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The Harte Hanks Blog

How to Use Combinatorics to Generate Good Ideas


How do you get to the answer of determining how one agency sets themselves apart? In my experience in the agency world, most, if not all, advertising agencies talk like they are selling you the same thing: 50% creative idea generation plus 50% management and organization of those ideas so they can conjure up a truly innovative execution.

While it is critical for agency creative teams to do their homework to learn about what attracts and retains customers, it is not enough. Good agencies must incorporate a sound process or methodology for taking what they have learned to the next level to generate ideas and to be able to innovate on them successfully. Understanding where good ideas come from and how they come to life will help you evaluate which creative agencies stand out from the rest.

So, where DO good ideas and innovative executions of those ideas come from? One answer is combinatorics, a mathematical concept dealing with combinations of objects in a set.

How does math relate to creativity?

Creative ideas that lead to innovation is a process of recombinant search. Every creative idea that moves through an idea generation process can be innovated upon and turned into a realistic solution to a problem. This can be thought of as an assembling of a new combination of components, ideas or processes.

In other words, successful ideas and innovations are an output of recombination or blending of other ideas.

In his book Paid Attention – Innovative Advertising for a Digital World, Faris Yakob lays out a very simple creative process on how to have ideas, broken down into 6 steps. Recombination is the fourth key step. According to Yakob, creatives bring any and all ideas from various sources and blend them together to form new ideas by combining them in different ways.

For example, Yakob explains that using the elements of the brand behavior model, we can apply a simple application of combinatorics to these model elements to help serve as a solid starting point for generating creative ideas.

The elements of the brand behavior model include:

  • Product
  • Service
  • Action
  • Content
  • Tool
  • Advertising

Combinatorics says that we can simply pair these elements up in different ways to create new idea areas such as:

  • Content + Tool = Content Tool (e.g. tool that helps consumers to create content)
  • Advertising + Tool = Advertising Tool (e.g. tool to interact with the advertising)
  • Action + Content = Action Content (e.g. content that is reportage of a brand action)
  • Product + Service = Product Service (e.g. create a service extension of the product, or a product extension of the service)

These can in turn be recombined or blended in the following way:

  • Content Tool + Advertising = Ad campaign generated by using a content tool
  • Product Service + Content = Content that demonstrates the service extension, or shows people using it.

Anyone can create a simple combination engine by writing all ideas on separate cards, shuffling them and then laying them out on a table to see which old ideas can be combined to create something new.

While combinatorics is not the only approach to generating ideas and executions of those ideas, it is an elegant and simple (and innovative) way to getting the creative idea generation process going.

Why Data-Driven Creative is so Powerful—and How to Use It

data-driven creative makes an impression on a mobile user

Data, data, data. It’s at the heart of just about everything today and getting cleverer by the minute. But what does that mean for creativity? Right now, data-driven creative is a much-discussed topic in the marketing world. And for decades, we’ve been marrying data and creativity to make amazing things happen. Here are just some of the reasons we champion the winning pair and some top tips for making it work for your business.

Data increases relevance and illuminates results

With people spending an average of four hours on mobile devices seeing countless marketing messages every day, they expect a whole lot more from brands. And that’s exactly where data can become your best friend. The days of posting ads and ‘hoping for the best’ are history. Insights drawn from data make creative more targeted and rewarding.

As Yahoo’s Chief Revenue Officer, Lisa Utzschneider, shares:

“Opening up some of the biggest opportunities in digital advertising today, data is becoming a currency all of its own. It allows businesses to better identify their ideal audiences and engage with them in a more meaningful, effective way.”

Insights gleaned from data provide focus, understanding, assurance. They give us a clear-cut and explicit view into audience behaviors, what they’re looking for and how they like to be engaged with. This offers brands the power to deliver the most relevant creative communications in the ways people want to receive them.

Insights also help to demonstrate the true value of creativity. Gone are the days of things just looking pretty. In an increasingly digital world, data uncovers results and plays an important role in confirming return on investment.

Emotion and efficiency

It’s undeniable that data holds great power. But as Stephen Beringer, Publicis Media’s Data, Technology and Innovation Chief summarizes, ‘an algorithm cannot come up with the perfect gift for your wife’ (not just yet anyway). That takes creativity. And when you bring the two together, you’ve got something special.

