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18 Jul Why “Brand Purpose” Today Must be Different

In developed markets, the scarcest commodity is not water or food, it’s someone’s attention.  We’re bombarded by on average, 5,000+ advertisements and brand exposures per day depending on one’s media consumption habbits1.  These aren’t just ads – but passing by labels in a grocery store for example or the fact that Facebook has 50 minutes of your time each day and is game for more. Using the broader calculation of what constitutes advertising, such as viewing the label of a brand in a grocery store, the figure grows exponentially to 20,000+ exposures. Interestingly, the average number of “ads only” that deliver engagement equates to 12. Statistically, that’s an incredibly poor rate of return on advertising and brand performance.

So how do brands fit into the consumer equation today?  The branding establishment is grounded in the basis of how a brand differentiates a company or product from a defined competitive set of companies and/or products.  It’s a classic dictum:  To audience W, brand X is Y and supported by Z1, Z2, Z3.  And it’s not wrong. The company or product does need to understand its alignment and relationships within a market space.  Having said this, what we find interesting is that in this age of internet of things (IoT) that people are forgoing products and instead increasingly buying experiences.

Also important is that people are more comfortable with the interconnectivity of experiences – that everything is connected to other things – to make occasions more anticipatory, intuitive and rich with other machines and other people.  So what separates a brand in positioning is probably less important that what brings people and things together in a collective experience.  For example: whether your Nike + syncs correctly with your phone and whether you’re able to connect with a running group this morning, matters immensely and represents the collective value of the brand experience.

In today’s world, the brands that scream the loudest will no longer command the most attention; the ones that offer useful information or things, such as seamless cross device integration, will instead.  In our business, we advocate and construct brands to foster co-participation between people and companies in a shared narrative theme that drive multiple story opportunities.  The themes derived are themes of participation and connection, not differentiation and separation.  And the stories generated are for story’s sake, providing information and utility, value and authenticity, not the “bait and switch” of sponsored or even native content for example.  If a company can provide something useful and facilitate a great experience, there’s reason for a person to reward the company with his/ her attention.

Perhaps more important, based on significant research for well recognized brands, we’re typically able to uncover larger themes of participation that ladder back to a company’s established and entrenched attributes. We never advocate abandoning brand attributes or positioning but note that there are certain themes that foster participation over others. Ultimately, the purpose of a “brand” must be to foster connectivity between the desired outcomes, community of advocates and the experience. We’ll leave you with a few names of companies that achieved success in redefining the purpose of a brand vs. well entrenched competitors.

Brand Comparison

In the end, if you look at your own brand through this lens, the questions you have to ask yourself are quite simple. What is the purpose of our brand and do we connect the experience of the brand to the desired behavior in a way that’s uniquely ownable?

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 312-909-2800

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

1Source: 9/14 Media Dynamics, Inc.

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28 Mar Define Your Data Architecture: The Path to Truly Personalized Experiences

Under pressure from younger customers with higher expectations and new digital standards being set in retail, finance companies must do more to build true omnichannel experiences that live up to the full potential of the idea – to provide personalized, contextually relevant customer and prospect experiences across device where, when, and how consumers want to interact.

Key to this concept is harnessing all the rich data that is generated from online and offline interactions.  As more and more is written about omnichannel in finance, we must start to get to the heart of how best to plan it.  Taking practices born out of “multichannel” planning –  where the focus was establishing options to engage with nothing smart or personal – is the mold that must be broken.

The fire is fanned by the idea that consumer demands for retail experiences are on the rise.  Finance brands must understand that there is data beyond the transaction that can lead to a better overall customer experience.

As Andrew Joss from Informatica writes in his post, “Omnichannel Banking and the Need for Data”:

Being driven by a younger generation of Banking customers, with high expectations of service provision due to their experiences with some market leading retailers, there is now an increasing demand for channel choice based upon individual preferences allied to continuous availability of the service as well as the ability to switch to an alternative channel if desired.

