When I joined the team at Protagonist, the most exciting thing was that for me Narrative Analytics represented the answer to the last gap that I saw in a truly data-driven marketing process. In the last two decades we’ve seen the rise of the CRM, then marketing automation, predictive analytics, programmatic advertising, advanced attribution models, the list goes on and on. What’s been the result? Better segmentation and targeting, more relevant marketing campaigns that connect with the buyer’s journey, robust measurement capabilities that allow us to confidently tie our marketing spend to revenue… all great things that make our initiatives more effective.
However, this also raises the bar of expectations for a CMO, and rightly so. The modern marketing leader must be both the big idea, brand visionary and a metrics-driven revenue machine. So what’s been missing? We as marketers still base core parts of our process on inadequate or suspect data points… and often no data at all. Narrative Analytics changes this.
As we walk through a marketer’s process, consider how much real data-driven decision-making actually goes into the following areas: positioning, persona development, or campaign strategy.These critical areas often fall solidly on the art end of the spectrum, rather than science for most marketing teams and their associated advertising agencies. This needs to change.
Positioning and Messaging
Many marketers still rely on brainstorming sessions and a few rounds of copywriting in this area. If we’re doing a bit more of a formal process we might use focus groups and surveys to inform our work which is a great improvement. Those traditional market research methods can definitely serve a purpose, particularly if you’re looking for the answer to a specific question. Unfortunately, they have issues like small sample size (focus groups) and bias (surveys) that don’t give the full picture of what buyers believe. We’ve seen numerous examples with our clients where traditional research methods just reinforced the status quo, things those companies already knew and believed. Narrative Analytics gives our clients the full view of buyer beliefs about a product, brand, industry or topic. It looks deeply into the language buyers use to describe their needs and potential providers, critical points to inform how a brand or product is positioned. Going a bit further, Protagonist is able to evaluate how a company’s messaging matches up to the actual language buyers are using. Marketers now have a data-driven way to see if they’re on the same page as their target audience before an email campaign or ad ever goes out.
Segmentation and Persona Development
Segmentation and persona development is also often based on inadequate techniques like historical sales data. While that may provide an understanding of what’s worked in the past (which of course is critical and must be a key piece of the exercise), you may be missing out on opportunities for different segments and personas you haven’t considered. By analyzing the massive amounts of structured and unstructured data now available, Narrative Analytics provides an understanding of actual beliefs that drive behavior. This provides a revolutionary new way to define segments and develop buyer personas. Given the massive scale of this method, the marketer can ensure that they’re not missing out on potential segments and the levers that will lead them to convert. With this clear window into the motivations of the full breadth of potential segments, the marketer can connect with them more effectively.
Closely related to positioning and messaging, campaign ideas often are based less on data and more on the great creativity of your team. Without wanting to dampen that spirit, our clients have been extremely effective when their campaign ideas are shaped by what we’ve noticed in the narrative landscape. With deep insights into our buyer’s beliefs, we’re able to devise campaigns that connect with real levers that drive these potential buyers to action. This is where that “big idea brand visionary” side of the CMO is based on real, quantifiable insights.
I’ll also throw in a new kind of measurement to the marketing process: Narrative Measurement. In other words, how did your campaign affect the narrative landscape for your brand? If you’re United Airlines or Uber, wouldn’t you want to know if your big “take us back” campaign actually positively impacted the narratives tied to your brand? This gives you another reporting lens past leads and revenue. You’ll now understand if you have a narrative problem that might lurk under the surface, unseen by standard reporting or sentiment analysis, quietly taking from potential revenue you could have generated. On the positive side, you also might find a great new lever to push on. It’s important to regularly track the changes in your narrative landscape so you can see if the ground has shifted and, equally importantly, if your efforts are effective.
As you look at your marketing process, consider which decisions are based on data and which are grounded on gut/instinct/creativity. Without walking away from this more artistic side of marketing, know that many of these areas can now be informed by real, measurable insights about what your buyer believes. I’ve found a way to bridge that gap with Narrative Analytics and I’m not looking back.