Big Data Promotes a Culture of Data-Informed Decision Making and Adaptive Marketing – Antony Young-Mindshare

data

By Antony Young

Big Data is quickly being catapulted to the top of Marketing’s agenda, but it remains a challenge for many companies in preparing for this shift. According to a survey conducted by IBM, less than half of CMO’s feel prepared to cope with this increasing amount of marketing data over the next 5 years, with the data explosion cited as their #1 headache. The problem isn’t obtaining data, it’s figuring out how to turn it into marketing magic. I’m seeing a growing list of exceptional cases of marketer’s shifting their organizations to adopt a higher level of data-informed decision making, often with astonishing results.

It’s not so much big data, but smart data used at scale

Last week, I had dinner with Joe Rospars, founding partner at Blue State Digital, who served as Obama’s Chief Digital Strategist for his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, and asked him about big data. He responded, their approach “wasn’t so much big data, but smart data used at scale.” To win this election, they needed to get very granular in their targeting. By extracting voter files and collecting information via the tens of thousands of polling calls made to homes every night, they were able to identify by household individual voter likelihood, and then determine the communications they needed to deliver.

The Obama campaign expertly targeted via online advertising, email, door to door and phone canvassing very personalized messaging. They cleverly extended this strategy via social media. Nearly a million supporters that ‘liked’ the Obama 2012 page also allowed access to their profile data via Facebook Connect. This enabled Obama’s people to identify their Facebook friends in battleground States, cross tabulate with their own databases, which they then asked supporters to email or even personally call their friends that fit likely Obama voter profiles, to remind them to register or vote early.

Data is the engine for Adaptive Marketing

Data is allowing brands to move quicker and more decisively to gain a market advantage by dynamically informing their messaging and media.

Samsung a big investor in data, worked with insights firm Networked Insights, to use real-time social listening to help them keep a finger on the pulse of consumer sentiment and adjust their communications to capitalize on the web discussion about brands.

Within a couple of hours of Apple’s Tim Cook revealing their iPhone 5, Samsung reading the reaction in social channels, drafted new print, digital, and TV ads. The following week as the iPhone hit the stores, they aired TV ads mocking Apple customers queuing up for the new phone and some of its less flattering features. The commercial was a hit, and received more than 70 million views online.

They also used social listening as a real time guide to evaluate how effective their ads were with consumers by measuring what people are saying about them and what effect they’ve having on competitors’ brands. Stressing the importance of data in informing their marketing, Brian Wallace, the former VP of Marketing at Samsung, (who recently moved to Motorola to a global marketing role) said, “The data guys lead these conversations. Not the creative guys. Not the sale guys. And it’s not just analytics — it’s analysis.” He added, “[data] does not crush the art of advertising. It simply informs it — and ultimately improves it.” Samsung’s shift to a strategy of employing social data at the center was one of the key factors that assisted them to move from the number 4 mobile device manufacturer to pass the mighty Apple.

Creating a more personalized customer experience

I’m seeing a focus on data enabling marketers to create smarter, more engaged customer experiences.

I recently chaired a panel which included Sandra Zoratti, co-author of the book Precision Marketing. She cited Caesar’s Entertainment as a marketer that centralized data to better formulate its approach to marketing. They identified 0.15% of their customers that contributed to 12% of their casino revenues. This led to them employing Good Luck Ambassadors to monitor these customers. If they weren’t having a good night on the tables, they offered complimentary tickets to a show or dinner based on their known preferences to ensure they left their casinos with a positive experience.

Building a fluid organization that can capitalize on the data

Shifting to a fast moving data marketing organization isn’t just about software and strategy. It requires a shift in how the agency and clients teams work.

The Obama campaign quadrupled their data team from the previous election campaign, adding data technologists, behavioral scientists and mathematicians to crunch the data and help interpret them into actionable marketing insights.

According to Rospars, to improve speed of activation, they established a persona playbook on how the brand should speak, to allow them to delegate decision making down.

Personally, I love this shift to data-informed decision making. It is creating more adaptive, more relevant and more commercial marketing programs. We are barely scratching the surface, but it’s clear that going forward, data will be an enabler of more potent marketing.

