I recently attended Advertising Week Europe 2019, where a lot of discussion focused on the future of advertising technology: the exciting opportunities of audio; the evolution of TV; and of course the responsibility of user privacy that brand’s must nowadays observe.
However, I was asked to participate in a panel discussion that looked at advertising from a completely different perspective: that of Human Marketing. Human Marketing advocates that marketers address their messages to people as human beings, with broader interests and personalities, rather than the neat and homogenous target groups we often speak of. The session raised the question: Are we getting so caught up in technology and data that we are losing sight of who our customers are?
From target groups to human beings
One panel member, Tini Sevak, Vice President Audiences & Data at CNN International, used the target group of mums to illustrate this point. She explained that any woman with a child would find herself in this category, but that doesn’t reveal the full picture of who she is a person. She might have other interests, like parachuting or hip hop; she may be a different person on LinkedIn than she is on Facebook, and so on. Brands need to take the time to understand the full picture of who she is, and how that changes in different contexts, before automatically placing her in a particular demographic. This is essential if they hope to target her in a way that resonates with her needs and is useful to her.
I really like Tini’s example, and I believe that it should be the ambition of every brands to get to know their customer in this more nuanced sense. However, I also think technology can actually help brands get closer to the complex reality of who their customers are. When used correctly, data-driven technology can build a 360 degree view of the customer based on the myriad interactions they have with them across various channels. This puts brands in a better position to deliver experiences that resonate with people on this deeper level.
Creating people-focused experiences
Creating a memorable connection is only the beginning. Consumers increasingly expect their interactions with brands to add real value to their lives, and they are prepared to switch off if they feel they aren’t getting this. Encouragingly, brands are also learning to take advantage of technology to help them offer the sort of enriching experiences that customers are looking for. Just look at the way the fin tech industry has transformed banking from an analogue, disconnected (and dare I say frustrating!) experience, to a seamless, app-driven one.
I have two daughters and I recently decided to start giving them an allowance. Loathed to go through the process of setting everything up through the bank, I headed to the App store instead. I found an app, Go Henry, that allows me to automatically transfer funds to my daughters, track their spend and set limits – my girls can even decide to donate a portion of their allowance to charity. Here is a company that truly understands its customers’ needs – in this case ease and utility – and provides them with a useful and memorable experience.
Combining technology with creativity
Don’t get me wrong, technology can put brands in a better position to connect with audiences as human beings, but it isn’t enough on its own. Simply understanding your customer won’t necessarily ensure you make that connection that resonates with them on an emotional level – for that you also need creativity. Brands have traditionally relied on the ingenuity of the advertising industry to create content that engages and delights audiences, and these skills will always be needed in tandem with technology and data.
Great marketing is a combination of art and science, and one without the other is never enough. Technology can help us gain a deeper understanding of who our customers are on a human level, but it’s up to us to transform that insight into powerful emotional connections. Data and technology are really just an enabler for these deeper one-on-one connections with our audiences.