The 4 truths of programmatic marketing

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How has your communication planning changed over the last 10 years? How do you connect the tech and digital experience with your brand?

Arguably, finding the perfect blend of messaging, channel and context to optimize your activity has never been easier. Today, technology makes it easier to store, synthesize, then distill data into useful, sharable actions — well, that’s the theory anyway.

Getting it right may be tough, but the tools certainly exist to make it easier.

Ten years ago, these tools didn’t exist, but the world of communications was turned upside down when an agency called Naked set up shop in New York. This brilliant bunch of misfits garnered headlines and controversy in equal measures, but at the heart of their offer was a serious, channel-agnostic, data-driven, methodical approach to planning. The approach struck terror in the traditional agency networks whose businesses depended on selling clients big TV budget campaigns.

My first experience with Naked began as a client back in the UK. My project, at the time, entailed creating and launching radio and digital lifestyle brands alongside Naked. Using the same principles and data analyzation, I founded a brand experience sister agency to Naked. Although we were never able to reach the same heights of success as Naked, we incorporated Naked’s planning techniques and practitioner art from people like Ivan Pollard.

Pollard, former Naked partner and now SVP Strategic Marketing at Coca-Cola, would explain to clients why traditional agencies were pre-programmed to offer biased advice. A PR company offers you a PR-based solution, a media agency recommends TV, which is comparable to choosing food to cook for dinner. If you went to the butchers and asked them to recommend food for dinner, they would sell you meat, a fishmonger fish. What if you craved fish and visited the butcher? They would still sell you meat. A new approach was needed.

Naked offered a new way, a fresh blend of planning art with rudimentary data science. Silos were slashed; with Naked, in-store promotions were given the same attention as 60-second slots in the Super Bowl.

Headlines turned into attracted clients, and soon Kimberly-Clark, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft and Coca-Cola were handing over big-budget assignments. This led to countless awards and industry plaudits, with Fast Company labeling Naked as one of world’s top five most innovative marketing companies, and The Wall Street Journal calling it one of the top five agencies to watch.

Ten years on, Naked is quietly exiting the US agency scene. What was once a revolution is now normal. The media networks, fueled by digital programmatic tools, now include what was a boutique service as part of their everyday offering. Today, there’s seemingly no need for Naked.

Having once changed the world, Naked’s legacy now lives on through their alumni, like Ben Richards, Ogilvy & Mather’s global chief strategy officer, and Scott Thomson, Dentsu’s chief data officer, all preaching the Naked gospel. They know it’s not just about the data, but where it came from, what it represents, and how fresh it is.

All qualitative decisions require a skilled human’s judgment, a skill captured in Naked’s four “truths” reproduced here, shamelessly adapted for the Programmatic Age:

1. Everything communicates

Communication planning needs to inform everything you do, from product innovation to service delivery to customer relationships to marketing.

Look to capture data from as many touch points or sensors as possible. Then look for the patterns in the data and synthesize it to produce valuable, sharable actions.

2. People are your partners

It’s outdated to think of consumers as just a “target,” passively receiving branded messages; they are now potentially partners in communication.

We should differentiate the data, which indicates consumers are actively discovering brand information. Data that indicates active rather than passive engagement purchase is particularly important.

3. There is a better way

The industry today is still built around the same production silos that existed in the heyday of mass marketing. Digital is not a silo; it’s just the way we do things now.

When analyzing data, resist the desire to seek confirmation that you were right. Instead, look for the stories that inform future strategies. You need to know where you went wrong to improve your chances of being right in the future.

4. See the full picture

In navigating this ever-changing world of messaging, channels and brands, it’s vital that we think about solving the problem before designing the execution. When looking at the data, be clear of your goal before diving deeply into the detail.

Late last year, Jon Wilkins, co-founder of Naked, presided over another business deal which could turn the world of communications upside down. As executive chairman, he oversaw the sale of a leading British full-service agency to Accenture — a move that marks a new era of data and social science coming together.

Wilkins’ explanation, as reported by Business Insider, was as prescient as ever:

(From) the CMO point of view is the desire to create one connected experience. If you look at the way CMOs’ careers are evolving, the ones that have reached the pinnacle are those that have created a system to connect tech and digital experience with the brand and we think that is the battleground.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Malcolm Cox is CMO of Grapeshot, a role he took on after gaining experience in the media, music and agency worlds. Malcolm spent thirteen years working with music and media company Emap, where he created the Magic brand and launched Kiss — both radio stations — and reinvigorated weekly music magazine Kerrang! After Emap, Malcolm founded brand activation agency Naked Lunch. Here he created award-winning work for Sony, Nokia, Kickers, IKEA and Nike, staying on at the Naked Group as a director after selling the agency in 2008.


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