The Mad Men or the ‘math men’?

Published: September 28, 2018 1:28:39 AM

A look at whether brands can craft a story with meaningful experiences that harness data

Smart algorithms, data analytics Smart algorithms and data analytics have irreversibly changed what you do, eat or wear.

Brand leaders have always valued differentiation through product advantage, brand identity and by creating a north star — the big idea. However, an unparalleled confluence of culture, behaviour and technology is creating a never seen before disruption of all the regular ways in which brands approach the consumer.

Smart algorithms and data analytics have irreversibly changed what you do, eat or wear. A powershift is already underway. Often, all it takes is just a click on your smartphone and even before you realise, these helpers (mostly data driven) check and streamline alternatives — sometimes even making the choice for you.

Need for stories

While the ‘big idea’ was the primary force behind every brand, its ‘right to win’ is being challenged by the digital and mobile ecosystem. A shift where premier brands championing creativity are making a conscious attempt to understand a typically algorithm compliant structure. The likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon, through high precision targeting and a measurable, dominant way of working, are regularly blowing away a brand’s oft-touted ‘creative and intangible’ cover.

The efficiency brigade tends to believe that creativity is overrated and the creative brigade believes that efficiency is ruthlessly killing creativity. However the two ends will collapse in isolation. Brands need to create stories — somewhere surprising, somewhere magical. Brands need to nurture a creative culture and the advocacy of experimentation to inspire not only its outward character but the entire experience.

Large advertising agencies are haplessly trying to find a way out of this maze. Owners of the big idea are themselves oxymoronic in what they understand, say or do — not knowing convincingly enough about how to deal with the glib, young 20-something, digital-first thinker. And they aren’t absolutely sure of ways in which the two worlds can collaborate and co-create the new brand order. In this axis of creativity on the one end and efficiency on the other, the midpoint is not easy to find. This is exactly the gap that consulting companies are gearing up to exploit. Consider how the likes of Bain & Co and Accenture are showing overt interest in advertising, even to the extent of a possible buyout of some of the large advertising agency networks.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on the transition that the strategy department would go through within ad agencies. The new brand order, led by consulting companies would demand ‘a fortified big idea’ that also passes the test of the three new tenets of intelligence, integration and interaction.

As Amazon, Facebook and Nike+ along with a litany of wearables continue vigorously in their journey to a ‘frictionless world’, the choice (for basic goods at least) will be made increasingly by technology.

The bottomline

Success stories are now being scripted by brave start-ups because of the simple reason that they offer smart applications that fit perfectly into your life. Algorithms are here for the longer haul. Brands need to find a middle ground between creativity and efficiency. The ‘moment of truth’ fuelled by digital all around you has exponentially raised the currency of seconds in time over years. In this world of Tinder, where fickle is fun and the offer of the moment rules, brands need to harness the power of data, algorithms and meaningful experiences.

Anshuman Verma is chief marketing & digital officer, DHFL Pramerica Life Insurance

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