Empowered by data

March 23rd, 2018

How can we apply the use of data in content marketing? Elena Brook-Hart explores some data-driven campaigns and looks at how to create ‘always on’ content that delights customers.

A year ago, something great happened: Spotify launched an out-of-home campaign grounded in data from the platform’s users. ‘Dear 3,749 people who streamed, “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” the day of the Brexit vote. Hang in there.’ The campaign signed off with ‘Thanks 2016, it’s been weird.’ The campaign was so successful, it’s been relaunched this year. And that was the first time I felt proud to be the ‘data geek’ of the agency.

It seems obvious a brand that collects so much user data would use it in its advertising. But it’s not easy to pull off an idea so user-data-heavy without seeming extremely creepy. Hats off to Spotify for its seamless execution and for managing to use that data to showcase its brand personality.

Spotify’s example is one of a kind, but how do other brands use data to create great content?

One of my favourite examples is the ‘This girl can’ campaign for Sport England. In order to arrive at the proposition, the planning team asked women what prevented them from exercising. The responses ranged from not knowing what the right gear was for the activity, to not feeling fit enough or not knowing how to perform the activity properly. With such diverse answers, Sport England set about finding the common factor. And they found it: what actually prevented women from exercising was the fear of being judged. ‘Other people at the gym will think I don’t know what I’m doing if I turn up in the wrong outfit’; ‘People on the street will give me looks when I run if I’m not fit already’, etc. So the campaign went all in with the message, ‘I don’t care what they say or think, I’m getting fit.’ And it was a huge success.

Another great example is Samaritans’ ‘We listen’ campaign.

Again, it’s so simple and seems so obvious when you see it. But getting to the point of making it seem so simple takes a lot of time: analysing data, attitudes and behaviour, then channelling that data into insights with which your target audience identifies. This campaign also shows the brand’s purpose, and it works on so many levels.

So how can we apply this use of data in content marketing?

The key to content creation is not simply telling the consumer that you understand them, but, as with the examples above, showing them you do. Your content will be king when the consumer reads it and feels you’re making their lives better – be it reading about exciting destinations on a plane, or finding a recipe to cook that evening. It might not translate into direct sales but it will surely create a bond between the audience and your brand.

When creating ‘always on’ content it can be easy for brands to find themselves in a creative rut — as if every season is the same, churning out the same content ideas that tap into the same events. So how do you break that cycle and create content that moves with the times?

  • Analyse the consumer constantly. Times change, society changes, attitudes towards the same things change. Who would have told us a few years ago that 42% of meat eaters would consider or have already reduced their meat intake? Or that men would start buying and using make-up?
  • Keep an eye on your competitors. If your main competitor suddenly writes a feature on ‘how to make vegan food for your pet’, try to find what the insight behind that move is; you never know, they might be on to something.
  • Stay up to date with the latest trends. It won’t always make sense for your brand or audience to follow a trend, but it’s always useful to be aware of them.
  • Go and talk to the consumer, no matter your role in the company. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because you’ve been doing the job for years, you know the consumer inside out. Again, times change, society changes, your audience might change. Your brand should evolve with them.
  • Join the dots – and make it obvious. Listen to the data, analyse it and find out the common themes. What’s keeping your consumer up at night? What are they struggling with? Can your content help them? You need the consumer to find your content helpful, so don’t tell them what their problems are; instead, show them how to solve them. That way you’ll make them feel understood.
  • Don’t lose sight of your brand’s purpose. It’s great to gather data and create loads of amazing content, but make sure it portrays your brand’s core values and what you stand for. Never create content for the sake of creating content. Or for SEO, please.

So, let’s apply all of this:

At Cedar we manage most of Tesco’s owned channels and we follow a very thorough process to obtain data and insights that inform every piece of content that goes out on those channels.

Through primary and secondary research we know our audience’s lifestyles, worries and needs. We also know what kind of topics they want to hear about from Tesco and which are out of bounds. It’s not just about telling them what they can cook with the ingredients they buy, it’s also about helping them, inspiring them and making their lives easier.

But what does that really mean? I’ll give you a few examples.

Last year we found that customers feel guilty about not cooking from scratch, but they don’t always have the time for it. So we created a series of recipes that use four to five Tesco ingredients and showed them how to put the meal together quick and easily – from scratch. We also knew people think about what to cook during their commute. And what do you do on you commute? Look at your phone. So we pushed the content on social media at those times.

At Christmas we conducted research to find out how parents decide what toys to buy for their kids and how we could help them make those decisions. We discovered that when it comes to toys, kids are the experts and parents are the pupils, so we created an interactive toys catalogue that kids could play with, which would then allow parents to know what their kids were expecting to find under the tree.

Research and data are pivotal to content creation. Turning your data into insights and incorporating them into your creative process will help you differentiate your brand from your competitors, deliver your brand objectives and create a bond with your consumers. It is an exciting time for content.

Just remember: use data wisely.

Elena Brook-Hart Rodríguez, Insight and Strategy Manager, Cedar

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