In the last decade or so, most of the decisions by communication strategists, agencies and PR practitioners are based on “folk theories”. It means theories that have been developed, tested and refined over time by practitioners about what works and what doesn’t, without much empirical evidence to validate the effectiveness of the campaign outcome and the rationale behind the campaign design.
At the end of a communication campaign, one would have an intuitive feel about what worked and what didn’t, but the evidence is largely circumstantial, or anecdotal and more commonly, the strategist’s inclination toward self-justification.
We are blessed that the existence of the World Wide Web has transformed the landscape tremendously.
Data-driven campaigns simply mean collecting, aggregating and interpreting the relevant data sets into highly persuasive communication strategies. Data-driven campaigns allow us to understand more about how we should communicate to our relevant customers, stakeholders and target audience. It also enables microtargetting campaigns to happen.
The next question is why do we need microtargeted campaigns ? The answer is simple. People are motivated differently. Whilst there are always outliers in any group that we observe, categorically groups exhibit some common behaviour or pattern.
One-size-fits-all advertising messaging or tagline does not work in a period where information travels faster than speed of sound. We live in a period where we consume information from multiple online channels faster than reading ten hardcopy newspapers at the same time. Large companies like Coca-Cola are now implementing different messages for different target markets. In future, we will have TV ads customised based on where we live or based on what car we drive. By now, we have already experienced how Amazon detects your past behaviour while browsing your favourite books and “recommends” you to purchase a book based on your similar interest. In one form or another, with the help of predictive analytics and big data, microtargeted campaigns have already existed in the digital world.
At the conceptual level (i.e 30,000 feet), the term data-driven campaign sounds simple for many people. In countries such as the United States where data accessibility is less of an issue, data-driven campaigns have been successfully implemented using big data analytics in multiple industries and politics.
For other parts of the world such as in Asia, the concept is relatively new. In fact, implementing the concept down to the nuts-and-bolts (i.e 3 feet) it is the greatest challenge for most practitioners or agencies such as in Malaysia. Most agencies stick to “one-size-fits-all” campaign approach to be safe.
Let me illustrate an example of the effort involved in designing a data driven campaign. Assuming that you are designing an effective communication campaign, one may need basic datasets such demographics of the target audience. However that is not sufficient given humans are known to be motivated differently based on the Big Five personality traits – hence data on psychographics of the audience is fundamentally important to add to this equation.
In addition to this, understanding past sentiment score (based on what the audience perceives in the past) is equally crucial to the existing demographics and psychographics datasets. To add to this complexity, census data such as income households, internet penetration by location and hosts of other micro socio-economic indicators and media channels will need to be considered before launching an effective communications campaign.
But being data-driven isn’t just about campaign experimentation and optimization. It is about gathering relevant data about all aspects of the business, diving deep to learn more about what makes the target audience tick, selecting the optimum communication channels, deploying highly persuasive messages using the right creative artwork and other considerations. It is all about finding the “sweet-spot”.
Finding that balance requires a combination of science, wisdom and creativity.
Photo courtesy of Grey, Toronto Canada.