If you followed my last post about digital marketing, you’ll remember a key concept: micro events in consumer behavior that, when examined, help us unearth valuable insight into trends and predictions on the macro level, all tightly linked to value generation. Collectively, I call these events “drivers,” and their discovery, understanding, and manipulation are going to be the focus of many of my blog posts.

It’s important to note that drivers are not just a digital phenomenon. Drivers are general motivators, as much a function of consumer psychology as anything else. Our new approaches don’t create these drivers (drivers are the naturally occurring phenomena of how our customers interact with our brands), they just let us make use of them.

By way of an example, brands tapping into drivers can be seen in the marketing behaviors of a car manufacturer, in which successful marketing is not about driving bottom-of-funnel conversion but about nurturing an image and making valid predictions about the market of the near future. The manufacturer isn’t where sale occurs, so they are forced to focus on the drivers of downstream conversion rather than the conversion itself, prepping the consumer for the final stages. Drivers are a fundamental consideration in the pharmaceutical realm also for the obvious reason that there are inescapable barriers between the producer and the consumer (the conversion happens in the doctor’s office).

Obviously, these two examples are ones where the brand is forced to act on drivers because of the business model. But that doesn’t mean the same philosophies shouldn’t be used in a more direct marketing context.

What we recognize about these marketing strategies is that they’re, traditionally speaking, both more enduring and more difficult to manage, which is why they’ve traditionally remained confined to the industries that are forced to use them. But it didn’t take long for the rise of social media to reveal hybrid cases. For example, if you’re managing the marketing for a travel agency, what offers the better opportunity for exponential, long-term returns? A media buy where we pay for one consumer at a time, or an Instagram contest where every picture with our brand on it is seen by hundreds of friends?

For a more concrete example of drivers, let’s consider a hypothetical restaurant chain, with a national audience and a meaningful media presence. This company wants three things: they want their customers to talk about the brand with their friends (directly drives growth), they want people to come to their locations more often (again, directly drives revenue), and they want everyone to pay full price for their food (no discounts ensures margins are stable). And they’ve done the groundwork to know that if these three boxes are checked, their business will grow. In fact, it’s physically impossible for it not to.

So marketing for our brand, instead of agonized notions of seasonal menus and complicated media blitzes, is generally a lot simpler and a lot more effective. How is our outreach doing? If we’re running social media campaigns, are they generating the sharing and discussion that is one of our primary drivers of growth? Far from more complicated or more difficult, this sort of driver-centric marketing is more effective and refreshingly open-ended and conducive to fresh ideas and new approaches. It uses small-scale motivators to affect large-scale value generation.

A driver-centric approach to marketing helps qualify marketing ideas as in or out of scope (Does this help our audience share with friends or come more frequently?), much more so than a revenue-focused mindset. It encourages creativity yet still has complete accountability. And it builds an appreciation for how brands can engage audience on their terms (What would make someone want to tell their friends?), rather than looking at audience as untapped revenue mines. (It’s no wonder so many brands are completely out of touch with their consumers, they often don’t see them as human beings.)

There’s something to keep in mind through all of this. In the previous article we contrasted ROI tunnel vision with appreciation of drivers. It’s perfectly reasonable to acknowledge that driver analysis is by its very nature concerned with ROI. Whether we’re thinking long term or short term, the goal is still growth, and thus revenue. Drivers allow us to better understand the trends and actionable levers behind that growth and, best of all, can reveal how to leverage our consumers and their ecosystems toward those ends.

So how do we apply this knowledge? What’s keeping us from identifying the drivers behind our industries, what’s motivating our customers, and how we can push those levers to our benefit? In the next few posts, we’ll drive into specific analyses in industries that will give us insight into what our drivers are, how we act on them, and how we measure the correlation between those drivers and the endgame financial outcomes.