of brands being
One-to-one personalisation of marketing is now becoming a reality, but brands still have some way to go to appear truly human, starting with getting the context of their communications right.
When marketers discuss personalisation, most of the time they are referring to the use of data to deliver communications and experiences tailored to someone’s preferences, behaviour and intent. But for marketing to truly be personalised, it also needs to feel like it has come from another human.
Appearing human means not just acting upon data, but understanding which messages are most important, constructing them in the right tone and sending them in the right context.
We give all functions buy-in to our common purpose
According to Oliver Lewis, managing director of influencer marketing agency The Fifth: “Influencer marketing is growing very quickly. Spend is increasing. In a recent study, 61% of marketers said they would increase their spend this year in influencer marketing, and we have seen that realised.” Olympic gold medal-winning snowboarder Amy Fuller pointed out that brands need to move away from thinking solely in terms of reach to “something more meaningful and outcome-driven”. While campaign objectives differ, from the influencer’s perspective real trust tends to lead to a more authentic, organic and creative partnership, she said.
Fuller told the audience how, as brand ambassador for Tag Heuer, she has learned first-hand the importance of working alongside brands that are “a true representation” of herself. “Tag aligns with what I do both on and off the mountain,” she said, adding: “I’d call myself an athlete not an influencer.” Tag Heuer’s Barnes agreed, telling delegates: “We do a lot of due diligence and research into people. But the more important question is: what do you want from it? Do they represent you as a brand? Is it a good match?
“It’s not an ad campaign. There is no script,” she added. “It’s very different from a brand campaign.”
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James Moore, Trainline
Trainline’s Moore actively tries to prevent this kind of situation from arising: “We try to give all our functions - the data engineering team, the database management team – a real buy-in to our common purpose,” he said.
He gives the example of how Trainline informs customers when their train is running late. This involves multiple links in a chain, from pulling in real-time data from the National Rail database, to sending it onto Trainline’s app platform, to CRM systems ultimately delivering the message to the passenger.
Deliveroo CMO Inés Ures on the realities of being customer-centric
Trainline's James Moore on the importance of context
According to James Moore, general manager of Trainline’s UK consumer business and head of its global cross-functional customer engagement teams: “One message sent at the wrong time is not valuable, but at the right time, the same message sent to the same customer is valuable.”
Speaking on a panel at the Festival of Marketing, he pointed out that, for example, if someone is searching train times between two stations while physically in one of those stations, the context of the search is very different from performing it at home or work. For the brand, knowing the difference is a key part of coming across in a more human manner.
“Understanding timeliness and location are two really important contexts for us [alongside] more traditional contexts like what they have bought in the past and what are their habits,” Moore added.
Deliveroo chief marketing officer Inés Ures, also speaking on the panel, suggested the key to unlocking the potential of contextual communication is “micro-moments” – “moments in a person’s life where we can talk to them in a specific way”. She gave the example of how Deliveroo could persuade someone to make an order by reaching them when they are commuting home, wanting to spend time with their family rather than cooking that evening.
“If we manage to capture that moment and put Deliveroo in front of you, in the right channel and with the right content, I’m sure we can drive that behaviour. If we can’t at least we can entertain you and make you smile.”
But finding that audience is complicated, Ures admitted, when the person could just as easily be planning to go to the pub with their friends, and might find a marketing message annoying at that moment. Ordering behaviour is used in situations like this to better predict the context of the moment for the consumer – for example, the time of day they would normally buy from Deliveroo.
As Braze CMO Sara Spivey told Marketing Week in an interview following the panel session, which she moderated, the key question for marketers is: “How close can brands get to emulating human conversation?” At the moment, they are still some way off. “There is still a lot of automated messaging that is in automated language, which is poor,” she said.
During the panel debate, she cited research commissioned from Forrester Consulting on behalf of Braze over the past two years. The most recent study found increasing expectations among consumers that ‘human’ conversations with brands should include unique personal insights, whereas the previous year more attributes like using natural language and being considerate of a consumer’s time were ranked as important.
By Sarah Vizard?
The panel also discussed the brand success of Netflix which Brophy said had successfully increased its number of customers and those thinking about signing up, particularly among the over-55s. It was exceeding customer expectations.
Sonia Sudhakar, Masters judge and director of marketing for Guardian News and Media, said Netflix is thriving because it is content-driven. She cited its success in attracting the fans of TV series that had a cult following, such as Breaking Bad and Black Mirror.
“Netflix has played a blinder in many ways by focusing on hero content,” she said. “This includes documentaries that appeal to older people who are not so used to watching media in a different way. It also uses data effectively to create the best customer experience.”
Greggs harnessed a trend when they came out with their vegan sausage roll
Amelia Brophy, YouGov
When working out how to offer functionality like this, Trainline involves all relevant departments from the outset, showing data engineers the market research rationale behind it, for example. According to Moore, doing so encourages people to contribute ideas beyond the obvious.
“Not only do we get the core use case done, but then we also start to get other pieces of innovation that appear by magic.” An example he gave was a data engineer’s suggestion that the brand could scrape Twitter feeds and combine that information with real-time train data to see what people are tweeting about the service.
“We get richer information about what’s really happening on the ground with customers and we can deliver a better product. Everyone becomes more motivated and bought-into that innovative solution.”
And overall, the customer experience becomes more human. ■
Greggs' triumph as the Marketing Week Masters Brand of the Year was based not just on the opinions of the expert judging panel but also data collated by YouGov from its BrandIndex tool, which informed the judging process. The data combined metrics ranging from ad awareness and buzz to value and quality perceptions.
According to YouGov's UK head of data products, Amelia Brophy, the brands that featured on the Brand of the Year shortlist performed well on both the short- term metrics and those related to long-term brand equity. Greggs stood out, however, and at one point last year, one in five Britons recalled seeing a Greggs ad in the previous two weeks.
Greggs also "harnessed a trend" with the launch of its vegan sausage roll, she told the Festival of Marketing. "We have data that says four in 10 Brits are actively looking to reduce their meat consumption, so it really spoke to that group of people and made Greggs perform in a way that we really didn't expect them to."
Greggs' win also pleased TSB CMO Pete Markey, one of the senior marketers on the Masters judging panel.
"They know their audience really well...but they've innovated. The vegan sausage roll is just one aspect. If you go into a Greggs, the customer experience has been enhanced," he said.
"They have also been quite clever and edgy with knowing where their brand can go and how to push that brand."
How Greggs became Brand of the Year
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So what holds marketers and brands back from identifying and using relevant contextual information in a way that achieves greater humanity in their communications? As with so many other shortcomings in marketing, the answer often lies in a lack of joined-up thinking.
Spivey explained what this can mean in practice: “If I get a purchase ‘thank you’ email and 10 minutes later I get a push notification saying [the same product is] on sale, now they’ve just irritated me. That’s a classic example of a lack of cross-channel collaboration in a marketing department yielding a bad result.”
Braze delivers customer experiences across email, mobile, SMS and web. Customers including Citi, Deliveroo, Urban Outfitters, The Guardian, and Trainline use the Braze platform to facilitate real-time experiences between brands and customers in a more authentic and human way. The company was named a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Mobile Marketing Platforms in 2019. Braze is headquartered in New York with offices in London, San Francisco and Singapore. Learn more at Braze.com.
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