It may seem counterintuitive that, in order to make a more human connection with consumers, we’ve found ourselves using machines to be less machine-like. However, in order to remain human-centered amid today’s plethora of technologies and platforms, digital agencies need to teach brands how to utilize data to be more human: to behave more like people, to respond to human behavior and to build real relationships with their customers.
All of that said, we also need to respect the fine line between learning about customers to better their lives and taking advantage of the data on hand. Between Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica breach and the cybersecurity issues that’ve dominated the news cycle recently, data and the folks that live and breathe it have gotten a bad rap—and rightfully so in most cases. Yet, in defense of data, it’s still the future of our world, and we can’t deny that it can be used to improve people’s lives.
As an industry, we need to be mindful of the data we collect, the technology we build, the partners we share it with and our ability to set the highest standard for ethical conduct. Digital agencies should be thinking about data to drive better quality, more human-centric content to improve brand experience.
Seeing people through data
We live in a time where we have access to unprecedented volumes of data. These nuanced audience insights are how digital agencies will help brands overcome the challenges of connecting with real people in today’s digital world. But we can’t do it alone.
Data and technology efforts must be collaborative between brands, agencies and their partners. If we’re not considering data (first-, second- and third-party), we’re only painting half a picture of what consumers do and don’t want. We must also be better stewards of the data, which means intentionally seeing and understanding people in the numbers. Most times, your customer will tell you when a story isn’t resonating and why. We have to listen and track patterns in the data to listen even more intently. If someone engages with your brand, what defines that engagement? Is it what they look at in a particular creative? What color do they enjoy the most? Where do they prefer to consume information? What do they consider socially responsible?
But once we have that picture painted, what do we do with those insights?
Our approach to content marketing today should not only be reactive, constant and dynamic but it should also be based on creative variables that are:
Defined up front
With each iteration of the story and test of the audience, we have an opportunity to improve and build on the experience for the customer. This approach allows for a more human and authentic interaction between customers and brands.
Based on data and insights available
Imagine that you’re a CPG retailer and you just released a brand-new campaign for a new product. The creative depicts a young mom using the product in a bathroom scene along with the sales promo. But within days, even hours, of your campaign launch, your agency partner tells you your creative isn’t performing. Typically, you’d go back to the drawing board and reshoot the content, losing thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in the process.
Plan for various scenarios
Now, imagine that your agency partner could tell you that it’s likely the bathroom scene that isn’t resonating with consumers based on past data collected on bathroom scene performance among your target demographic and that there’s a higher click rate with this demo when the creative includes outdoor scenes. Then, imagine you could make this fix in real-time.
Allow for meaningful feedback in-market
But this is possible, and frankly, it’s the future of our value proposition as agencies. Today, image recognition technology helps us collect this type of data and employ predictive analytics to understand whether a target demo will respond more positively to, say, a cat versus a dog, a red bag versus black, etc. And the ability to make changes to the creative accordingly and in real time will be the difference between a successful campaign and a loss in the very near future.
That is the power of data. And these tools allow us to draw deeper insights to create more personalized and engaging content for consumers at scale.
This way of thinking, creating and testing demands that data, technology and creativity live side-by-side. As agencies, how can we create structures that promote this type of collaboration and planning?
Our world has been turned upside down by consultancies acting as agencies, influencers acting as creatives and brands forced into being everything from publishers to entertainers. At this pivotal time, we need to rethink how to reshape ourselves to match our new world. We need innovative tools and technology to help us solve the biggest challenges facing brands today, but we need creative ways to execute those solutions.
In the agency of the future, creative and content should live alongside data, tech and analytics, and engineers should play a bigger role in brand efforts.