Data is the ‘oil of consumer marketing’

Leana Less, vice president: global consumer connections and media at Coca-Cola

When a global brand behemoth focuses on an agile marketing strategy to unlock the value in its consumer data for its own insights and that of all its strategic partners, including its advertising agencies, the industry listens.

In an engaging presentation at the annual Pan African Market Research Organisation (PAMRO) conference, held in Cape Town in August, Leana Less, vice president: global consumer connections and media at Coca-Cola, spoke on agile marketing and how Coke has amplified its strategy to reach a consumer increasingly inundated with content and who spends 58 per cent of media time on the internet and mobile devices – more than TV radio and print combined.

Coca-Cola is a company of 21 billion dollar brands. The changing landscape of both consumer expectations and new media channels has driven the brand to embrace agile marketing to unlock value in the business.

It is insane to think that 6 billion people on earth have a mobile phone when only 4.5 billion people have access to a toilet, Less pointed out in a slide showing how technology is reshaping the consumer communications landscape. This is broken down into increased accessibility via mobile phones, the rise of social, geo targeting through GPS and building knowledge through search.

“Technology and culture are driving rapid change in how we consume media and make purchases, she said, citing the following significant stats:

  • Google and Facebook bring in one-fifth of global ad revenue.
  • There are 2.6 billion gamers worldwide now, versus 100 million in 1995.
  • In China, Alibaba’s singles day sales raked in $18 billion – more than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
  • Desktop and mobile ad revenue has surpassed TV for the first time.
  • The end of typing has been predicted, as the next billion mobile users are expected to relay messages on voice and video.
  • Netflix went from near zero to 30 per cent of the US home entertainment market in only 10 years.
  • One in every five Facebook videos is a Live broadcast.
  • 58 per cent of media time is spent on the internet and mobile devices – more than TV radio and print combined.
  • Younger viewers watch 2.5 times more internet video than TV.
  • Facebook video already encompasses 100 million hours per day.

Less sums up: “Each of us now leave a digital fingerprint, an infinite stream of phone records, tests, browser histories, GPS data and other information. More data has been created in the past two years than in the entire previous history of the human race. Enterprises can now store 80 per cent of all data, yet only 0.5 per cent of that data is ever analysed.”

Despite this, data is becoming the “oil of consumer marketing”, emphasised Less.

The challenge, Less said, was to explode complexity when it came to all the data out there. Data that has influenced Coke’s decision to go the agile marketing route. The business results of using marketing analytics correctly and with insight, has been astounding according to the various studies out there, as reported by Less.

This is why Coca-Cola redefined its model to unlock the value in those hidden insights in the data being provided by consumers. To do this, they focused on getting in the right tools and technology, harvesting talent and curating the proper techniques.

Their internal challenge was the lack of integration between various silos within the brand giant. They had invested in the right tools, but were slow in making the most of, and understanding, the insights delivered.

“The challenge lay in becoming a data driven team that encompasses more than just building tools and investing in technology,” said Less. They needed to choose the right data; develop data strategy and build intuitive tools and interfaces; while also adjusting culture and mindsets.

They did this by:

  1. Increasing transparency and empowering people to take better decisions.
  2. Improved resource allocation for content and connections.
  3. Increased data ownership to more effectively target consumers and shoppers.

Less said they were lucky to also be able to harvest the early learnings of others in the industry as data-driven marketing is being rolled out. Programmatic advertising buying, which delivers double the ROI (return on investment) than media bought in traditional ways, is increasing, but is still only just over half of digital media spend. Less sees this changing in the near future as programmatically purchased ad spend rises.

She also addressed the “content trap”, pointing out that “more content doesn’t always translate into better results”. The right KPI (key performance indicator) for content creation is not the number of pieces produced, but consumer reach, engagement, brand metrics and business impact, she emphasised.

“It’s harder to keep quality high with high volumes being produced. Content production growth is far outpacing media investment growth. Machine learning and content stacks should not just be built to reach various target audiences or tribes, the brilliant basics remain essential.”

She said brand-generated content volume is up 300 per cent year-over-year, but total engagement by consumers with that content is flat. “Just 5 per cent of branded content garners 90 per cent of total consumer engagement.”

She concluded: “Ultimately our goal is to ensure we can translate connected intelligence into competitive advantage across the entire system to ensure growth. This includes impression level data across all media, as well as publisher costs; all commercial data; and productivity targets.

“Creating a single source of data, fuelled by the right first, second and third party data (technology); open-sourced to ensure even our strategic partners can leverage the data; and ultimately resulting in improved analytics… providing robust insights and foresight to create value for our business.”


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