Babar Khan Javed
Aug 23, 2017

Innovative uses of smart tech building branding revolutions

The latest tools and advances in data analysis are ushering in a brave new world of possibilities for marketers willing to embrace a fully customer-centric approach.

VR vision: Tourism Australia pushed the needle by giving tourists a cyber taste of destinations
VR vision: Tourism Australia pushed the needle by giving tourists a cyber taste of destinations

Brand-building has changed. Once the province of grand gestures such as TVCs and print campaigns, the field is now a fertile area for deploying innovative, data-backed tactics that can have outsized results at all stages of the process. 

Until recently, the main problem with the concept of brand-building has always been the difficulty in identifying those particular moments, both during the customer journey and the after sales service, when opportunities for building trust and top-of-mind recall with the consumer are maximised.

It is here that the plethora of new tools, technologies and data available today can help, not only opening up the field to ever more creative marketing solutions, but also playing a greater role in adding rigour to the practice of brand-building.

In short, companies no longer have to rely simply on hope.

Many brands are still in the experimental stages with these new techniques. PropertyGuru Group and PHD, for example, are in the process of trialling what they are calling a “bespoke econometric BEAM” (brand equity attribution model), which will enable them to measure brand equity, execute experiments and perfect the most effective media mix on a rolling basis.

However, the following are a few examples of successfully deployed new tools and tech.

Tourism Australia

One field in which digital developments are having a significant impact on brand-building efforts concerns companies who deal with intangibles, such as destinations.

Tourism Australia recently commissioned Clemenger BBDO to leverage virtual reality as a means to help it solve a particular brand-building problem occuring during the customer journey: reducing the length of time potential visitors spend in the ‘trip consideration phase’ and encouraging them to place a booking earlier.

Australia overindexes positively once people have visited it, the board discovered, but for those who have not, it remains in the top five but not the top three must-visit destinations. Add to this the immense competitiveness of the industry, and the disruption caused to traditional marketing efforts by consumers taking back the power on when and how they book, and the country found it was not getting as much attention from potential visitors as it would have liked.

Related: How PropertyGuru is bringing science to brand advertising

“If you look around the world today, travel is now becoming about experiences,” said Johnathan O’Sullivan, the managing director of Tourism Australia, at the Adobe Experience Forum 2017 in Singapore. Marketers in his line of work look at destinations as a point of utility with ‘what you do when you get there’ being the primary factor incentivising tourism today.

To try to better reflect this by putting consumers at the heart of what it does, Tourism Australia reskinned all its digital platforms, adding virtual-reality experiences of key activities at 18 destinations, from the Great Barrier Reef to the Gold Coast. These were selected according to search and content consumption trends identified by a Google Analytics audit, allowing the company to tailor content for audience members based on what led them to the digital assets, whether that was a proactive search for a destination or a passive search for an experience, such as skydiving. 

Further integration with social networks then allowed the VR participants to share their experiences across their social accounts, encouraging friends to be part of their eventual travel plans to Australia. The content automatically appeared at the top of the feeds of friends who had visited the country in any capacity, which again prompted encouraging comments. Finally, the whole journey was tracked using Adobe Experience Manager, an enterprise CMS.

“The intended impact was to take Australia closer to consumers,” added O’Sullivan. “[We wanted to] break down the barriers of Australia as well. Our entire digital offering now is far more consumer savvy.” 

The VR campaign, which ran throughout 2016, lowered the time consumers spent in the ‘consideration phase’ from two to three months to between one to two weeks. By taking specific customers — those identified by psychographics as adventurous and on a “quest for memories” — into the heart of a destination and curating a programmatically tracked content discovery platform that facilitated follow-up messages encouraging adventure, Tourism Australia witnessed a surge in demand from its primary markets across APAC, EMEA, and North America. Against the revenue target of between A$115 billion (US$91 billion) and A$140 billion dollars by 2020, the campaign has already drawn in A$102 billion to date and is predicted to reach A$127 billion by 2020, the upper end of the highest capacity that Australia can handle in tourism at the moment.

Coca-Cola Japan

In a few weeks’ time, Coca-Cola Japan’s Hisae Endo and Makoto Moriguchi will present to the Esomar world research congress in Amsterdam details of the tech startup company they ‘adopted’ to help solve a particular brand-building problem that was seriously threatening local business.

