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  • June 17, 2013

Creative Marketing in a Data-Driven Culture

Marketing is driven by many components, making it difficult to balance between creative and data-driven concepts. The latest advances in the behavioural sciences reveal the hidden effectiveness of marketing - and suggest that your finance director may not be right about everything.

Eloqua Experience Europe attendees will hear from Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman, Ogilvy Group UK in London 23-25 June. Since joining the agency in 1988, Sutherland has worked on key accounts including Amex, BT, Compaq, Microsoft, IBM, BUPA, easyJet, and Unilever. Sutherland was appointed Creative Director of OgilvyOne in 1997 and ECD in 1998. In 2005 he was appointed Vice Chairman on the Ogilvy Group in the UK.

Sutherland will deliver a keynote address at Eloqua Experience Europe at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London, where he will underscore behavioral trends and developments. To preview his session, Sutherland shared how different behaviour-driven concepts should be shaping your creative marketing strategy.

You’ve cited “measurebation” as a fetish for obtaining or analyzing measurements. Can you explain why this concept significant to B2B marketers and the principles of customer experience?

Rory Sutherland: The availability of behavioural data, "big" or not, is of vital importance to marketers.  It can be used to better understand consumer behaviour, to enhance service levels, to better direct investment - and to perform really valuable tests and experiments quickly and at low cost. I'm a fan.

BUT, in the wrong hands (or minds), the availability of this data, not all of which is useful or valuable, may be badly used. First of all, it may be used to create the wrong kind of metrics - based on chasing what is measurable, not what is important. It may lead to an excessive targets culture - where targets are pursued and models followed - not because they are especially valuable, but because it allows the person following those targets to justify his existence. And it may lead to what Hayek called "Habits of mind inappropriate to the field in which they have been formed." In other words, people will try to model human behaviour (which is a complex system) as though it were Newtonian physics. This is a profoundly mistaken view of the world - as any good scientist or physicist will tell you.

Human behaviour will never be perfectly predictable or deterministic - much as the finance function may want it to be so. Our models need to acknowledge this - and marketing needs to push back sometimes against the constant demands for more "accountability".

Can you speak to the “game theory” as it relates to the notion of customer loyalty? 

RS: One of the greatest social scientists of the age, Jon Elster, remarked that it is impossible to understand most human behaviour without understanding game theory. The same applies to network theory, path dependency, etc. Yet conventional economic models are completely blind to this. That is why the increasing incursions of standard economic thinking into all aspects of business decision-making needs to be resisted.

Marketers are obviously quantitatively focused, but you’ve acknowledged that “value” is subjective. Can you explain the distinction between perceived and actual value as it relates to marketing communications?

RS: The human brain has not evolved to perceive the world objectively - indeed, had it done so, we would have all died out years ago. We see things relatively, contextually, and using a multi-modular brain, which will apply different frames and tools according to the situation we find ourselves in. That is why we need marketing. Everything else is commentary.

You’ve cited the tactic of inventing or popularizing a word or phrase to create a perceived “norm”. Many marketers are employing content marketing tactics to do just this. What are some of the primary considerations you’d encourage B2B marketers to be conscious of when developing their messaging strategies?

RS: A very simple approach is to look at what your competitors do and to then try and do something better. You do not have to be right in business; you just need to be less stupid than your competitors. It is quite likely that your competitors are making a lot of naive assumptions about how people decide. For instance they will assume that people decide individually, independently and rationally to "maximise their expected utility". In fact our mode of decision-making is heuristic, loss-averse and social: common patterns of behaviour include habit ("do what I did last time") and social copying - ("do what everyone else does.") Once you realise this, you do strategy differently.

To that end, you’ve also talked about the next revolution being psychological, rather than technological, which is a particularly interesting topic to technology-focused marketers. How do technological-minded marketers address this change?

RS: There is a danger that technology marketers, being injected into an engineering culture, get subjected to left-brain bullying by their colleagues. But what I think the new advances in the social sciences make possible is a really thorough defence of quite a few of the marketing practices which people of an over-rationalistic disposition (finance, engineering, procurement) have traditionally derided as irrational.


Click here to learn more about Eloqua Experience Europe, and to register!




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