Creativity makes people feel and think. Data helps to ensure that they’re feeling and thinking the right things. It’s the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. The foundations that spark those eureka moments of inspiration. Using data to fuel your creative keeps you from taking a shot in the dark and enables you to efficiently deliver the right, most impactful messages.

Making the most of data-driven creativity

So, now we’ve established it’s not an oxymoron, how can you use data to better inspire your creative output? Here are three top tips:

1. Question before you analyze

With a plethora of data out there, it can be easy to fall into the trap of collecting as much as you can. But to really make the most of data-driven creativity, you need to be clear on the answers you want from data. Have specific questions in mind, and consider the small data. Do you want to know the competitors your audiences are interested in? Or, perhaps, the sweet spot of time when people are most likely to buy from you?

Having clear questions makes it easier to uncover what you need from the data and shape well-informed, insightful creative.

2. Make it actionable

It’s not just what you know, but how you act upon it. Utzschneider explains:

“Understanding your audience comes first, but using that information to devise more relevant, valuable, creative and empowering experiences is the path to greater business success.”

When we translate data into easily understandable insights which inform powerful creative, we unlock its true value.

3. Join the dots

Silos are one of the biggest barriers to data-driven creativity. The best results are achieved when data, creative and technology work together. We favor a collective approach here, with our data experts working collaboratively alongside creative teams and technology people, throughout the process to build on clever insights.

Want to see how data can inspire award-winning work for some of the world’s biggest brands? Check out our Creative Services page.

How to Create Ads that Grab Attention—But Not at the Cost of Relevance


Attention has become more than simply an ingredient of advertising–it’s become the currency of success. In today’s digital age, marketers look to create ‘thumb-stopping moments’; unique periods of time where consumers see enough value in what they’re being shown to pause and fully absorb. Moments that deliver empathy-sparking cues; resonate with an individual’s humour or hit deep, emotional triggers hidden away in the brain’s hippocampus for years.

Understanding how these moments actually work, however, is a complex affair. Not least because they tend to be situation‐specific; with communication channel, messaging, sender, receiver, context all defining sometimes unique situations. What does it take to capture an audience and drive them towards a desired behaviour? Three key components, according to advertising psychology: content, persuasion and attention. The first two are relatively simple to achieve. It often isn’t until we get to attention, that we often discover the proverbial spanner in the works.

As advertisers, we approach getting ‘eyes on’ our content by either paying for an audience (e.g. through media purchases) or by earning it through organic activity (such as well architected websites, or sought-after video content). But getting an ad in front of someone is only the beginning. Duration is easy to track, but it’s a poor measure of true engagement. It’s the intensity with which someone views an advert that shows how interested they are as a viewer. We may drive an hour to work every day, but how engaged we are with what’s happening around us will vary greatly from day to day.

So with interest being the key to gaining attention, here are my top three areas to focus on:

1. ‘Reach’ on its own isn’t enough, relevance matters

With newsfeeds becoming increasingly cluttered, honing in on what an audience is looking for has never been more important. Paid media is now the norm so ads can be put in front of consumers with ease. But ensuring they resonate and are meaningful is what adds true value.

2. Minimum interaction for the maximum relevance

Repetitive. Forceful. Annoying. When the t-shirt you looked at once starts following you around every site you visit, you can quickly move from disengaged to outraged. Finding the triggers that sit in the key intersect between the interaction-relevance Venn diagram can be the difference between a browser and a buyer.

3. Respect what your audiences want

Actually getting someone’s attention is becoming increasingly rare, so when you do: respect it. A sales-focused message isn’t always right. Consumers don’t always want to be sold to – they want to be listened and engaged with. Creating a valuable message is just as important as defining the relevant channel to say it through. Get both right, and you’re on to a winner.

Experience Design. What’s It All About?

experience design

If you think effective design is just about getting the Pantone colors right and knowing your jpegs from your pngs, think again. Designing something that looks good is one thing. Creating something that people enjoy using again and again, that genuinely engages, and achieves the intended outcomes – that’s a whole different ball game. And one you might find referred to as ‘experience design’ or XD.

So, what actually is experience design?

