That would be a more scientific term for a blind spot.
Whatever you call it, we all have it – that which we overlook because something is obscuring our decision making.
To help you overcome your unconscious biases and make better marketing decisions, read on for examples from Celebrity Cruises, Parkinson’s Foundation, a bank, and a car repair platform.
This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.
“You start with a natural blind spot. You’re full of your own self-interest and the marketer must figure out how to take that self-interest and defer it so the customer is first,” said Flint McGlaughlin, CEO, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, in the below podcast excerpt.
To help you identify and overcome your marketing blind spots, here are four stories of how your peers overcame their blind spots to get results.
First up, a bank that used a beginner’s mindset to question all assumptions it had about the customer. Then, a car repair platform that took for granted customers would understand it’s mobile website’s functionality and overcame that blind spot with user and A/B testing. Next, how a creative brief helped the Parkinson’s Foundation overcome its blind spots and use social media ads to recruit participants for genetic testing. And finally, how Celebrity Cruises found the signal in an overwhelming amount of data noise.
Over the past few years, TAB Bank had worked with numerous marketing agencies to increase customers and revenue for its Working Capital portfolio. None of the agencies and campaigns had moved the needle, yielding a flat ROI (return on investment) on most of the campaigns.
TAB – which stands for Transportation Alliance Bank – decided to take a different approach. The team questioned all previous conclusions regarding the customer profile, bringing all marketing research and campaigns in-house for this specific campaign to see what they could do with a fresh start.
The marketing team first created an assumption list that covered all the bank’s assumptions about potential end-customers and industry brokers. This list also covered the pain points of each target audience (see Creative Sample #1).
“Marketers are often constrained by what they already know. Reframing campaigns, briefs or goals through a ‘beginner’s mind’ is one of the best ways to avoid blind spots. Beginner’s mind is a theory in Japanese Zen that involves studying a subject with an attitude of openness and lack of preconceptions – just like a person who is learning for the first time. For example, you can reframe the campaign from an engineering or operations perspective to gain different insights,” said John Huntinghouse, VP of Marketing, TAB Bank.
He continued, “Another approach is by playing devil’s advocate. What is wrong with this idea? Who are we missing in this brainstorming meeting that could shed light on this? What voices are unrepresented?”
Creative Sample #1: Question/assumption Excel spreadsheet for bank’s asset-based lending
The team performed market research on the target audiences, creating in-depth analyses of these individuals and building detailed personas by using its agency's data science toolkit to scrape web data to answer the team's questions and create personas without human biases and errors.
The team’s methodology included identifying segment characteristics, creating a 99% probability of a customer defined by keywords. They correlated keywords to create a digital footprint of the customer compared to correlated data that matches the keywords, helping them obtain insights into target customer behavior. They then used that data to discover statistically significant insights about where the target customer shops, what they visit online, how they vote and which technology they prefer.
This methodology eliminates biases in selecting target customers because the data is completely objective rather than subjective. The data is also very reliable because it uses millions and millions of data points. The deep dive into the data showed statistically significant patterns without human interference. However, a weakness of the methodology was relying on the current TAB customer list – keywords associated with those lists and most of the data is dependent on search behavior patterns, skewing toward active internet users.
Creative Sample #2: Methodology for bank’s data science approach to overcome blind spots
For the ABL (asset-based lending) broker target segment, the team discovered a concentration of brokers in the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast. ABL brokers are also very sophisticated, have excellent market knowledge and search out competitors for comparisons. The average ABL broker is more likely to be married with children than the average internet user in America. That broker leans to the left politically and is generally in an upper-income level. They spend more time on YouTube and Houseparty than the average person, with increased Twitter use. They use LinkedIn less than average. Car brands associated with ABL brokers are German-made and luxury.
The team created a value proposition that matches a sophisticated, competitive and premium brand message using these persona insights.
For the ABL customer target segment, the team discovered new opportunities based on geographic concentration of lookalike customers – West Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina and Florida. The typical customer is a conservative Republican who spends time researching, especially looking at business calculators, rate calculators and basic business advice. These customers are also more likely to be parents and probably have subscriptions to Disney+. They are 1.5 times more likely to use Facebook and YouTube than the average person. Car brands are more positively correlated with American manufacturers. They are also budget travelers who like the NFL, NHL and MLB more than other sports leagues.
The value proposition to these groups centers around trust, knowledge, convenience and value.
Based on these new personas, TAB Bank ran a multi-phase video/static ad campaign to feature its “Partner” creative. The campaign highlighted the fact that TAB Bank is a partner for customers and brokers and provides more flexibility than most banks and better rates than non-bank financial institutions. The team created a “partner” landing page on tabbank.com and several ad copies and video assets to accompany the campaign.
The team created an upper funnel animated video (see Creative Sample #3) that had broad language and reached a large audience.
