving them the tools to be everything they want to be. It’s important to build diverse teams that approach problems and opportunities differently and who bring passion and curiosity to every question.
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