(Originally posted in CMO.com)
Have you ever had a feeling you just couldn’t shake? Of course you have—“hunches” are the hallmark of any good marketer. It means you know a good campaign when you see it.
In fact, marketing decisions have historically been built on hunches, intuition, and other unquantifiable ideas. That’s easy to forget in this data-driven industry we now work in.
Here’s something else many people are forgetting: Breakthrough ideas don’t come from an analytics dashboard. They come from intuitive leaps.
So how do you know when you have a good idea in front of you? Popular wisdom says you should “trust your gut.” At Gigaom’s Roadmap 2013, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom also talked at length about hunch-driven design development. He maintained that it was Instagram’s secret to success.
Instagram began as an app called “Burbn.” Systrom had had a hunch. He polled its 100 users and found they were sharing photos more than anything else. Less than two years later, Instagram had more than 100 million users and a $1 billion price tag.
In Systrom’s world, data-based design plays an essential role in this process, but it’s about optimizing products, not developing them. Why? Systrom knows that the only way to develop something unique is with intuition, which is where your experience and instinct pay off.
Think about Systrom’s example in terms of a product campaign: Focus groups can guide you and offer you a tentative response. Despite the graphs and surveys, however, you still know that the final decision has to come from you, not the data. You have to trust your experience, your team, and, most of all, yourself.
Remember The Risks
Lots of marketing executives tell themselves that the decision they’re making isn’t risky because it’s based on data. But they’re wrong.
Some businesses live (and die) by the mantra, “Data doesn’t lie.” This is fine for objective measurements, such as impressions, click-throughs, and transactions, but for qualitative, subjective data—such as target interests, psychographics, and social data—it’s not nearly as clear-cut. Every single day, people lie, misremember, or skew the truth on surveys, in focus groups, and through comments and reviews.
Other flaws are at work: Whether they mean to or not, analysts bring biases when they organize data for a report. And data can certainly still be wrong, even when it’s laid out perfectly in an Excel chart or a PowerPoint deck. In the end, the wrong kind of data-driven approach isn’t that different from traditional market research: It’s lengthy, costly, and still means making some really big, dangerous assumptions.
There’s another angle of risk here: Thanks to the viral nature of modern media, one wrong hunch can devastate a brand. Now when a marketer makes the wrong call, millions of people can see it.
Scared? You should be.
But the good news is, when you get it right, viral recognition happens then, too. Netflix had a hunch that political cynicism would resonate with its audience, and it knew that “binge watching” was a trend among users. So Netflix released the entire first season of “House of Cards” at once. The move was so successful that Netflix is repeating that model with several other series.
Strengthen Your Strategy
The evidence in support of hunches is there. Marketers can get it right. But data can’t be discounted either. That’s why the best path forward is an integrated one, and there’s a specific strategy for marketers that combines data- and hunch-based approaches.
Think of your precampaign period as hunch-based. That means you trust your instinct on what your target wants, needs, and will respond to. Then, after you’ve crafted a campaign guided by instinct and intuition, you can use hard data to back up your strategy and optimize it.
There are lots of unique ways to hone your data for a more helpful, relevant viewpoint, such as using carefully selected focus groups or accessing social media platforms to get a closer look at your fans and followers. This will give you an in-depth, holistic look at who your target is, what they care about, and how they’re growing and changing so you can speak to them as people, not just customers.
Marketing isn’t just about crunching numbers—it relies on experience, knowing your audience, and having great intuition. Trust yourself, trust your gut, and then use data to support your hunches.
(Originally posted in Memeburn)
Do you know who your customers are? You probably know their age, gender, and location — you might even know their shopping habits or their favorite stores. But do you really know them?
Ten years ago, basic demographic information might have been enough, but in the age of big data, businesses need to dig deeper.
These days, brands aren’t just compiling numbers and statistics to get to know their customers. Innovative companies are investing in “personas”: full, honest descriptions of a specific type of person. When you identify your audience in this way, it’s much easier to tailor your messaging to resonate with these specific people.
Dissecting customer personas
What makes a persona? A persona is the difference between an awkward date that ends in a mumbled “bye” and an evening where you talk all night and leave feeling as though you’ve known that person your entire life. A persona tells you about your customers’ personality, interests, likes and dislikes, and media consumption.
