Brands are misusing their data and 'forcing their message on customers'

Media360: Gemma Charles (left) chairs the panel
Media360: Gemma Charles (left) chairs the panel

The opportunities that big data provides for brands can not match consumer advocacy and understanding, top brand marketers told Media360 today.

A panel of marketers from BT, Eurostar, Hearst and Standard Life, chaired by Campaign deputy editor Gemma Charles, discussed data and the customer journey.

Marketers shared their experiences about how data enables their companies to target customers more efficiently, while more traditional techniques help them to understand the motivations behind their marketing decisions.

In some cases, according to BT’s consumer marketing director, Dan Ramsay, brands are misusing their data and "forcing their message on customers".

Ramsay said: "No one is really worrying about getting regular updates about their broadband, they’re worrying about their football team and when they’re going to play on BT Sport.

"I think you can innovate and delight customers in the right way if you understand what’s important to them. It’s about building an infrastructure that’s flexible enough to tailor the right messages in the right way."

Ramsey's comments come within days of BT chief executive Gavin Patterson admitting his frustration over the quality of broadband. Writing in The Telegraph, Patterson said BT had "let people down too often" when it came to customer service.

Brand advocacy is a particular focus for Standard Life, said its head of digital marketing, Mickael Paris, who explained how, in the past, the pensions provider would forget customers after they had passed retirement.

Paris said: "We did not understand they [retirees] could be the biggest advocate of our brand, whether it’s in terms of experience or loyalty programmes.

"We now understand it’s not because people are done with you that you should be done with them. You need to nurture them so they become the voice of the company out there. It’s an old technique but it still works."

Lionel Benbassat, the head of marketing and brand at Eurostar, said the cross-channel train operator still relied on talking to feedback directly from customers because "little details might have a disproportionate impact on how they perceive brands."

He said: "We also listen to our staff a lot. They are in the stations and listen to customer comments. All of this is a great bridge to be as close as possible to customers. The key is getting all this information in one place and making it meaningful.

"All these channels and making sure we have the right people looking at them and linking it to an overall score, as well as making sure we understand what is out correlation between feedback and satisfaction between customers.

"There are a lot of things that underpin satisfaction. For us at the bottom of that pyramid we call it the honeycomb, where there are basic needs. So, when we are not punctual everything falls apart, no matter how much you smile to people all day long."

For Duncan Chater, the group publishing director at Hearst, the key for his company was "trying to be one step ahead all the time" because magazines tried to give customers "what they don’t really know they want yet."

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