He goes on:

This same experience has created an impression that all key service providers (i.e. Banks) have huge amounts of customer data and that this data is being used to drive the engagement process. Banks have traditionally managed their businesses as operational or functional siloes as there was little need to do anything else – that time is coming to an end.

The key being data intelligence.  The parallel is drawn to consumer expectations based on other retail experiences outside banking which is generally understood to be a better experience.  But it is also assumed that banks are rich in data therefore are able to craft experiences based on preference, behavioral patterns, and sentiment which lead to better, higher value marketing and utility to the customer.  This is all driven by smarter data management and optimization.

The big promise of omnichannel is the idea of seamlessness across devices.  Within that concept, is the notion of personalized and contextual experiences.  And this is where most finance companies fall short.

In The Mobile Mind Shift; Engineer Your Business to Win in the Mobile Moment (Groundswell Press, 2014) we learned that “within the next 1-2 years, 50% of consumers will have the expectation of anywhere, anything, anytime on their mobile device and yet in reality a mere 4% of companies actually have what it takes to provide it.”

One of the key challenges is in the strategic planning approach. By definition, omnichannel is to provide users with a seamless experience no matter the transaction point – desktop to mobile to phone to physical space. This needs to be more than just enabling interaction or offering the touch point option such as what multichannel planning provides.

Omnichannel is not achieved through thinking merely about channels and touch points first.  It’s achieved by understanding how data flows – the inputs and outputs that map the true view of your complete customer experience – then backfilled by touch point activation and engagement based on what the data is telling us.  

The right place to start is not with the touchpoint or technology first but rather with planning the data architecture.  How does data get captured? How can it be passed from point to point? How can it inform smarter interactions?  Then build the experience on top of that architecture.

 Here are some steps to get there:

  1. Begin by mapping out the data that can and should be captured: behavioral, engagement, demographics, technographics, segmentation, transaction patterns, product purchase, preference, sentiment, etc.
  2. From the data set, understand which data allows you to build smarter experiences: decide what will allow you to build towards more contextual and personal experiences, and play out these scenarios in prototypes through the lens of the consumer.
  3. Push the limits of how data can flow: start with an architecture of touch points and technologies modeled after the scenarios to create a version of how data needs to flow from point to point to inform better interactions and enable the experience vision.
  4. Identify the barriers and gaps that exist in capturing and passing data from point to point. This will inform data requirements that should inform technology platform and configuration decisions, as well as the DMP (data management platform) housing the data and where it should “live.”
  5. Come back to the experience layer and focus on engagement value (content, utility, social, etc.): knowing your data architecture means nothing until it is manifested in smarter, more personal, and more contextual interactions which is a creative exercise.

Trade has executed this work in the finance space and can guide you.  It’s not a one size fits all approach but once you understand the required outputs to get to the right answer, it’s just about doing the work.  Interested in learning how to get started? Please contact Jeff Blackman

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25 Feb Yes. Now How About “Editorial Analytics” for Brands?

The Real Issue

If we had more marketers talking about how to adopt “editorial analytics” as a primary practice in communications planning we’d be further along in brands creating more meaningful content with purpose – to reach, engage, and drive real business value.

It’s not to say there is a lack of content, of course, or there isn’t enough engagement data flowing around. It’s to say brands still lead with paid media as the organizing principle for all communications and don’t understand which content is actually worth creating and which isn’t.

This report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism underpins the issue and can teach us marketers a lot.  The good news is, even in an industry that lives and dies by the quality of content there is still room to grow and no one has it all figured out.  The bad news: we don’t hear brands talking the same way about better holistic planning outside of optimizing single channels like Facebook or their website in silos.

At Trade, we look a lot at how brands can behave more like publishers to tell their story across ALL channels more efficiently and effectively.  As such, understanding how to interpret your content analytics is a major element of successful storytelling. But understanding your data starts with knowing why it matters in the first place and giving it structure.

