With the market awash with data companies, you might think that existing players – let alone start-ups – would find it virtually impossible to find fresh revenue streams, with global giants like Experian and Acxiom or UK-based firms like GB Group and Callcredit seemingly well equipped to exploit the new era of data-driven marketing.
Not so, according to Ian Lancaster, chief executive of life event marketing company TwentyCi, which, after 15 years in operation has just launched a new digital and programmatic division.
One of the first fruits of the TwentyCi Digital division is a product which the firm claims offers clients the chance to target consumers who are known to be moving house – rather than those who simply intend to – through a new programmatic ad scheme, which ties in with other digital channels, including social media, PPC and even TV.
He says: “We are taking a more holistic view of an individual’s position and mind state, as opposed to their active interest in a product or category. It’s great to understand an individual is interested in buying a bed, but if you also knew they were in the process of selling their home and, in fact, had not only sold it subject to contract but were looking to exchange in the next two weeks, this would make significant difference in terms of the way an advertiser should message those individuals – it would be less about branding and more around consumer needs, wants and speed of turnaround.”
And Lancaster reckons that the rise of machine learning, along with artificial and augmented intelligence will be the difference in the future in terms of being able to accurately analyse the huge volume of data available.
Big data turns to small data
He adds: “Big data is getting all the attention, but TwentyCi believes the challenge is to identify and consolidate the small data that will create an impact on customer engagement. That single attribute or data point that identifies a change in behaviour such as a lapse in purchase frequency.
“However, when this behaviour is aligned with other small data points you can see that the change is not driven by a change in brand but, in fact, indicates a more significant event. For example, someone might be running down their wine rack ahead of a house move or buying 20 match pots of paint in various shades of pink and blue ahead of a new arrival. Life events change habits and the challenge is to identify these and act on them.”
So, for a company which prides itself on getting under the skin of clients’ customers, does Lancaster feel that clients really “get” data or is it still viewed as a complete mystery?
“Clients ‘in the know’ understand the value of data, but the challenge in the market is in the way that data is used,” he says. “Capturing more information on an individual is only important if you actually react to it. We’ve had great experience with clients understanding the value of our factual data and how to use context to improve the timing and relevancy of their messaging, achieving results 20 times higher than expected.”
Not that all clients “get it”, Lancaster notes, adding that more clients need to embrace the fact that accurate data, for a specific purpose, may highlight opportunities that weren’t considered previously.
“We have known of campaigns previously where a client was convinced their target market was male. However, the data that came through specifically and categorically showed that their consumers were female. Data provides brand truths that are essential for building both marketing and business strategies.”
Agencies miss the big goal
Mind you, marketing agencies are not blameless either, Lancaster insists. “All too often agencies miss the big goal. Many have developed an obsession with data which is great – quite rightly giving it as much importance as the creative input which was their traditional heartland. However, that said, some lack the analytical skills they need to really assess campaign results in the depth required to then pull the right levers for optimising the programme.”
So, when it comes to the real expertise, where does it lie: within clients, agencies or suppliers? Lancaster admits “it’s an annoying answer, but truthfully it is with all three”.
He adds: “Each will have a different view of an individual – some very specific and some much broader. Transparent analysis is key to success with data and each party has value to add to the mix.”
As for TwentyCi, Lancaster insists the business is in the midst of a perfect storm. “Advancements in both data insight and digital delivery are enabling us to give more brands and agencies than ever the tools they need to reach consumers as they go through those key life events that have a major impact on purchasing behaviour – think moving home, having a baby, retiring etc. We are also investing in the business and putting the right people in place to help the company continue on its fast growing trajectory.”
Expansion strategy taking shape
Last month TwentyCi appointed former Rapp data and Royal Mail chief Colin Bradshaw to the new position of chief customer officer.
The role has been created to add an additional level of support at a senior level as the company continues to expand; Bradshaw will be managing growth and investment in TwentyCi’s client management and sales activities across all sectors, products and channels.
And Lancaster is in no doubt about the company’s growth trajectory. He explains: “By 2022 we would expect life event marketing to have become mainstream for many major brands as they realise that, even though it may be a complementary rather than core strategy for their campaigns, the significant ROI this creates makes it an essential element.
“We see the launch of TwentyCi Digital as our own company life event that will kick-start our own move to ubiquitousness over time.”
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