Based on an analysis of the energy drink’s Twitter engagement, Red Bull has two main male personas as its followers: “daring” men ages 18 to 24 and “sophisticated” men ages 25 to 34. We can also tell that Red Bull’s daring fans favor news media from Bleacher Report and Deadspin, while their sophisticated followers prefer BuzzFeed and Complex.
Red Bull knows these daring types respond to new and exciting things, and they’re turned off by mass appeal and corporate speak. Sophisticated types, on the other hand, respond to celebrity, wit, and confidence.
From reviewing the kinds of media they consume, we have a better idea of exactly what would pique their interest and what wouldn’t. So does Red Bull. Can you think of better words to describe the brand responsible for a world-famous “space jump” than “exciting” and “confident”?
Discover the people behind your brand
Now, thanks to big data, the most successful brand strategists and product designers don’t just know who their customers are. They also know what makes them tick, and they can empathize with exactly what they want — and don’t want.
You can accomplish this for your brand, too. Here are a few ways to start:
1. Find out who’s engaging with you and who isn’t. You have two kinds of fans: engagers and under-engagers. Under-engagers are people who’ve shown an interest — by retweeting, sharing, or using hashtags relevant to your brand — but they’re not brand advocates yet. Make it your mission to find out two things about these fans: Who are they, and what do they follow?
2. Uncover their interests: Once you’ve figured out the basics about your brand fans (gender, age, and location), invest in social media analysis to dig into their interests. This is where building your brand persona begins. What do these people like? Why are they invested in your brand? Answer all these questions and more until you build a well-rounded outline (or several) of your average fans.
3. Create stories: Use your newfound knowledge to choose stories that will resonate with your personas. Keep an eye out for surprises in your under-engagers’ demographics. These unexpected insights will win you credit with your customers and drive results.
4. Target the right media: Make media buys that are mutually exclusive to your target personas as much as possible so you can feed them different stories with less risk. For Mustang brand fans, for example, the media would be Motor Trend or Car and Driver. But for the brand’s under-engagers, Mustang might target Mashable or The Onion.
So who are your customers, and how are you going to use personas to speak to them in a more memorable way?
Twitter shared a hashtag trend of #CheesyMovies this morning, which makes one think- what exactly makes a movie ‘cheesy’ (besides substituting a cheese in the title)? One vote – extremely bad acting with such a shallow plot that it actually becomes disturbingly humorous.
Despite some variance in the definition, several people actually claim cheesy movies to be some of their favorites.
Which brings about the question, does being a fan of cheesy movies say something about who these people are??
Turns out, it’s probably not whether a movie is ‘cheesy’ that reveals someone’s personality traits. But rather, it’s the type of hero the person identifies with on the big screen and the overall themes of their favorite movies that reveal some unique characteristics about who they are.
You Are Your Favorite Movie Heroes
Much has been written on the topic of favorite movies and personalities, including the book Cinescopes: What Your Favorite Movies Reveal About You. In this book, the authors identified 16 movie-based personality styles based on the types of heroes people responded to most, as well as the various movie themes that resonated with them best. Some of these styles include Dedicated Idealist, Charismatic Performer, Chosen Adventurer, and Invincible Optimist.
And movies aren’t the only identifiers for personality. Favorite books – whether murder mysteries, love stories, or dramas- can also reveal unique personality traits. And the type of music you’re into (reflective, intense, upbeat, rhythmic) correlates with specific personality traits like extroversion, agreeableness, and openness to new experiences- and can even identify specific demographics, like political views and wealth.
Even your favorite color is said to be an instinctual choice that reflects your emotions, behaviors, character traits and more.
Interests, Personality and #Marketing101
So how does all of this play into Marketing? It’s obvious that paying attention to your audiences’ interests is smart when it comes to planning a Marketing campaign. You might want to place ads in unique places based on different segments who have opposite interests.
And gaining a good understanding of your audiences’ various personality traits is important, too. Extroverted Adventurers are going to respond to an ad campaign completely different than Introverted Romantics. You have to learn what really makes each segment ‘tick’ to be able to reach them.
Rely on both interest and personality data interchangeably to create truly targeted campaigns that will speak to the right audience in the right way. With the excess of public customer data available online today- via social networks, blogs, reviews and recommendations, etc- all it takes are some innovative tools to really dig in to that data to help you build unique brand Personas based on your audience’s interests, personalities, demographics, and more.
