Fast-forwarding to the future: using social and search to predict what’s coming next | M&M Global

Fast-forwarding to the future: using social and search to predict what’s coming next

Marketing teams often lack the information they need to react to events in real time. If a new advertising campaign isn’t creating much buzz, should the marketing team step in and change the campaign? TNS global comms boss Rosie Hawkins explores.

Marketing teams today often lack the information they need to react to events in real time. Take a new advertising campaign. Expectations are high but the campaign isn’t creating much buzz and there aren’t signs of sales improving.

Should the marketing team step in and change the campaign, or else sit tight and hope for the best? Although consumer research would provide the answer, by the time it’s available it’s usually too late to inform the decision.

Market research is often accused of taking the ‘rear view mirror’ approach. By the time the data has been collected, things have moved on. With the pace of business getting faster than ever, marketing teams needs foresight more than ever. As Jacobs and Ordahl (Landor) have rightly said, ‘today, brands must live in the rough-and-tumble of the streets.’ This means anticipating consumer behaviour before it even materialises to sales. The good news is that we now have access to new information and technologies that can make this possible.

By fully embracing new data streams such as social & search, we can turn our existing business model on its head. Social media and search data forms the basis of a predictive spine that delivers results months ahead of survey data, allowing marketers to anticipate changes to their brand equity in time to actually do something about it.

What does this mean in practice? In the case of the ad campaign, marketers can understand how consumers are reacting at the time and how this will impact brand equity in the future. Is there likely to be imminent fall in brand equity? Or is the future looking bright? If it’s the former, the team can intervene to turn the campaign around. If it’s the latter, they can stick with the current strategy. Clearly this is a powerful competitive advantage.

To get this right, this approach must also filter out the ‘noise’ on social media to get to the insights that really matter. For example, when Twitter users talk about Apple do they mean the fruit or the iPhone manufacturer? By working with specialists in data modelling and modelling these results are automatically refined.

Now it may not be total surprise that is a certain amount of fear and resistance in adopting this new approach. The process of change can be hard and time-consuming. Some feel that within their teams they simply don’t have the capacity and resources to deal with real-time information. Others worry that focusing too much on real-time marketing risks losing the bigger picture. Yet the alternative – i.e. not changing – brings very real risks as well.

Rather than a complete overhaul of the status quo, companies can take small steps towards this more agile approach. Making studies leaner, faster and more predictive means freeing up time and budget to invest in more purposeful research, whether in-depth social media analysis or diagnostic surveys. Clearly there is a balance to strike between long-term marketing strategies and quick, reactive projects that respond to variations in the market.

While it may be a leap into unknown, access to this kind of information ushers in a new and exciting era for marketing teams. Instead of looking over your shoulder, it means pre-empting risks and opportunities before they even arise.

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