I’m a marketer who’s never watched Mad Men. In spite of this bombshell, I do feel like I’ve sat through the director’s cut at least twice in the past year. Mad Men references are the mode du jour of the marketing opinion column, used as examples of how the ad world has changed since the good old days of catchy jingles, expensive brandy and casual sexism.
Despite my ignorance of pop-culture, I appreciate that the reasons for the comparisons are valid. Everything about the agency of old is being challenged, especially by the shift to digital. While I don’t deny that there will always be a need for memorable campaigns from creative talent, digital requires a change in focus from telling the story a brand wants to tell, to co-writing an experience individually with each consumer.
Digital marketing is about giving consumers a personalised experience of a brand, rather than a lesson in its values. We’re not so much in the disruptive business of pre-purchase influence (display ads aside), but sit side-by-side with our consumers, helping shape their decision-making process, constantly learning from them as much as they do from us.
That’s why, when a brief aimed at connecting consumers more intimately with a client’s brand arrived recently, the task of tackling it wasn’t handed to the classic art director/copywriter duo. The job fell to the digital partnership of the future (and dare I say, the now): the data strategist/user experience architect.
Digital tools like CBA’s Property Guide app, that do no direct selling, but allow consumers to better themselves and their decisions, show the power of this open-source sharing of information between consumer and brand. The success of such platforms lies in the mutual benefit gained through facilitating access to complex data in an easy to understand format. The consumer uses the data to make lifestyle decisions, the brand learns immeasurably about its target audience and entrenches itself in positive experiences in the consumer’s life.
The data/UX experts are best placed to allow the consumer-brand relationship to flourish. Personalised data visualisation and management is just one example of where the partnership comes to the fore, but much of the future of digital fits their expertise. They build their digital strategy around what the consumer tells them and what the brand wants to learn more about. They still have to be creative, but creative in their application of contextual research, semiotics, behavioural data, user-testing and real-time analytics. With this they create personalised, consumer-centric products and campaigns that deliver value to both sides.
The final play of the data/UX team is accountability. The work of the duo is empirically based; it’s designed, built, tested and optimised with quantifiable information and its impact can be measured directly against dollar targets. In the current digital landscape, and that of the future, perhaps it's the data/UX guys who should be swilling the expensive brandy.
Andy Stern is a data strategist at The White Agency.