Direct marketing as we once knew it, is no more. The good news is almost everything is direct now. Almost everything is measurable. And almost everything can be personalised, segmented, triggered, dynamically populated, templated, and on it goes.
Basically, data rocks. Data empowers marketers. Data doesn’t lie. And data, used properly, delivers fascinating insights and ignites the most emotionally compelling creativity.
Data, whisper it, is now sexy. These days you’ll find digital agencies talking about the importance of data – and media agencies as well. Even feted ad agencies like BBH now speak about “understanding the psychological levers that need to be pulled to engage consumers”.
Why the enlightenment? More people are now finally realising that media fragmentation and the growth of digital and social media mean that consumers are now engaging with brands in a multitude of different ways. The customer journey has become more complex, more difficult to track and understand. The only way to really understand consumer behaviour in this new world is through data and insight. Not just by interrogating all the existing data but by using new, ever evolving proprietary insight tools that bring us closer to consumers in realtime.
The good news is that it’s the organisations with a real heritage in data and insight that can grab the opportunities that now exist in this ever more fragmented, complex world. The post Spending Review environment will also put an even greater onus on brands to keep closer to their customers to understand how they are adapting their behaviour.
There is now clearly the real prospect of the UK entering a new age of austerity where people will rethink – or rather re-feel – what’s absolutely necessary to them personally and what’s not. ‘Re-feel’ because we shouldn’t expect these decisions to be logical, after a decade of free-wheeling consumer spending. ‘New austerity’ will pit the HD TV against the new vacuum, the premium FMCG brand against high street fashion like never before.
People will refine and redefine their own priorities in order to protect their own sense of self, developing new coping strategies along the way. And it’s not going to be about brands that shout the loudest, but brands that deliver the highest practical and emotional utility to their customers – they will be the ones that will form bonds strong enough to weather the storm.
It’s also probable that groups of people making exactly the same set of choices will become smaller and smaller – challenging the marketer to really sweat the detail and target budgets with laser precision to win traction, influence and advocacy.
In this new environment, those who “own” the consumer insight will reign supreme.
Peter Mitchell is chief executive of Rapp London