Today, users aren’t just judging your products and services but the entire experience they have with your brand. Experience design is where insight and strategy comes together with creative. It’s design that goes far beyond just how things look and focuses on what people want at every touchpoint. Does the in-store experience match up with the quality of the product? Are users going to be satisfied throughout their journey? Will they want to keep engaging with your brand? Experience design incorporates behavioral data to create things that are much more likely to make people happy – and want to interact, use and buy again.

How does experience design differ from UX?

Experience design runs deeper than just your website, app or product and covers the overall brand experience across all channels and environments. It takes into account all of the different ways people interact with your processes, services and interfaces to design pre and post-purchase experiences that shine – and convert users into loyal customers. Take Benefit Cosmetics, for example. They do it brilliantly. From their awesome branded stores and quirky product packaging, to their boat takeovers and popular social media activity, every touchpoint on their customer journey is an experience. Or, in their case, an adventure.

But does it work?

It’s safe to say that experience design drums up powerful results. In an increasingly time-precious world, where every click, swipe and tap is a step in the user journey, frustrating or disappointing experiences are a sure way to disengage customers and wave goodbye to repeat business. Positive experiences trigger our emotions and memories which, in turn, boosts brand loyalty. Putting people at the center of design and taking every touchpoint into consideration sparks greater satisfaction. And greater satisfaction leads to greater sales. You only have to look at how design-led companies like Nike, Coca-Cola and IBM have outperformed competitors in the S&P 500 index by 219% to see that.

It’s just for creative agencies, right?

Wrong. Design is a powerful tool for solving problems and discovering the new. As such, many businesses are putting design first and using experience design to create brand experiences that are remembered for all the right reasons. So, here are four key takeaways that you can start applying to your work today:

1. Define

What’s the problem that needs to be solved? Pinpoint it. Understand it. Write it down. Defining this will be invaluable in helping you find the right solution and measure effectiveness more easily.

2. Explore

Don’t be afraid to question. To explore new opportunities. To think bigger. That’s one of the key things businesses can learn from designers. If you approach problems the same way every time, you’ll get the same results. Always embrace different perspectives too – the best answers often come from five people working on a problem for one day, rather than one person for working on it for five days.

3. Refine

Good ideas become great when they’re nurtured, tested and refined. How well does the solution stand up when interrogated against the brief? Will it solve that key problem? Here’s where insights and data can become super helpful in making sure that your ideas will hit the right notes with all the right people.

4. Execute

All agreed on a winning solution? Then it’s time to roll it out. At the end of this stage, your problem should be solved – or well on its way. And, the depth of this four-step method means that when it comes to execution, you should feel assured that the solution will glean brilliant results.

Want to know more about experience design and how we blend together insights, data and awesome creative to shape solutions that grab attention and exceed expectations? Let’s talk. We’d love to hear from you.

How Pharmaceutical CRMs Can Lead to Healthier Relationships

Boosting physician and patient engagement

pharma CRM postCustomer Relationship Management (CRM) software offers a great deal of potential for the pharmaceutical industry. However, this is a complex sector, riddled with regulations surrounding sensitive data. It is not easy to find a solution that fits business needs while complying with relevant laws. This is especially true at an international level when different rules need to be observed for different countries.

Purchasing a standard CRM solution and trying to adapt it to various business and regulatory requirements is time consuming and difficult. Inevitably it involves compromise and hidden expense.

Instead, many pharmaceutical companies could benefit from international CRM programs that are purpose-built from the ground up by a marketing services provider.

Bespoke CRM for pharmaceuticals

A truly customized approach uses business goals as a starting point and builds a CRM framework around them. This ensures variations across different countries can be accounted for and embraced at an early stage, rather than being bolted on later. The result is a highly specified solution intrinsically optimized to meet business needs. It can have built-in scalability and the flexibility to handle international differences in data laws or standard practice, such as call centre versus nurse-led activity.

Ultimately, custom-built CRM offers better value and efficiency. Adapting existing systems is expensive, license fees can be high and product release cycles can delay the implementation of certain functionalities.

Using an MSP to build, manage and implement the solution brings multiple advantages. Since all aspects – from database management to phone calls, emails and SMS to direct mail – are handled by one organization, the program is more cohesive and affordable. What’s more, sensitive data is all held securely in one place.

