Marketers Are Using Customer Data to Drive Smarter, More Creative Storytelling

An abundance of insights often leads to new ideas

Last winter, as the East Coast was being hammered by a series of blizzards, spirits vendor Pernod Ricard and its delivery service partner Minibar observed an intriguing data point.

The lower the thermometer drops, they noted, the more liquor home deliveries rise. So why not capitalize on all those snow-bound tipplers with a targeted ad campaign?

“We knew that bad weather drives booze purchases,” says Abbey Klaassen, president of New York-based 360i, Pernod’s media agency of record. “We thought, how can we take advantage of this to make sure our products are top of mind?”

Pernod used location, weather and customer data to identify consumers who were over the age of 21, likely to be trapped at home and probably craving a scotch right about now. When these people searched for terms like “heavy snow,” “freezing rain” or “winter cocktail,” an ad for Jameson, Absolut or one of Pernod’s other brands would appear on Google, Facebook and any other platform that could be programmatically targeted, Klaassen says.

Each ad was prepped ahead of time, featured a weather-inspired caption, like “Stay warm in the winter cold” or “Everyone drinks White Russians on snow days,” and was automatically delivered by 360i’s Contextual Actions Platform when the target criteria were met.

Pernod’s sales on Minibar saw a 126 percent lift, Klaassen says, a likely result of its “Winter Weather” campaign. It was an informational trifecta: Data inspired the campaign, drove the targeting and proved its effectiveness.

“The beauty of this approach is we can use the same data to generate insight around a piece of work and to target people on the backend,” she says. “When we’re doing our best work it’s because we’re pulling together multiple types of data, which gives you a much richer picture of the consumer.”

Insights and inspiration

Increasingly, agency creative is starting with data, in part because brands need constant reassurance they’re making the right decisions, says Brent Poer, president and executive creative director for Zenith in New York.

“Data is leading a lot of the creative process right now,” he says. “Budgets are tighter, there’s more competition than ever and people don’t have the luxury to make mistakes and fail forward.”

Poer adds that customer data often leads to insights that generate new ideas.

“People are looking for brands that reflect images of their lives,” he says. “The more you know about the consumer, the more likely you are to replicate a story that relates back to their lives and makes them say, ‘I want to be loyal to this brand because they get me.'”

One of the factors driving the creative data movement is the ubiquity of tools like Adobe Experience Manager and supporting technologies, which makes it relatively easy to customize content based on a consumer’s profile and past online behavior, says Daniel Murphy, svp and director of digital operations for Deutsch in New York.

Another is that brands are finally starting to figure out how to extract insights from all that data they’ve been collecting over the years, he adds.

“Many clients have been sitting on a lot of data,” he says. “This has been like oil under the ground. For some of them it’s still the old trope of ‘Eddie, our prototypical user.’ Now we know a lot more about Eddie than we did in the past. That helps to inform the creative; you move away from one generic Eddie to to a room full of very specific people.”

Besides using data to identify the right people to target, brands are using data to generate the right content for those people, says Alan Schulman, managing director of brand creative and content marketing at Deloitte Digital.


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This story first appeared in the June 11, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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