If continually bombarded with data and technology, it can at first feel overwhelming. Despite initially creating confusion soon after its introduction, we then realize the benefits of a new technology. From there, it leads to a new norm, helping us understand our own intentions and behaviors.
At first, we had millions of data points. However, we solved that by creating new marketing roles like that of data scientist. Five years ago, no one knew what that was. Today, you are looked at strangely if you don't have one on your marketing team. These new marketing team members that take these data points and put them together like puzzle pieces. It reveals a clearer picture that expresses and amplifies what marketers should know and say.
At least, that's what Abigail Posner, Head of Strategic Planning, and her team at the ZOO, Google's creative think tank for agencies and brands, believes is possible. In this role, she shines a unique, humanistic lens on culture, business, and technology that brings a fresh perspective to corporate culture, product development, branding, and marketing. Her quest is to spark novel thinking and lead people to take action. At Google, she helps advertisers and marketers make sense of human beings’ deep, emotional relationship to the digital space. From there, they help to convert those insights into strategic and creative efforts.
Google's Abigail Posner Google's Abigail Posner helps advertisers and marketers make sense of human beings’ relationship to the digital space. Photo by Vincenzo Lombardo/Getty Images
To Abigail, it's not a jungle out there when it comes to technology, data, and human behavior. It's been categorized, studied, and displayed to help CMOs see things differently. Her quest is to spark novel thinking and lead people to take action. At Google, she helps advertisers and marketers make sense of human beings’ deep, emotional relationship to the digital space and convert those insights into strategic and creative efforts.
To help CMOs, ZOO has two teams - Abigail's Creative Strategy Team and a Creative Effectiveness Team. Together, they take the what (i.e., data) and combine that with the why (why people behave a certain way and react to a particular brand). That gets them the why answer to the equation, which then enables CMOs and their respective brands to know what they should create within that digital space to resonate and engage with their audience.
Posner likes the "little whys." Those details help to decode the larger "whys" related to human behavior, impulses, actions, and perspectives. From there, we have context for the "how" to that consumer equation.
To illustrate what ZOO thought was beneficial for the agencies and brands it serves, this Google business determined it would be beneficial to undertake an anthropological study on virtual reality 180-degree and 360-degree video. This study would deliver an understanding of the cultural underpinnings that would drive certain audience members to respond to this new platform.
The findings have now become the basis of guidance that ZOO is providing to a number of brands it calls clients. For example, Ad Age cited two brands where ZOO provided direction. The first was for Guinness. They did a 360° experience inside a convenience store, where you can experience the colors and sounds of what beer should taste like. The second was for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration called Last Call 360°. People could see and feel why they should not drive. There are numerous other examples of how the digital space can relate and engage with the human experience.
Hence, the CMO is searching out how to connect technology and marketing strategy with what their audience really wants. This is an inherently human trait. In everything we do, we are seeking to create a connection. As Abigail Posner explained in an interview with AICPA:
"... merely at the suggestion of two random words like chocolate and pillow, the human mind begins trying to find connections. The connection it finds may very well be the next big idea. Using the chocolate and pillow example, innovators may develop chocolate-covered melatonin for a midnight snack that improves one’s circadian rhythm."
As marketers, we must identify the best connections to create for audiences. From there, we know how to deliver on what they are seeking from products. And, that's what all this data is helping to do.
Now, Posner and her team see that there will always be a need for humans in marketing. This is despite what technology has been able to accomplish. In this case, humans are a necessary component for decoding the patterns identified by technology in the marketing data.
We can put our knowledge of cultures, belief systems, emotions, and human desires into disseminating this information comprised of little whys and creating meaning from them. That meaning becomes the insights necessary to help develop new ideas for brands to apply in the digital space.
The retail space, particularly the in-store, brick & mortars of the world will always rely on human interaction, of course. However, retailers are increasingly challenged to grow revenues and engage customers while managing costs.
Download Nucleus Research: Getting To Know You to see how some retailers increased marketer productivity by an average of 50 percent while increasing customer engagement—leading to a surge in campaign-driven revenues of up to 30 percent.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.
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