What 'Westworld' Teaches Marketers About The Customer Journey

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve at least heard of HBO’s new hit show, Westworld — whose season finale just aired.

Westworld is about a new form of entertainment. People pay to immerse themselves in an Old West-themed world full of “hosts” — humanlike androids. It’s a real life role-playing game where anything you do might launch you into a new story.

What makes being at Westworld such a phenomenon is that the storytelling isn’t linear. Just like in life. New narratives form on the fly, triggered by actions. Stories sometimes weave together. You meet new characters, and you might ignore them, go with them, or something else entirely. Over time, the participant gets drawn deeper and deeper into the narrative.

Just like the newcomers of Westworld, potential customers are in constant motion. There is no set path. Moreover, they are constantly pulled one way or another by everything that is happening around them.



The path to brand loyalty is no longer a funnel. It’s a journey.

Marketing moments are just touchpoints that try to draw those potential customers into the brand storyline. Androids are a generation away, but the idea of immersive engagement is already here.

As a brand, you can now use programmatic marketing technologies like data management platforms to segment your audiences based on not just who they are but what they’ve done and what they know about you. You can and should message your customer in the context of what they are doing — be it browsing Facebook, researching on the web, or using an app on their smartphone. You can use marketing automation to listen and respond to customers in unprecedented ways.

What we’re now seeing brands begin to do is use new technologies like creative management platforms to segment their advertising messages. They are tying messages, themes, and moments to data triggers for specific audiences, just like a Westworld adventure.

The person who makes this is a digital marketing manager in a new role we’re seeing called a “creative planner.” It’s parallel to a media planner. The creative planner looks at the data available and builds a messaging strategy for those touchpoints.

Our ability to collect and analyze data about our customers and audiences has never been better. But where many organizations are failing is that they aren’t activating that data in their marketing. They are still using generalized or generic messaging when they could be creating touch points that result in a larger brand journey.

Step one is to deconstruct your marketing funnel into people and touchpoints. Who are your customers, what do they care about, when and why do they act? Building your brand story requires investing in having creative for these audiences and in these moments.

Westworld is a reminder and a blueprint for what data-driven creative should look like. It is up to your narrative to draw your audience in. And when you do, be ready to continue to deliver on your story.

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