Up until 2014, Coca-Cola Japan tended to test only as much creative work as it could afford to in terms of time and cost of research. In 2013, for example, just 33 of over 80 released campaigns were tested before launch to see whether they reached the company’s internal efficacy benchmark. If any adjustments were highlighted during research, these were often made and the ads re-released without subsequent re-testing, potentially having a major impact on the works’ performance.

Testing times: Coca-Cola Japan partnered with tech startup Zappi to automate pre-launch analysis of its campaigns

Then, in 2014, Coca-Cola global leadership introduced a mandate demanding that prior to release, all material had to meet a ‘one-number-score’ (ONS), a new standard that assessed “awareness, equity and competitive advantage” and was proven to boost in-market effectiveness. Creative teams suddenly found every campaign hampered by slow, costly research. The need for a more streamlined solution was urgent.

Enter ZappiStore, which in 2014 was a three-person UK startup. A market research company that specialises in “insight automation” — in the words of Asia-Pacific EVP Roxan Toll, “helping clients and partners like Kantar Millward Brown to use our technology platform to run consumer insights studies quickly and for a fraction of what they paid before” — Zappi showed senior managers at Coca-Cola that it could provide cheaper, same-day analysis of any material, a significant improvement on the existing eight-day test.

But while Zappi was “potentially the answer to our prayers”, as Endo and Moriguchi write in their paper on the Zappi integration, it had no presence in Japan at the time, no capacity to translate its products to Japanese and limited cash flow. So Coca-Cola paid US$20,000 for Zappi to build and test its tools in Japan, and the startup began working with the brand on all testing, translation and coding issues as well as adjusting Zappi’s generic target groups to meet Coca-Cola’s needs.

The ultimate test, however, was whether Zappi’s eight to 12-hour research results were accurate compared to those generated using the more traditional method. The brand ran Zappi’s findings against a balanced sample of studies that had gained high, medium and low ONS figures, and found a strong relationship between both.

The subsequent adoption of this startup has increased the number of tests run on Coca-Cola Japan campaigns from 51 in 2014 to 82 in 2016, at around a quarter of the cost. The brand has since expanded its use of Zappi tools globally, integrating them into the ONS system as well as early stage ad screening. “The tool allows our insights team to test multiple ideas for the same cost of one idea in the traditional models,” write Endo and Moriguchi. “Automated testing has increased the speed in which we can finalise creative for the market, and improved the accuracy and costs of the GTM testing.”

StarHub Singapore

Brands often get hung up on the ‘attracting customers’ element of brand-building but, as Singaporean telco StarHub discovered, the customer retention phase is just as important.

CMO Howie Lau and his team at StarHub examined data mapped on the Adobe Marketing Cloud to try and understand the various ways in which the StarHub brand engendered positive reactions among customers. “We do know that some customers would respond well to certain triggers,” Lau shares. “Some would prefer a straight discount, some will see value in an experiential activity, some will see value in a priority queue for tickets, some for an event.”

Creature comforts: StarHub’s data work led to the brand hosting an overnight zoo camping trip for families

In a bid to address this insight, this June StarHub picked 28 families at random from its StarHub Rewards programme to spend two days and one night camping in the Singapore zoo. The event was based on data collected in the marketing cloud that suggested interest for a family activity that had the appearance of danger but with a guarantee of no harm. The resulting social buzz impacted the way in which consumers related to the brand, particularly those customers that gravitate towards a conservative family-first mindset.

In another example, StarHub tapped into its marketing cloud and determined the interests, ambitions, and wishlists of its top eight most loyal customers who had preordered a Samsung S8. Along with delivering the desired phone, an activation team was sent in to deliver a goodie box that included gifts representing the hobbies and interests of the recipients. This also generated significant buzz and brand sentiment lifts for StarHub. In both these instances, data collected on the cloud served as an instrumental anchor for the impeding activation strategy, and targeted existing customers, instead of new ones.

Howie Lau: “Some customers respond to certain triggers”

Delivering through simplicity

The tech and tools to build a positive brand in today’s global economy are now abundant, providing a boon at a time when companies are needing to focus more on customer centricity than ever before. “I hope they start giving away all these tech tools for free,” shared Faisal Sheikh, the chief digital officer of Starcom Myanmar. “It’s going to make life so much more simple for people like me. Of course, they will need to have a monthly subscription of brains to go with it.”

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