Know Your Audience
Digital channels have changed the dynamic between brands and their audiences. Gut feel can still inform highly effective ads, but the scale of content that brands create today requires a more scientific approach to creativity. Brands need a deep understanding of the people they are trying to reach, built on hard data.
The challenge is that audiences are larger, more varied, and more dispersed than ever, on top of which they bounce around between channels when interacting with companies. This is in large part why data-driven personalization now sits at the center of modern customer experiences.
Consider McLaren Automotive. McLaren owners have a visceral connection to their vehicles, while the company’s broader fan community is enamored with the brand and its reputation in the world of auto sport. Today, McLaren is looking to foster the same emotional response on its digital channels as its cars do in real life, a challenge the company is tackling by using customer data to drive more targeted and emotional storytelling.
“We’re great at storytelling, but it’s rare that we combine both pieces for our customers,” said David Mattingly, McLaren’s global customer experience manager, in a spring interview with CMO by Adobe. “We need to lasso everything up and package it in a way that ensures everyone gets an amazing experience, whether they want to buy a car, see which events are coming to their town, or just soak up the beauty and power of our vehicles.”
Using AI To Build Real Connections
Artificial intelligence (AI) has opened up new possibilities for brands using data to appeal to customers on an emotional level. This may seem ironic, given AI’s reputation as a robotic task automator, but as the technology has evolved, so, too, have its applications.
Brands and artists have already experimented with AI to create paintings, advertisements, and even films. Ad agency McCann Japan appointed the “world’s first” AI creative director, AI-CD, built entirely by a team of millennial employees. This is in part a gimmick, but the move also reflects a shift in attitude toward AI’s potential as an engine for quality creative that resonates on an emotional level. The robot’s lead creator, Shun Matsuzaka, said it’s important to remember that AI algorithms are still based on human ingenuity.
“Innovation only happens when the traditional barriers of partnership are broken down,” Matsuzaka said when presenting his creation in 2017, referring to the importance of man and machine working together to create effective content in this new era of advertising.
On this point, it’s important to remember that emotion is about human connection—it can be approximated by a bot but is always the result of hard work by a team of talented creatives and marketers.
Today’s leading brands view AI as an ultra-powerful assistant, helping them to speed up and improve the creative process. Mercedes-Benz uses AI to streamline workflows between its creative and marketing teams, helping the company to develop assets more quickly and deliver fully responsive digital experiences that automatically adapt to whichever device its customers are using.
AI also helps brands get the right message to the right people at the right time. Japan Airlines invested in the technology to better understand where and when to direct its ad spend. The airline has since seen viewability rates for its digital content jump 81%, while click-through rates have more than doubled.
These examples might not scream “emotion” on the surface, but the format and timing of an ad play a major role in determining whether it resonates, particularly for an audience that is being pulled in thousands of directions by an endless stream of content each day. Combined with a strategic approach to analytics, AI will be an increasingly powerful tool in the race for attention and engagement.
Can You Feel It?
Emotion still sells—this mantra will always hold true—but not at the expense of a relevant story or experience. By combining the art of creativity with the science of data, brands will keep finding new ways to deliver poignant messages that cut through and rouse customers into action.
This dual focus is crucial. As we saw at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, ads can be edgy and win major awards but still fall flat with customers if they don’t resonate at an emotional level. Meanwhile, data is not a differentiator on its own. To paraphrase Bruno Bertelli, chief creative officer at Publicis Worlwide, if we rely solely on algorithms to create preference among customers, we will find ourselves in a very rational and boring world.
The real aim for brands today is to bring their data to life in a way that feels natural. “Humanizing data allows us to become more human marketers,” said Deloitte Digital CMO Alicia Hatch, speaking at an Association of National Advertiser’s event last year.
In other words, it’s time to view technology as a means to get closer to customers rather than simply targeting them more efficiently. Only then will emotional ads make a lasting impression.