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How Data and Micro-Targeting Won the 2012 Election for Obama

If Obama’s Presidential campaign in 2008 was defined by social media, then surely his successful 2012 re-election bid should be attributed to their use of data and micro-targeting.

Election night seemed to confound many of the pundits. Governor Romney appeared to put together a strong campaign with the polls leading into the final week suggesting a tight race. Romney won 60% of White voters. He in fact even won the independents vote. Yet he lost the key battleground States of Ohio, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada … handing the sitting President a second term.

How did Obama win?

First, he delivered a well-orchestrated campaign of largely negative advertising targeting Romney, which served the purpose of suppressing voter turnout by traditionally Republican supporters.

Second, he mobilized key voter blocks to register early and vote. 18-24 year olds; African Americans; Latinos and single women in the key swing States. Voter turnout for these four key demographics was about 70% thereby giving him the numbers he needed to push him over the edge.

At the heart of these two strategies, was micro-targeting.

Micro-targeting is the ability to dissect in this case, the voter population in to narrow segments and customize messaging to them, both in on-the-ground activities and in the media.

Micro-targeting isn’t a new idea in politics or marketing for that matter. Karl Rove expertly exploited this in the successful Bush campaign in 2000 and 2004. But it was the sophistication and the scale of how they executed this strategy that in the end, proved the knock-out punch for the Democrats.

The Obama camp in preparing for this election, established a huge Analytics group that comprised of behavioral scientists, data technologists and mathematicians. They worked tirelessly to gather and interpret data to inform every part of the campaign. They built up a voter file that included voter history, demographic profiles, but also collected numerous other data points around interests … for example, did they give to charitable organizations or which magazines did they read to help them better understand who they were and better identify the group of‘persuadables‘ to target.

That data was able to be drilled down to zip codes, individual households and in many cases individuals within those households.

However it is how they deployed this data in activating their campaign that translated the insight they garnered into killer tactics for the Obama campaign.

Volunteers canvassing door to door or calling constituents were able to access these profiles via an app accessed on an iPad, iPhone or Android mobile device to provide an instant transcript to help them steer their conversations. They were also able to input new data from their conversation back into the database real time.

The profiles informed their direct and email fundraising efforts. They used issues such Obama’s support for gay marriage or Romney’s missteps in his portrayal of women to directly target more liberal and professional women on their database, with messages that “Obama is for women,” using that opportunity to solicit contributions to his campaign.

Micro-targeting helped them to steer their broadcast buying approach. While both campaigns followed conventional wisdom to buy spots in Local Broadcast news programming, Obama’s team differentiated their schedule by adding networks like TV Land whose viewers they determined “were less political” and therefore more likely to be a persuadable.

Even the selection of celebrity fundraisers were informed by the data. The team identified women 40-49 as the highest contributors to their campaign. Obama’s analytics team in crunching the numbers uncovered that Sara Jessica Parker of Sex in the City fame popped as the most appealing celebrity to this demographic and called her up to ask if she would host a fundraiser dinner for Obama in New York. Web ads and emails from Michelle Obama were sent targeting this group asking them to “chip in whatever they can” with a chance to win an invitation, hotel and flights to New York to attend the event.

As mentioned earlier, encouraging early voting and a higher turnout of key target groups was critical in winning the swing states. They used classic micro-targeting online advertising to reach those groups. Obama’s team’s use of Facebook this time was also very clever, tapping into Facebook’s individual profile data. A million users downloaded the Obama 2012 app on Facebook. The app was able to identify their Facebook friends that fit favorable profiles located in key swing states, encouraging them to contact these friends to remind them to vote. Sources say one in five of those contacted this way were influenced positively by this contact.

Marketers need to take heed of how the Obama campaign transformed their marketing approach centered around data. They demonstrated incredible discipline to capture data across multiple sources and then to inform every element of the marketing – direct to consumer, on the ground efforts, unpaid and paid media. Their ability to dissect potential prospects into narrow segments or even at an individual level and develop specific relevant messaging created highly persuasive communications. And finally their approach to tap their committed fans was hugely powerful. The Obama campaign provides a compelling case for companies to build their marketing expertise around big data and micro-targeting. How ready is your organization to do the same?