Creative Sample #3: Screen capture of upper funnel campaign video for bank
For those who engaged in the upper funnel campaign and those who had previously experienced marketing campaigns, the team built mid/bottom-level funnel ad campaigns to engage and re-engage interested customers (see Creative Samples #4 – #8).
Creative Sample #4: Mid-funnel ad for bank
Creative Sample #5: Mid-funnel ad for bank
Creative Sample #6: Mid-funnel ad for bank
Creative Sample #7: Mid-funnel ad for bank
Creative Sample #8: Screen capture from mid-funnel video for bank
Once someone had engaged in any of the previous funnel activities, the team served up remarketing campaigns highlighting two specific partners who have chosen to work with TAB Bank (see Creative Samples #9 and #10). This creative created social proof of the products TAB offers.
Creative Sample #9: Screen capture from remarketing video for bank showing a partner that has chosen to work with the bank
Creative Sample #10: Screen capture from remarketing video for bank showing a partner that has chosen to work with the bank
The ad groups and Facebook Ad sets were highly targeted and structured to maximize upper-funnel awareness while nurturing and driving leads toward the bottom of this funnel.
The “Partner” campaign generated a 7.5x overall ROI (the primary goal) and increased marketing-generated sales pipeline from $1.2 million to $23 million in 12 months (the secondary goal). In addition, the campaign helped increased sales pipeline by 74% y/y (year over year) and decreased cost per lead by 53% y/y. The bank recorded its best three consecutive quarters in its history during this campaign (Q4 2020, Q1 2021, Q2 2021).
“The success of this campaign was made possible because TAB Bank approached the data with questions, rather than fully formed opinions,” said Ben Fife, Partner and Chief Digital Officer, Fluid (an advertising agency that helped the bank with market research). “In our view, the campaign connected so well with the audience because the research produced answers to what customers were looking for online, where they were looking, and we knew what messages would resonate.”
Customer service inquiries to the ClickMechanic operations team indicated that visitors had problems navigating the mobile website and finding the information they needed to book a car repair.
User testing videos were ordered to understand how potential customers encountered these issues. A key takeaway was that users sometimes struggled to navigate through the different sections to add in different types of work items and there was no quick way for them to search for what they wanted.
Although the mobile website did have a search function, it was limited to certain areas on the website. To help the user navigate to available repairs, the team A/B tested adding a search icon next to “NEED HELP?” in the navbar.
Creative Sample #11: Control mobile website header for car repair platform
Creative Sample #12: Treatment mobile website header for car repair platform
“We have historically been reliant on the search function on our work selection page to help users find the repairs they need once they’ve entered the booking flow and expected this to be fairly universally understood by users across devices. Adding an additional access point into the flow via the search icon helped mobile users find the work selection page more easily and aligned our users’ experience with widely recognized mobile experience standards,” said Kurt Schleier, Growth Marketing Manager, ClickMechanic.
The 9.2% conversion rate increase indicated that adding the search icon helped mobile users find the mechanic services they need across the site.
“I’m a big advocate of fostering a data-driven culture of experimentation as a tool to drive company growth. As a marketer it’s so important to have a test-and-learn mindset to explore new avenues for growth, continuously putting new ideas and features to the test and understanding the contribution to the company before rolling something out fully. Make sure to document any experiments meticulously, which can serve as a great source to develop new experiments from at a later stage. Furthermore, a data-driven experimentation and documentation approach can help other stakeholders understand the value of new features or methods introduced,” said Schleier.
We previously published a quick case study about how Parkinson’s Foundation recruited 1,300 genetic testing participants using social media. As a follow-up, we asked the team what marketing blind spots they had, and how they overcame those blind spots.
The team’s creative process involved a lot of up-front discovery work to establish key audience insights to determine the right messages and visuals that would best resonate with audiences. “Up-front work helped us overcome a significant blind spot – truly understanding what Parkinson’s patients cared about most,” said Cathy Whitlock, Associate Vice President of Online Communications, Parkinson’s Foundation.
The biggest discovery the team made – from patients, their families and online groups and forums – was the concern the target audience had about the possibility of having passed a genetic form of Parkinson’s down to their children and grandchildren.
This up-front audience discovery work was communicated in a creative brief.
Creative Sample #13: A finding from the Audience Discovery section of the creative brief for Parkinson’s Foundation
Creative Sample #14: A finding from the Audience Discovery section of the creative brief for Parkinson’s Foundation
“In order to consistently evaluate and refine their work, designers and writers must be able to see the copy they create through the eyes of the target audience. A creative brief can go a long way in delivering this view and overcoming a common blind spot – understanding what the audience truly cares about the most,” said Amy Small, SVP, Creative and Brand Strategy, Media Cause.
