The same digital and social data that are revolutionizing ad targeting and relationship building offer us researchers the opportunity of a lifetime. It is the chance to make the bemoaning go away…that we are too slow, that our findings aren’t actionable, and that we are genetically modified versions of accountants who don’t get what the business is about.
However for us to seize this moment, as they said in Ghostbusters, we need to “cross the streams”.
1. Give up the belief that reliable measurement only comes from representative surveys.
We have entered the age of forensic insights. We must become CSI researchers, reconstructing motivations from evidence at the scene. DunnHumby showed the marketing world the power of frequent shopper card data when they made Tesco number one in the UK grocery business. Google search and Tweets are shown to predict flu outbreak patterns. Social media instantly reveals when consumers react negatively to a brand’s action, like Netflix changing its subscription structure. Strictly speaking, these data are incomplete and unrepresentative but how important is that with success stories like this?
2. Change mindsets from managing projects to always on.
Projects have timelines and delays in reporting. Yet, the digital world people live in is always on, so marketers need to be always on as well. Case in point: for the Superbowl, Mondelez (formerly Kraft) set up a war room with their agency that led to instant action…a Twitter “campaign” about dunking Oreos in the dark during the blackout that was retweeted 10,000 times within the hour! If ads are tagged properly, the research team can work with digital marketing to optimize a digital campaign in days, by treating the first few days of the campaign as a natural conjoint-style experiment as you manipulate creating, ad targeting rules, etc. and see associated conversion rates vary.
3. Give up the belief that marketing and marketing research need to be separate activities.
The digital mindset should be, “insights to action… it’s one word!” Here are a few examples. Facebook fan interest profiles are the basis of ad targeting within Facebook but also give deep insights into your brand vs. competitors by seeing the interests of those who like your brand. One can debate if these are more or less accurate than profiles from tracker surveys, but I do know they are more actionable; fan profiling insights immediately translate into ad serving rules for precise targeting more so than attitudinal segmentation or attribute ratings ever will. When you use social media listening, you are not only hearing what people say about your brand, you are discovering where those conversations occur and who is influential. Listening is an insights function that begets targeted marketing action. Furthermore, every Facebook page update and keywords you buy in Google that lead to clicks are tests of the strength of a growth idea.
4. Let consumers control the dialogue.
In trackers, concept tests and A&Us, Research creates attribute ratings which become the vocabulary that is permissible for consumers to use to tell us how they feel about brands. In social media, consumers control the dialogue. Research might find that themes from factor analysis of attributes and social media are similar, but from social media we get the richness of articulations in consumers’ own natural words. They decide what brands they want to talk about so the volume of conversation becomes very meaningful.
Increasingly, marketing’s goals exist within digital so the metrics of success are right there to be harvested. Never before have researchers had such visibility into consumers’ relationships with brands shopping processes, and instantaneous feedback on whether or not an ad is working.
Digital adds a predictive dimension because you are seeing what people are planning to do as they search, reach reviews, visits websites, like brands and share. And you are seeing this in time for marketing intervention to make outcomes more to your liking.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: If you are not integrating digital data into your brand insights and measurement approaches, you are not positioned to succeed in a digital age.