 

What Marketers Can Learn From the 2012 Presidential Campaigns

Target, Adapt and Respond — and Don’t Forget Your Ground Game

Mr. Obama’s skillful deployment of social media in 2008 caused marketers to sit up and take notice. So what can brands learn from this year’s massive, sophisticated presidential campaigns?
Barack Obama after his acceptance speech in Chicago
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

 

Focus on your swing voters
Both the Romney and Obama campaigns spent the bulk of their media dollars in the battleground states including Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nevada (sometimes to the despair of the states’ overwhelmed residents). And they trained much of their fire on the undecideds. That applied even to the individual TV shows they bought. Both campaigns largely avoided placements during cable news shows, for example, whose audiences were more likely to have already decided who they were voting for. Local news broadcasts, on the other hand, indexed highest for independents who were more likely to turn out on Election Day, according to Scarborough.Who are your swing voters? The real value of mass media, and where the economics really make sense, is in drawing new consumers into your brand.

Remember your ground game
The Obama campaign said it made 125 million voter contacts, more than twice the total reported by Republicans, with more field offices in key areas than the Romney campaign and more personal outreach. Marketers would do well to remember that activation, promotion and personal touches go a long way in locking in the benefits of media spending.

Video still works
While 2008 was considered by many “the Facebook Election,” TV — or, more precisely, video — reasserted its strategic importance in 2012. Mr. Obama had a challenging platform to sell given the performance of the economy, but he did in most cases outspend Romney in TV, in many cases 2 to 1. We also saw a heavy shift of dollars into online video. Hulu revealed that election spending on the online video site was up 700% from the last election.

Hyper-local is the new black
Part of the appeal of online video is the ability to hyper-target, that is, the ability to pinpoint media and commercial messaging within a narrow catchment area. In Blacksburg, Va., for example, there are 30,000 students residing at Virginia Tech. The Obama campaign’s Hulu buys targeted the schools’ zip code with “Gotta Vote” spots to encourage students to register and turn out.

Broadcast advertising, too, was tailored to local issues. In Ohio, Mr. Obama’s campaign targeted blue-collar women by promoting its track record on jobs, whereas in Florida, the Romney campaign sought Cuban-American voters with hard-hitting TV commercials claiming Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez supported Mr. Obama’s policies. We saw local radio play a role, too, in this localization.

Are we as marketers really taking opportunity of localizing our media and messaging? Despite a lot of talk about targeting, many marketers still emphasize efficiency in spending over relevance to different customer segments and markets.

Adaptive marketing is rising
I’ve written previously about adaptive marketing, but both candidates just demonstrated its value again as they reacted to voter polls and feedback in nearly real time. And although all marketers listen to consumer responses, it was the speed and consistency with which both the Romney and Obama campaigns were able to respond that impressed me.

On multiple occasions we saw Mr. Romney test a message or storyline in a campaign rally speech. If it got a reaction from the audience, video spots would quickly follow online. If there was strong response online or pickup by cable news networks, the ads would appear on broadcast TV … all within a matter of days, often adjusting further as the campaign progressed.

Adaptive marketing doesn’t always require massive spending and machinery, either. Both candidates also expertly tapped into their advocates to push out tweets during the debates to reinforce key punctuation points to the base or counter comments by their opponent.

Long-form content can persuade 
A good showing in the first debate jolted Mr. Romney out of the doldrums and into contention. While he didn’t win in the end, he closed the gap sharply. Brands, for their part, don’t have to win an election; all they need to do is improve market share. What can be learnt from this? First, all brands have the opportunity to re-invent — or at least drive re-consideration — and it can happen quickly if done well. Second, long-form branded video content is a medium that is underused. Sure, the mass reach of a presidential debate and the subsequent news coverage isn’t available to brands. But deeper content outside of ad units can change opinions.

Negative ads are a negative
Negative advertising was a feature of both candidates’ campaigns, subjecting each candidate’s brand to a beating. According to the Wesleyan Media Project, negative ads between June and October accounted for 62.9% of spots, compared to 39.7% in 2008. I suspect that turned off voters and contributed to the apparent decline in voter turnout from 2008. I hope we don’t see this as a trend for brands in 2013.

Presidential elections are not just a boost to the coffers of the media companies, but serve as a benchmark for brands. For me, the next election can’t come soon enough.