Analytics Can Help You Identify 'Brand Clans'

Predictive Data Connects the Dots Between People

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Finding out what makes the individual consumer tick is a wonderful thing, but pinpointing a common factor that makes an entire group of individuals tick is the difference between a happy customer and an energized team of brand ambassadors.

Erick Brethenoux
Erick Brethenoux
Sure, serving up content that's relevant to the individual means you've done your homework.

But we don't just live as individuals. We tag friends on Facebook to show who we identify with, join groups to share knowledge and nostalgia and read only the articles our social kin deems meaningful. By nature, we crave being part of a group. This cohort is not just a customer segment, it is a group of individuals linked by an exceptionally strong emotional bond -- it is in that emotional bond that the magic resides.

Imagine yourself at a reunion concert for a '90s rock band. Via special invite, you and 30 fans have a chance to hear some old hits, new songs from the comeback album and participate in a Q&A with the band.

Surrounding you is a wide mix of characters: varying ages, styles of dress and backgrounds. But what brought you all together was this one thing you love -- a band that, back in high school, really spoke to you --and suddenly you realize, you're part of a clan, you've found your kin.

The next time you see an ad, post or product recommendation from the organization that brought you together, you're more likely to feel affinity for it and consider a purchase.

But who brought you together? The band? No, it was a data-savvy marketer from a beverage company that realized the common bond between its customers was a love of '90s rock and willingness to open emails with exclusive offers.

That marketer knew exactly what it would take to make you all act, through predictive analytics.

For CMOs, the vehicle to bring disparate consumers together is data-driven insights that connect the dots between real people.

Predictive-analytics technologies excel at this: unveiling surprising patterns in big data that the naked eye could never spot. Together, these insights illustrate consumers' interests, preferences and -- most important -- the emotional trigger that would prompt them to buy your product. Beyond demographic data, a few examples of what to monitor:

Action data: What consumers browse for on your website, how they prefer to pay and how many visits it takes before they buy something after researching.

Interaction data: How consumers interact with your brand and why, gleaned from call-center records, point-of-purchase insights from stores or usage of your mobile app.

Social data: The next-generation version of consumer focus groups is happening in real time, from tweets and online reviews to content shares and blog posts.

If you cross-reference findings from one consumer with findings from the entire group, you'll come across an X factor shared across a spectrum of consumers.

Global fashion label Elie Tahari uses analytics solutions to gain greater insight into customer buying habits, merchandising and supply-chain activity—which, in turn, allows the brand to be more responsive to customer needs. By analyzing such data as buying patterns, market trends and up-to-the-minute creative designs, Elie Tahari can act on its findings and ensure that stores carry the optimal assortment of products to satisfy customers and provide a quality experience.

Even though you can visualize your kin with analytics, they don't know they're related yet.

Finding a shared love of '90s rock is just the start. Then it's time to discover what would drive them to come together for an exclusive brand experience.

Channel: Using analytics, you may find each of your kinfolk prefers a different communications channel, from email to mobile alerts.

Timing: Whether you email them at night or tweet them in the morning, ensure your communication is timed to their habits.

Messaging: Data-informed messaging is key to getting the kin to assemble. Be upfront about what you are offering and use keywords that match their shared passion.

Choose the sender: Who does the offering come from? If you're an agency, this is especially important. Consider what is more credible: a message from the band or a podcast your followers subscribe to.

Perhaps your audience loves tweeting about '90s rock, but -- through analyzing forums, blogs and online reviews -- you've learned that their real passion is DIY projects to spruce up their homes.

Using shared emotional triggers discovered in big data, you can design a live-stream video chat with a home improvement TV personality your audience posts about regularly. Craft a virtual advice session with the celebrity, allowing consumers to share renovation plans and get advice.

No matter what experience you choose, ensure it is grounded in data-backed evidence, so your kin is energized and ready to tell more members that your brand really gets them.

Erick Brethenoux is director of business analytics strategy at IBM.
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