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SXSW Takeaway Round-Up Part 2: The Future is Personalized

By , March 12, 2013

In our second round of SXSW Interactive recaps a theme emerges. How can brands personalize their customer experience, get better results, and connect with people in a more relevant way?

Can Ad Agencies and Brands Humanize Technology?

With new platforms emerging and maturing all the time, how can brands create authentic experiences using these new tools? BBDO CMO Simon Acton-Bond, Mars Chocolate President Debra Sandler, AT&T VP of Brand Identity & Design Gregg Heard, and Twitter’s President of Global Revenue Adam Bain discussed how brands and platforms can both contribute to humanize the customer experience.

Can Ad Agencies and Brands Humanize Technology? panel









Top Takeaways:

Platforms were built for people, not brands

Platforms like Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, and others were built for people and are powered by the content and connections people generate – not by brands. But brands want to be there to make connections, and the platforms are better because of brands participation, Acton-Bond said. Sandler said brands haven’t figured out exactly how to do this consistently but that “if you do it right and it catches that right storm it’s magic in a bottle.”

Real-time marketing offers a chance for humanization

Oreo’s dunk in the dark ad during the Super Bowl has reignited conversations about real-time marketing, especially in social media. It’s a dilemma for brands, Sandler said. Governance issues are a challenge when you’re dealing with immediate content creation. “We are comfortable when we’re in control,” she said. But real-time marketing requires a willingness to fail.

“Marketing’s always been about winning the moment,” Bain said. “Now you can win the moment in real-time and have the pain of losing the moment in real time.” But a successful outcome can be huge for consumer connection.

The best experiences make technology invisible

The best experiences make the technology and platforms used invisible as part of a seamless experience that provokes emotion.

Affinity, Intent, & the War for Marketing Dollars

In this solo session with Forrester Research Analyst Nate Elliott, he presented a case for why Google – not Facebook – is better positioned to “win” the race for affinity data and its application. Attendees learned:

Marketers have relied on assumptions – and spent significant dollars against guesses about consumer interests

Even the largest, savviest companies continue to guess about how to target their consumers with advertising. But with the amount of data available, brands don’t have to continue to rely on pure assumption.

The “database of intentions” and the “database of affinity” are distinctly different

John Battalle famously dubbed the growing body of data about online search the “database of intentions.” Google, as the leader in search, clearly reigns in this area. But with social media and the overwhelming stores of data consisting of everything from Facebook Likes (there are 83 billion Likes on Facebook every month) to YouTube videos, there is a database of affinity that holds information about connections and interests. Facebook is amassing this data more than any single platform. Intention data is generated usually before the point of purchase, while most often affinity data is engaging and happens after the sale.

Affinity data is key to improving the relevancy of brand advertising

The database of intentions was a boon to direct advertisers. Like this, brand advertisers will see the same benefit when it comes to the database of affinity. For this database to be properly applied, it requires these elements:

  • A database that pulls in multiple sources of affinity data
  • Analysis tools and analysts that can bring meaning to the data
  • Rich ad formats that can be tapped to act on the findings


Facebook is going to lose the race to own this database of affinity, says Elliott

Who will win the race to meet these needs first? Elliott argues that it will be Google, not Facebook. Facebook is insular with its data – lack of partnerships means it primarily has its own data, rather than tapping a variety of sources to create a more robust database. Plus, the affinity data owned by Facebook, such as the Like, is a comparatively weak measure of affinity (47% of brand likes are from people who have never done business with the company.) This data is also big in volume but narrow in depth. Facebook hasn’t been able to effectively bring meaning to this data, and its ad formats aren’t compelling enough. Video, for instance, is consistently the most engaging format, but it isn’t available for brands on Facebook.

Google is in a better position to win

Google has owned the database of intentions, and it’s well on its way to owning the database of affinity. It has built a network of products that bring a slew of affinity data points together. That includes data on 800 million users on YouTube, 135 million Google+ users per month, a half a billion people’s Gmail conversations , and reviews on Zagat, for example. It has a proven track record of bringing meaning to that data, with a long history of clear analysis of its search data. Finally, the ad units it offers are as rich as they come: YouTube preroll, IAB size display ads, and others.

Within 5 years, brands will be fully harnessing the database of affinity

Elliott laid out Forrester’s four stages of affinity that they predict will occur over the next five years: Simple Affinity, Smart Affinity, Big Affinity, and Ubiquitous Affinity. Over the next 5 years, marketers will be moving through these stages to finally being able to use a complete affinity database and start tapping more high-impact advertising. By 2017, expect to see this database power offline advertising like TV, too.

Death by Demographics: Killing Your Ad Budgets

In a similar vein as Nate Elliott’s description of marketers guessing about targeting, this panel started on the premise that demographic data is now mostly irrelevant. Yet brands are still using it to based millions in spending every year. The Wall Street Journal’s Ann Zimmerman moderated the conversation with RadioShack’s new CEO Joe Magnacca, Bonin Bough, VP of Global Media and Consumer Engagement at Kraft Foods, and Todd Morris, Executive VP of Mobile and Marketing at Catalina.

Top takeaways:

Personalization is transcending the media channel

Marketers can stop wasting money by analyzing the data about consumers. That data leads to a personalized experience for customers, which results in less wasted ad dollars and a better relationship with consumers. Personalization goes beyond traditional media because of this. Case in point: 30% of TV advertising is spent on people who have not purchased within that product category within the past 3 years, Morris said.

Mobile will transform organizations

Bough said that the potential of personalization in mobile is powerful. For instance, people who used mobile commerce are 18% more likely to make impulse purchases and are 49% more likely to come back to a store. Personalizing offers and content to them the moment they need it? That’s the Holy Grail.

Personalization is tough, but it’s cheaper and more effective

It’s tough for brands to take the steps necessary to start using this data. But when they do, personalization makes marketing more effective and at a lower cost – all while enhancing the experience for customers. (One example cited by the panel is Amazon. It has high satisfaction numbers and is efficient because of personalization.) “It’s hard,” Bough said. “It requires you to actually do work…. but if we put in the work we can change the way we buy.”

Read yesterday’s SXSW panel recap and check back Wednesday for out final installment of SXSW sessions.