The report sheds light on the idea of editorial analytics as a practice in the newsroom and for journalists.  We’ll look through the lens of how editorial analytics are needed in brand planning and for creatives plus a simple framework for how to do it.

Making Sense of the Challenge

Below are some key points from report with a relevant twist for marketers and brands.

Content creators must customize their analytics models. This means doing the hard work of establishing a bespoke framework for how to organize the layers of data that matter.  It starts with knowing what it is all for – what the business is trying to get out of the content effort.  Is it cost effective reach?  Better SEO? Pure engagement? Is it sales?  Is it all a test for where to spend big in TV or experiential?  Establishing the business case is key for why content exists in the organization is key.  From there, your metrics are structured to gain better understanding at each phase of the story journey.

Rally around a true view into data.  We’ve all been in the board room when the data portion of meeting comes up (usually the last segment) and everyone says, “Ok, that’s interesting.” Then promptly the meeting ends and a few ads get tweaked as the result.  The reports, the dashboards, the conversation walls, the simple tweaks to a banner – these are the easy parts.   Ingraining in brand culture a starting point that begins with the editorial framework is the hard part but necessary to provide meaning. If at the end of the day a brand essentially exists along an editorial calendar of touchpoints big and small – some better than others – with their audience, then it’s imperative to confirm that model before evaluating the data.

The need for journalist involvement in the analytical process.  Journalists equal “creatives” in this context – those that have ownership of the idea.  They have to be a part of the process to understand the true meaning in the data story. It’s one thing to share results with a creative and say, “This ad is not working, try something else.”  It’s another to bring them to the table in an active, participatory way where true understanding is fostered. Getting creatives used to interpreting data is about making sure that their time spent in reviewing it has real value to them and makes their ideas better.

There’s reach, then there’s REACH. To reach someone means more than just targeting and impressions.  Having an understanding of how your content speaks to an audience means you were able to truly reach through and connect. Editorial practices for brands are all about connecting and driving participation. Like newsrooms, a brand’s editorial practices should embrace that and develop the tools, processes, and culture necessary. This has to come out in the analytics and how brands build their own custom models.

A Starting Point for a Solution

To analyze editorial data like a publisher but through a marketers let’s start with a basic hierarchical outline for editorial content and a logical flow for processing performance.

How an Editorial Content Hierarchy Can Give Guidance


Themes –  Born out of an understanding of audience emotional drivers, themes are the conceptual articulation of motivators that are intrinsic to influencing or activating people.

Story Domain – Story domains are broad categorizations that cover related topics like recreation, family, health, and personal finance.  They are organized under various themes.

Story Concept – a collection of content pieces that make up a specific idea or concept with a domain.  The sum is the entirety of a story that can take place across channels and/or over periods of time.

Content Piece – Content formats user engage with; multiple content types can be combined into one experience that the tell the story (think infographics, text, video, images, tools).

Measuring Success – Asking the Right Questions About Content Performance

Once the hierarchy is established that makes sense for your brand, this includes the logical processing of data that comes from each level.

Are we increasing exposure to the brand?

  • Views and impressions across all channels (paid, earned, owned)
  • Share of Voice – PR, social, influencer
  • Authority on relevant topics via search


Does the content resonate the way it should?pie chart

  • The ways our users engaging with content


Which audience segments are responding, which are not?

  • Getting smarter about audience profiles


Where are we engaging our audience most effectively?

  • Up funnel, mid funnel, low funnel


How are social channels driving conversation?

  • Shares, likes, mentions, comments, retweets


Are we effectively driving users to desired destinations?

  • Website, eComm, Application, In store, Event


How does the content result in conversion?

  • Successful applications, CRM sign-ups, Online sales, Physical sales, Call center


To learn more about our point of view on editorial analytics and how they can help you be a better marketer contact 312-909-2800.

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