Nothing cheesy about that.
(Originally published in Social Media Explorer)
Social media thrives on one thing: accessibility. Whether it’s seeing the biggest stars’ daily routines or scoring the scoop from a trusted reporter, people want to feel in touch and informed — down to the second. Your Twitter followers want all of these things from your brand. But they want something else, too: They want to know you’re human.
That’s why an automated Twitter response is such a disappointment for your followers. It tells them your brand is unavailable, or worse, “too big to care.” But there’s a better way to keep your followers engaged and excited, as well as give them a taste of your brand’s more personal side: Treat Twitter as a place for humor, play, and experimentation — in real time.
Risk and Reward
Personifying your brand is important because it helps you build a personality, not just a brand voice. And the first step toward building a personality is universal: finding a sense of humor. That’s exactly why Twitter fans love wacky jokes and clever retorts from brands they follow. Here’s a great example: Someone tweeted a snarky barb at Smart Car, criticizing its flagship product. So what did Smart Car do? It tweeted back an informative infographic and a witty reply. This seems risky, right? But it actually hit the mark perfectly — and scored media kudos as one of the “funniest replies from a brand yet.”
A quick look at Smart Car’s followers would show that this move isn’t as dangerous as it seems: The car brand’s fans are daring, they like to break convention, and they loathe “corporate speak.” This retort was spur-of-the-moment, smart, and real, which means it’s a perfect fit — even though it seems off-the-cuff. (Imagine what might have happened if Smart Car’s comeback had been scripted instead: “We’re sorry you feel that way. How can we help?” It would have been a disaster.)
Rules of the Game
There’s a clear strategy at work here: Be spontaneous but informed. But, like any bold move, the risk should be calculated, authentic, and, most importantly, true to your fans. So how can big brands balance those three traits without incurring too much risk on a public social platform? Here are a few ideas:
- Make your partners — or even your competitors — look good. Losers try to discredit their rivals and end up discrediting themselves. What if Microsoft complimented Google instead of running its infamous “Scroogled” campaign? Brands should use Twitter to expand their audience and engage new people, not alienate the ones who already follow them.
- Know your audience. If you have a lot of engaged, vocal followers who like more wholesome, conservative brands, you’re better off staying on the safe side. Be nice, like Coca-Cola, which answers every tweet with a “thanks.” But if your brand is more daring, like Red Bull or Virgin Airlines, you can push the limits instead. (DiGiorno’s “cheeky” commentary during “The Sound of Music” is a great example.)
- Get your timing right. We’ve all seen these infamous tweets, like Kim Kardashian’s ill-timed product promotion in the aftermath of the Oklahoma tornado. These mistakes might be understandable to marketing executives, but they’re absolutely mystifying (and that much more tone-deaf) to Twitter users. Be careful about what you respond to — and when you’re responding, too.
You can achieve this fun, playful engagement across all kinds of media, but some are far riskier to your brand — and your budget — than others. Here’s an example: TV is expensive, and it involves planning, testing, and round after round of review. And that means that, on TV, being “wacky” is a bigger gamble than ever.
Twitter, on the other hand, is fast and low-risk, which makes it perfect for “testing” new voices and ideas. Why? It is low-cost, low-effort, and, unless you’re attracting the wrong kind of media attention, has a pretty short memory. There’s also a wealth of social information for you to access, so you can tailor your experimental tweets to fit your followers.
Start with a solid analysis of your brand’s target audience. Some of the limits and guardrails that you’ll create for your Twitter presence are intuitive; other times, you’ll have to rely on data to tell you where your followers’ interests lie. Crunching numbers on what they care about, what they’re listening to, and what they’re watching will give you key insights into what’s likely to trigger a laugh or a retweet — and make a lasting impression. And the more data you have to inform your social worldview, the better your off-the-cuff tweets will be — and the better response you’ll get from your followers.
After all, Twitter is made for play, not work. And that’s why you should make your followers feel like they’re connecting with a person, not a brand representative. Don’t be afraid to experiment and engage your followers in new, innovative ways — and have a little fun doing it, too.
Segment your audience in hours — not weeks or months — all without asking questions. Craft campaigns and products that appeal to their personalities and unique interests.