Insight, the culture of data and students: Three key takeaways from Marketing Week Live

From embracing data-driven insight to making lifelong consumers from students, Marketing Week rounds up all you need to know from last week’s Marketing Week Live event in London.

1. Marketers need to embrace a culture of data-driven insight

Brands need to embrace a culture based on data-driven insight in order to reach consumers “at the right moment”, according to brand marketers from Google, Argos, Direct Line, TfL and Unilever.

Speaking in a debate at Marketing Week Live, marketers highlighted the importance of “data storytelling” in order to reach customers in what has become an increasingly “fragmented” space.

One way brands are doing this is by looking more deeply at the “crunch points” in the customer journey in order to deliver messages in the “moments that matter”.

Speaking at MW Live, Marc Mathieu, global SVP of marketing for Unilever, said: “It’s not about the data, but what we do with it”, citing the company’s Dove brand as an example of how to effectively use insight to “drive change in how we think about our brands”.

Most of Dove’s campaigns are based on data that showed that only 4% of women think they are beautiful.

Meanwhile, Steven Vowles, marketing director at Argos, which now sees nearly 30% of its sales start from digital channels, added that reaching the consumer in the right way has been a big part of its digital transformation strategy.

Ultimately, each of the brands concluded that data-driven insights should not only affect marketing strategy, but should be implemented across the entire business and create a culture that revolves around getting to the heart of customer habits.

Speaking in a panel session at the event, Direct Line’s director of digital Ash Roots added that the culture of a brand affects the way data is valued in an organisation

“The enabler of data is the marriage of culture and data, with agility thrown in as well,” Roots said.

“If data is not valued within your organisation, whether you have the best system, processes and people, you don’t utilise it and embed it in what you do.”

Chris Macleod, marketing director for Transport for London (TfL), believes that in order for marketers to communicate insights collected from data to the rest of their business they also need to “talk the language of the board” and quantify in terms of growth, cash flows and shareholder value, adding that that emphasis in marketing is often put on “outputs not outcomes”.

2. Personalisation through multichannel marketing is key

Also at the event, Unilever’s Mathieu added that brands need to “customise and personalise messages to make something uniquely relevant to the consumer”, adding that creating context allows brands to be more targeted in engaging people.

Jennifer Day, head of customer management and personalisation at Littlewoods and’s owner Shop Direct, said the brand has a personalisation hub where “it isn’t unusual for up to 100 experiments to go on a month”, such as utilising geographic location tracking to update pages on to display clothes suitable based on the live weather conditions in an online shopper’s area.

She claimed that personalisation efforts will drive incremental sales of £20m to Shop Direct in 2015.

“I think brands have to adapt a ‘can do’ attitude to personalisation as it’s really changed our business and the evolution from catalogues to digital,” she added.

In order to do this, House of Fraser’s COO Andy Harding suggested that brands need to embrace multichannel marketing.

The retailer, which has 1.2m variations of its homepage and 7,500 variations of its customer newsletters, credits the adoption of in-store technology as the key to recent successes.

“We’ve really tried to combine all of our retail and brand marketing with online and mobile so there’s a single strategy throughout the business,” Harding told delegates.

Over recent years, House of Fraser has introduced beacon-powered mannequins, which can recommend products to in-store consumers using their smartphones, and has moved to make its online retail website designed for touch screen systems in order to boost functionality for mobile and tablet users.

3. Brands can create “lifelong customers” in students with the right marketing

Jack Wallington, community director at The Student Room, an online forum for young people, told delegates at the event that there are huge opportunities for marketers to make an impression on students given that their existing levels of brand loyalty are relatively low.

He pointed to a survey of The Student Room’s user base that found that beyond the technology sector, where students had a strong affinity for Apple products, attachment to other brands was minimal. For example, while Topshop and Simple came top in the fashion and skincare categories respectively, neither brand scored highly overall.

“There is a lot of room to win the hearts and minds of young people,” Wallington said, adding that marketers should avoid patronising young people and instead focus on providing useful information.