Last week, I had a dream — and in it, Karen Carpenter and I were friends. The following night, I had a similar dream — and this time it was Carly Simon. I literally went to bed the next night hoping for a Roberta Flack visitation. As a result of these slumbering vocalists and songwriters, I’ve spent a good part of my leisure time over the New Year holiday listening to all their songs on my iPod. It’s yesterday, once more.
Who knows why we dream what we dream?
Sometimes, it just happens that when we’ve experienced enough in life, in play, in work — some situations are bound to come around again, next week or decades later. I mean, I owned all that vinyl way back then — and now I can stream it all again.
Greatest Hits: Lifecycles of Data-Inspired Marketing
So when Marc Pritchard of Procter & Gamble last week at the Consumer Electronics Show talked about “a world without ads,” I said to myself — “oh, I’ve heard this song before.” And he’s right to say it.
In the world of data and direct marketing, a quest for wholly efficient advertising and a mythical 100-percent response rate actually is a 100-year science. Thank you, visionaries, such as Claude Hopkins.
• The 19th Century shopkeeper knew each customer, and conversed regularly. Ideally, each customer’s wants and desires were noted — and needs anticipated to the extent that the customer was fulfilled accordingly. (Aaron Montgomery Ward and Richard Warren Sears.)
• Direct marketing — originally through print, catalogs and mail, and then broadcast — sought to replicate this model remotely. Measurement, attribution and response were put to science. Creativity served the science, or science served the creativity — in either direction. Segmentation, analytics and differentiated communication flowed. (David Ogilvy, Stan Rapp and Alvin Eicoff, among others).
• In digital, social and mobile, direct marketing is rejuvenated — this time “data-driven marketing.” Some have described this as data-inspired storytelling, or direct marketing on steroids. How responsible data collection can be used to identify prospect needs and wants, and funnel tailored communication through to sale, service and repeat purchase. (Jeff Bezos, among others.)
• And now the product itself can be designed to communicate to the customer — smart appliances, smart cars, and the parts and products inside, with sensors and Internet connections and mobile app interfaces all being able to let the user know, it’s time for consideration or some other product lifecycle action.
Post-Advertising: A Reverence for Data
In all these examples, the constant is “I want to know you, so I can serve you — the customer” and the facilitator is data. We exist to create and serve a customer. Period. Anything less is not sustainable. Data, in these models, is sought, analyzed and — revered. It is also transparent, and its use and application has consumer buy-in. That premise is as true now in the Internet age, as it was in the direct response era before it. We all need to excel in data reverence, first, and then data analysis and application.
Advertising does have a role here, of course. Not every product sells itself — and not every product meets customer satisfaction fully. The best advertising, and even the best data behind it, cannot save a bad product. There is always a need for advertising and marketing to inform the consumer, and a brand promise that serves to attract and retain beyond the product.
Every generation has its pop heroes. Tonight, I may just dream of Adele.