Creative Sample #15: Media consumption insights from the creative brief for Parkinson’s Foundation
Creative Sample #16: Paid social strategy from the creative brief for Parkinson’s Foundation
Small says that creative briefs should be developed by the account and/or strategy lead once there is a specific challenge, goal, strategy, budget, and timeline defined – but also, once all of the relevant background insights and information have been gathered. “If you’re working on an awareness campaign for a brand or organization, it’s critical that you do the discovery work first to provide the team with the audience and situational insights they need in order to concept their big ideas,” she said.
“Over time, by giving your creatives the most relevant information in terms of what the target audience cares most deeply about and what messages are most apt to resonate with them, you’ll set your team, your clients, and yourself up for greater success,” she said.
“Clearly, this due diligence in the earliest stages of their creative process paid off. The ‘get the answers your family has been looking for’ messaging squarely addressed this concern [passing Parkinson’s on to children or grandchildren] in a manner that appealed to patients’ deepest, most strongly held emotions,” Whitlock said.
Creative Sample #17: Core message from the creative brief for Parkinson’s Foundation
“This acumen led to the creation of ads that inspired an avalanche of participants for our PD GENEration program. This was the first and only time we recruited through ads placed on social media and it blew our expectations out of the water,” Whitlock said. The campaign recruited 1,300 genetic testing participants through this social media campaign.
As a CMO, entrepreneur, or business leader, you can have mental blind spots such as not paying attention to changes in the market, and you can have literal blind spots such as not being able to see the true impact of your marketing efforts. Both of these blind spots are exacerbated by data – for many organizations, the challenge isn’t a lack of data but rather a crushing abundance of data that gets in the way
Mike Stone, CMO, Outlier, says the irony of missing things because you have too much data is all too common. “We see this all the time with our own customers, especially in retail and consumer goods,” he said.
For example, Celebrity Cruises runs several types of ads to promote travel destinations including social media ads, print, digital and radio. But tracking the success of each ad across many buyer segments requires significant analysis of thousands of data points. The travel company’s business intelligence team correlated each advertising campaign against booking data to look at the sales impact of each ad. However, given the sheer scale of this analysis across multiple data sets, marketing teams often had to wait for days to see if an ad was under- or over-performing.
To accelerate Marketing’s ability to optimize spend, Celebrity now uses automated business analysis to crunch the numbers and quickly highlight campaigns that show unexpected performance metrics – to constantly scan its Adobe Analytics marketing data as well as a SQL database, which contains its booking data. This helps marketing focus in on campaigns that are having a positive impact, in order to add spend, or modify campaigns that are performing poorly in order to reduce costs.
In one example, the marketing team launched a radio advertising program to Floridians for Caribbean cruise destinations. The automated data analytics and business analysis tool was able to tell the cruise line’s team that the radio ads contributed to a four percent increase in bookings above the expected rate for sales on the Celebrity Cruises website. With this data, the marketing team could then focus in on additional radio spots, drive more traffic and potentially create more conversions.
Matt Maule, Associate Vice President of Business Intelligence, Celebrity Cruises, said insights like this help the company “double down” on successful promotions to drive even more bookings.
In blind spot example from another company, a retailer was trying to figure out why there was a sudden drop in website transactions. Analysis showed declining sales for products but didn’t explain why. It turned out that an operational issue had been disrupting orders for days, but it took a lot of time and effort before they figured it out. In the meantime, they lost a lot of sales – and lost sales is not the way you want issues to rise to the surface. It’s much better to uncover issues before they impact sales and the customer experience – and the data is all there. It’s just a matter of listening to it.
Marketers don’t always have the resources required to constantly monitor for unexpected changes. A few new dashboards and analysts just aren’t enough to cover everything at the scale required to be truly data driven. Stone’s advice is to use technologies that automatically mine data for unexpected and important developments wherever they arise – regardless of scope or number of inputs.
If the retailer had applied automated analysis to scan for changes in data they would have known immediately when orders were disrupted. The data would have said, “hey, inventory levels in these locations are out of the normal expected range.” At that point, the marketing team could take action to shift marketing to different products or set customer expectations about product availability.
But as marketers, Stone explains, “we have so much data to work with that inevitably blind spots will arise that we can’t see in time. Once we see what we’ve been missing, it becomes a critical part of how we design and fund marketing programs with much more effectiveness and accuracy every day.”
Stone added, “We’ve seen marketing teams gain significant sales simply by understanding, in real-time, what search terms are unusually high or low on ecommerce websites. This insight allows teams to shift marketing campaigns on the fly to capture customer interest in the moment and grab sales. But it becomes a blind spot when it’s too difficult to identify which search trends are normal and which are opportunistic and actionable. So, look for the simple tools that can break through all the data and elevate changes that will have the greatest impact to marketing and your business.”
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