What Brexit and the Election Can Teach Today’s Marketers

If marketers learn nothing else from the recent U.S. elections and the outcome of the Brexit vote earlier this year, it may be that what people do means more than what they say. Survey as often as marketers want, they still may not learn what they need to know to successfully hit their marketing targets.

While President-elect Trump’s campaign filled venues and supporters queued for hours in lines that snaked for miles, even without a headliner like Bruce Springsteen or Beyoncé, most polls continued to point to Hillary Clinton as the clear favorite. But the polls were wrong. Trump won with 306 electoral votes—36 more than were needed, while almost no major polling organization even got close to predicting this outcome.

In the case of Brexit, the June 23, 2016, vote resulted in U.K. citizens voting 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent to leave the European Union (EU). Those results contradicted the forecasted outcome which even as late as the eve of the vote predicted that the United Kingdom would remain in the EU.

So how can marketers avoid the embarrassment felt by pollsters who got Trump and Brexit so wrong?

Lesson 1: Understand Research Bias

Surveys may have their place but marketers need to consider not only what that place is, but whether they are mining the information they need to be relevant and on target. The right questions must be asked to get much-needed information.

People who design and write questionnaires do so based on preconceived notions about the situation that they will study. Those preconceptions, irrespective of their origin, also affect what populations are surveyed.

Even if they get that right: Actions speak louder than words. And for whatever reason, certain individuals may not care to communicate their unvarnished opinion or preferences. Or the question, as framed, didn’t elicit insights about when, why, and where a customer might prefer a specific store, restaurant, or entertainment venue.

To put it simply: Consumers may not provide the information that explains why they do what they do, when they do it.

Lesson 2: Acknowledge You May Not Know Your Market—or, Acknowledge the Market is Changing Faster Than You Realize

For marketers, this reality may be a terrifying thought. After all, marketers have transaction data, survey data, secondary data, third-party data, focus groups and other information. What is more: They have spent billions to acquire and analyze that information.

But it’s possible that marketers are not looking at their company through the right prism if they haven’t taken the time to observe.

To move beyond making decisions rooted in limited context, hindsight, and instincts, marketers are increasingly excited about using new technologies to reinvent how they work. To successfully make that shift, an increasingly larger share of chief marketing officers’ budgets is being allocated for new marketing technologies.

For example, many marketers increasingly embrace beacons so they can message customers in their establishments. Others use chatbots to converse with consumers, even inquiring about what they want to buy or what they need.

More are capitalizing on mobile, and recent research forecasts that mobile ad spending will drive increased ad spending through 2018 to an estimated $64 billion. Likewise, in 2018, 60 percent of global internet ad dollars will be generated by mobile. 

Another new technology that is capturing marketers’ imagination lets them observe customer behavior with consumer consent. This technology is layered on mobile apps to monitor consumer activity, generating data that provide contextual information, and that information is segmented based on psychographics and demographics. Marketers can then understand which messages are relevant to which consumers, and to better understand how to surgically target those messages.

Lesson 3: Embrace and Understand How New Technologies Can Help

While CMOs have many more technological options today, these tools deliver different benefits. What marketers select will hinge on when and where they want to communicate with their customers, and how they want technology to help them engage with their customers. Do they see an upside to communicating with them before they enter their competitor’s establishment?

One chain recently tapped into passive geospatial mobile technology, hoping to get to know their customers better. They had transaction data, survey results, and all the information marketers traditionally gather and study about their company’s marketplace. The company wanted to know where their customers go and gain a contextual understanding that could enable them to build relationships with their customers.

With the passive geospatial technology layered atop its app, the company had data from their customers’ mobile devices tracked and analyzed (with their consent) to complete the picture of their behavior patterns. The data showed the company’s customers, its biggest fans, driving right past not only its locations but also the locations of those it considered to be its competitors.

Imagine the surprise of learning that the company’s top competitor for share of time and wallet had never even been considered among that company’s primary rivals.

Engaging in Successful Mobile Relationship Marketing

So it is that actions speak louder than words. Consumer behavior patterns, not individual transactions or survey answers, are what helps marketers connect the dots and gain the context they need to understand and perhaps even predict when and where a consumer may be inclined to make a relevant purchase.

Before any relationship is cemented, the two parties must know and understand each other. Once marketers achieve that, they can focus on strategic business matters, such as share of wallet and how they can deliver the products and services that make the relationship a win-win for them and their customers.

Companies that succeed in an increasingly mobile world will be those that watch and learn, and then act on what they’ve learned to create pleasing offers and experiences. Leading marketers will play a key role in helping their companies do just that.

Matt Reilly is the CEO of Atlanta-based Mogean, a leading data-science start-up that is breaking new ground in geospatial technology. Reilly has served as a senior managing director at Accenture, where he led management consulting in North America and, subsequently, Accenture Strategy in the region.

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