A lot of blah has been written about data and its domineering importance to modern marketing. So much so that the word itself has become a bit of shapeless behemoth, scaring off creative types with its impregnable bulk and unfathomable digits.
For clients, data is perhaps better characterised as a flood whose flow only ever gets bigger and faster. Data is now gushing forth from PCs, smartphones and loyalty cards in a torrent that threatens to drown any marketer who fails to sift out the gems in the digital silt.
But let’s remind ourselves what data actually is. In marketing it can be any information given to you, intentionally or otherwise, by your customers. Yes, it’s the number of tweets your customers have sent, but it’s also what they’ve said about your brand. Yes, it’s the number of stars they gave your product in their online review, but it’s also the recorded phone call they made to customer services about it. It’s not just the numbers. It’s the words too – the thoughts, opinions and experiences your customers have shared with your organisation.
To work out whether or not those words and numbers are useful to you, see if they fit into either of these high-tech analytical buckets.
1. The story bucket
Does the information help you tell a useful or entertaining story relevant to your audience and brand’s expertise?
2. The customer journey bucket
Does the information tell you anything new about what your potential customers are doing, and give you any pointers on how to react to that?
Here are two examples of data-driven content initiatives from Red Bee.
1. TVL and the story bucket
A few years back one of our clients, TV Licensing (TVL), was suffering from an acute image problem online. Any YouTube searches brought up nothing but content from irate TV licence refuseniks referring to the TV licence and TVL inspectors in deeply unflattering terms. TVL wanted to do something to rebalance its online profile. But what? Directly taking on the refuseniks with a reasoned defence would have just added fuel to their fire. We needed a start point for some alternative content. Cue the data.
TVL was sitting on a mountain of recorded verbatims from customers (or evaders) who had not paid. A trawl through that data unearthed some hilarious gems – and a simple content idea was born. The excuses films, in which we dramatised the most absurd excuses given by customers, resulted in a huge positive boost to TVL’s online and media profile, achieving national press and TV coverage and making TVL’s excuses the most-viewed story on bbc.co.uk.
It also led to a change in the way TVL collates and processes its data. TVL now asks all its inspectors and call centre operators to submit daft excuses to a particular email address, creating a bank of potential stories to be used every year.
2. Hyundai and the customer journey bucket
Once upon a time, if you wanted to buy a new car, you thought of about 8-10 car brands that appealed to you and that you could afford (thereby ruling out that Lamborghini). You then drove round the dealerships (assuming your old car was still working) picking up brochures, while desperately trying to avoid eye contact with any sales people. You then read the brochures, shortlisted three to five models and revisited each dealership for an awkward test drive, upon which you pretended to base your decision (which was probably made before you even read the brochures).
But the internet has torn up this old route map, and the data proves it. In 2003, on average, a new car buyer made four visits to a dealership. In 2013, it was just 1.5. In 2003, only 1% of buyers researched the models online. In 2013, 92% did. (Source: BMW Annual Report and Google).
And this average car buyer consulted an average of 18.2 sources before making a purchase (Source: Google, ZMOT 2013). That’s a hell of a lot more than the paper brochure.
When consulting these sources, there’s a decent chance this average customer changed his/her mind about which car to buy. When it came to the actual purchase, 40% bought a brand that was not their favourite option at the start of the process and 21% purchased a brand that they didn’t have in mind at all (Source: Google Gearshift 2014).
Looking at this data, Hyundai concluded that the showroom was no longer where the important decisions were being made. The key decisions were being made by the customer in online spaces, so that’s where Hyundai needed to be more readily found.
To be discovered, shared and crucially, remembered, during the trawl of 18.2 sources, Hyundai needed an entertaining format that could also deliver the detailed rational product information that potential customers were searching for.
The result was a video content idea that achieved both of those objectives. Employing the principles of sitcoms and character-based sketch comedy, Red Bee’s ongoing Honest series drives brand affinity whilst dropping in a wealth of information about each Hyundai model, making the brand and its benefits so much more memorable than the dull competition.
It achieved True View view-through rates of over 61% versus industry averages of 16%, a content success only achieved through Hyundai’s data-led understanding of the changing customer journey.
So, there you have it. Data can help you with content in two easy ways: stories and customer journeys. But data can’t do all the work. It can give you an idea of what to make, and where to put it.
But don’t let it tell you how to make it. Please.
Five simple ways to think about data and content
1. Data is wordsas well as numbers. Listen to what your customers say as much as what they do
2. Divide data into two buckets:data for stories and data which throws new light on the customer journey
3. Use customer stories,experiences (or excuses) as a start point for story telling
4. Use data on the customer journeyto work out where and how content best fits in
5. But don’t assumedata will do all the work. Data told Hyundai to do some online video content. It didn’t tell them how to make it good