Back To The Corner Store With Data-driven Creative

My grandmother was a tough, clever Italian woman who took her grocery shopping seriously. Venturing into her corner delicatessen every Tuesday and Thursday, the owners knew her by name, what she purchased and the preferences of her children and grandchildren. If she tried something new, it was at their recommendation. If the price went up, she still handed over the same amount of cash each time.

As a customer, my grandmother valued this personalized attention and in return, kept coming back. Cultivating a personal, intimate engagement with customers used to be a strategic business decision for many corner store managers. It kept customers loyal and it was a way to win against the competition. While many would describe a shopping experience that appears a lot different from my grandmother’s today, I would argue that this is changing. Data-driven insights are shifting how businesses see their future and therefore, how they understand and communicate with their customers. Knowing how, when and where customers want to be communicated and delivering a personalized experience is now a priority. To put it simply, smart businesses, empowered with granular sophistication, are working their way back to the customer relationship of the corner store.

This data-driven approach has significant implications for the traditional creative agency, particularly as communications move from a mass-marketing model to one-to-one relevance. There are three primary ways that data-driven creative differs from the traditional model:

1. We define customers differently

For decades, creatives relied upon various types of data to guide their decisions: a creative director’s gut feeling, focus group data, viewership studies or demographic profiling. Today, the focus group -- regardless of size or depth of the study -- has been optimized by something far more powerful: purchase data representing the actual preferences and real behaviors of millions of customers. While focus groups and demographics can help add color and texture, they can drive generalizations of an “average shopper” that can be easily replicated by competitors.

Most of us have come across a brand that wants to “talk to moms” via a personification of their target we’ll call “Jane.” A creative brief will often read, “Jane is a high-powered mom concerned about her health and the well-being of her family, but is also busy, so convenience is important to her.”

In the new marketing paradigm, a creative brief using data-driven insights would never make personal assumptions about Jane unless she tells us directly. We don’t know if Jane is purchasing a product because it’s convenient for her, so we speak to Jane using language that we do know. Defining customers by their behaviors (“you are what you buy”) is a more accurate measure of the customer’s needs and wants. By more intimately understanding how the customer behaves, the brand is more likely to be more relevant.

2. We use a new language

As more businesses begin to understand the benefits of focusing on loyal customers instead of acquisition strategies, the creative can play an important role in reinforcing trust within the customer-retailer relationship. Moving away from “random acts of marketing,” data-driven creative empowers businesses to overcome “you don’t know me” and achieve “you really get me.”

A new language is emerging: “Thanks for coming, if you need anything while you are here, we are here to help you.” When messaging is directed to current users, common calls to action like “Try Me Today!” simply don’t make sense. Even new product introductions are beginning to use a more subtle tone to appeal to customers -- the way we talk to people we know.

3. We personalize the message

Traditionally, a direct communication for laptops, for example, will speak to the largest common denominator of consumers and assumes that all recipients will relate to the generalized message.

The new frontier for creative lies in the integration of pre- and post-purchase data with creative messaging. This type of data gives creative teams even more power to reinvent the creative brief with personalization, asking questions like: What type of music does this person like?

  • What type of printer does he/she have?
  • Are they a professional photographer? What kind of camera do they use?
  • When did they make their last laptop purchase?
  • Do they play games online? 

Each customer is receiving a tailored experience and instead of a generic laptop communication, the customer receives a personalized laptop plan that addresses all of their preferences.

The data-driven creative transformation is already driving substantial response rates as compared with traditional agency standards. As new forms of data continue to provide a comprehensive view of the customer throughout the path to purchase and across channels, the creative agency can expect continued evolution. 

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