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.