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Traditional Tracking Looks Like a Taxi Cab in an Uber World

File illustration picture showing the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi sign

 

By Jeff Reynolds

Recently I learned that the new VP of Consumer Insights at one of the largest global packaged goods companies is considering dropping major tracking programs in favor of social media monitoring.  This clarion call for the Consumer Insights industry stridently announces that—despite social media monitoring’s limitations—traditional tracking programs have grown too slow, unwieldy and costly for the modern marketing manager.

Today, a CMO in Chicago can see social media feedback from consumers in Brussels minutes after they share their experiences; but it can take months to deliver “consumer feedback” in global brand and ad tracking programs. Data flows instantaneously in our new world, causing traditional insights to appear stale and awkward. Traditional tracking looks like a taxi cab in an UBER world. 

HAILING A NEED

Sure, marketers need data, but more importantly, they need insights at the speed of business. Recognizing this trend years ago, we developed a vision for brand and ad tracking based on the following five principles:

  1. It must work in real time, connecting us and our clients to the voice of the customer 24/7 via nimble software, easily accessible by phone, tablet and computer.
  2. It must integrate mobile and traditional survey feedback with text analytics to bring structure to the consumer voice in real time.
  3. It must integrate data from digital and social sources to understand the new consumer journey.
  4. Automation must reduce cost and management such that we can get much MORE data for the same cost.
  5. Automation must shift labor from low value to high value tasks to enable greater insights from the data.

Our vision, now a reality, is called BX or Brand eXperience Tracking. This new model hybridizes traditional brand and ad tracking with social media monitoring. It operates in real time and allows consumers of our clients’ products and services to tell us about their experiences in their own words. For consumers, BX feels richly “in the moment.” Something happens, and feedback begins streaming moments later.  Meanwhile, it possesses enough structure to specifically target sophisticated brand and advertising strategies, and reflects the marketplace representatively, rather than overemphasizing extreme brand advocates or detractors, often noisy in social media. 

THE TEST DRIVE

After two years of R&D, one of our best clients agreed to pilot with us. This client spends nine figures on its consumer marketing budget and wanted to connect its marketing activities to in-unit activities across its global restaurants. The result: Together we have taken a dusty, old, brand and advertising tracking study, and turned it into a robust marketing and brand feedback system.

BX has already radically changed the way the client does business, even as it continues to evolve and improve. The company’s CMO, originally a critic of both the study itself and the marketing research department, now considers himself a proponent. Just last month, insights from BX drove recommendations to the Board of Directors.

SHIFTING GEARS

Along the way, we’ve learned that this type of change is neither easy, nor free. It requires BOLD leadership because there are indeed trade-offs with the status quo.

  1. It requires a shift in mindset, from studies to “data systems”.
  2. More thinking, clarity and decisions must be moved UP FRONT in the process to design the system.
  3. A large data system requires that some forms of short-term flexibility are traded off for medium and long-term power.
  4. Data systems such as these require significant capital expense for infrastructure that often times are larger than the traditional MR appetite for technology investments. Like many systems, they cost more in Year 1 for savings and benefits in Year 2 and beyond.

The trade-offs mentioned are undeniable. Real leadership will be required to fight through the structural and economic barriers to change. But I believe that it, and approaches like it, are the future of our industry. The yellow taxi will forever be iconic. But as the nostalgic stand street side with their hands in the air, the ready among us will zoom past in UberBLACKs.

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2 responses to “Traditional Tracking Looks Like a Taxi Cab in an Uber World

  1. This really made me think more fundamentally about how we use information…and need to move from linear thinking to systems thinking

    I think the shift to a future of data and brand feedback systems is highly likely, driven by the availability of multiple information sources.

    I am less clear about how this will radically change the way business will be done in this case, unless it means marketing activities will become automated and programmatic.

    But…knowing quicker about the reaction to a marketing activity of an event is only useful if any reaction to it is made with an understanding of the structure of the system and the lags within it.

    I am thinking that increasing interconnectivity of companies and customers (and other stakeholders via data feedback mechanisms) can increase the likelihood of unforeseen, and uncontrollable consequences as lags in systems causes chaotic effects…..this has been seen in systems dynamics thinking for many years.

    There will be an increasing need for management decision makers to understand and appreciate the value of “systems thinking”, feedback loops and systems lag effects as linear thinking becomes redundant.

    This might need the creation of dynamic simulations models of the system to experiment on to design such BX systems….maybe like agent based models http://www.concentricabm.com.

  2. I am not sure there is anything new here other than maybe the analytics that might somehow generate meaningful reporting, which surely is the “bull in the china shop” where all this multi-channel data is concerned. For example http://www.birdeye.com claims to be able to pull all this together to some extent. I cannot see any machine driven solution to the real management need which is essentially a precis’ed version of all that data into a single source report. I assume text analysis may be developed to a point where it might generate a stage in this analysis, but at the end of the day this will all look like a giant qualitative exercise where some qualitative researcher has to draw conclusions and synthesize everything. Try doing that in real time or even on a monthly basis. Very interesting article and insightful on where this might be heading.

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Jeff Reynolds

President & Chief Operating Officer, Lieberman Research Worldwide

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