Physician and patient communications

The best pharmaceutical CRM programs empower physicians and patients to make better, more informed choices – whether they’re prescribing treatment or following it.

Meeting physicians in person is becoming increasingly difficult for pharmaceutical companies. Physicians are often under pressure to see a certain number of patients per day, leaving limited time for meeting with third parties. Some countries also have complex regulations surrounding personal interaction between pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals. In many cases, direct marketing can play an effective role alongside or in place of face-to-face meetings. It enables physicians to keep abreast of the latest developments in treatments and processes such as pharmaceutical-led patient support.

Patient-focused activity varies depending on the nature of the patient’s condition, where they are in the treatment cycle, the level of data available and nuances of their country of residence. Naturally, when more is known about a patient, activity can be better tailored to their current needs and communications become more meaningful.

A central aim of pharmaceutical CRM should be fostering good relationships between patients and physicians. This means acknowledging the authority of the physician in prescribing drugs, while enabling patients to get more out of their appointments and the overall treatment. Ideally communications should operate progressively, supporting patients as they move from the initial awareness that they may have a certain condition, to actively acknowledging it, then learning to live with it. The latter stage is vital to boost adherence to treatment regimen and enhance overall patient outcomes.

Overcoming challenges

There are many challenges facing the marketing of pharmaceuticals today. However, deeper engagement rooted in custom-built CRM can help navigate many of them.

Direct alignment of patient and physician communications is complex from a data perspective, but with care and attention it can usually be achieved. Bespoke CRM programs can incorporate specific opt-in language to overcome many of the barriers surrounding sensitive data. This ensures that patients who are happy to share their data can access the wider support that is on offer should they need it.

Achieving buy-in from physicians and patients is not easy – nor should it be. Pharmaceutical organizations need to earn trust and loyalty over time. Striving for better, deeper engagement is a critical factor. An effective way to realize this in the short- to medium-term is through the empowerment of patients and physicians, arming them with knowledge and information so they can make informed choices. In the longer term, improved patient outcomes will speak for themselves.


Harte Hanks handles CRM programs for leading global pharmaceutical companies. Patient data is handled sensitively and an integrated approach ensures improved patient support and outcomes. Natalia Gallur has more than ten years’ experience in the sector.


Smarter Demand Gen Awakens

Convergence of Tech and People Will Amplify Demand Generation in 2016

UnknownThe B2B demand-marketing ecosystem continues to evolve at a rapid pace. It’s driven by emerging technologies, tactics and buyer behaviors, alongside other well-established factors that continue to shape the discipline.

Industry influencers and analysts such as SiriusDecisions and Forrester identified a raft of demand generation trends and requirements in 2015. These range from better use of analytics as a foundation for demand planning to buyer journey alignment and operationalizing personas.

The notion of operationalizing personas involves integrating persona intelligence into demand generation efforts. At a fundamental level, it involves dynamic delivery of persona-based content, messaging and offers across email, landing pages and websites. It was first mooted by SiriusDecisions in 2014, but began to take hold last year. During 2016 it will occupy a more central role as we enter the next stage of the journey: smarter demand generation.

Why do we need Smarter Demand Generation?

Many B2B organizations find their demand generation efforts are characterized by small pipelines, missed targets and failure to respond to the needs of today’s buyers. It’s not surprising when you consider the seismic shift in buyer behavior over the past few years.

B2B sales and marketing is becoming increasingly complex and far less linear in its nature. There are multiple influencers, decision makers and stakeholders. There are multiple online and offline marketing channels. And there are multiple interactions and conversations taking place.

In this fractured, multifaceted landscape we need to find a path to more effective, joined-up demand generation. We need an approach that embraces the complex realities of the B2B sector today and handles them with ease. Smarter demand generation is the answer.

What does it mean?

A central feature of smarter demand generation is the convergence of people and technology. This is true throughout the process. Human insight and expertise facilitates the creation and operationalization of personas. It also shapes the development and substance of programs that are augmented and delivered via sophisticated technologies. Finally, individuals at the receiving end of smarter demand generation are served with optimized, highly personalized communications. Content is relevant to their current and future professional needs and it is delivered at an opportune time via the most appropriate platform. The upshot is finely tuned buyer engagement and a more robust pipeline.

This might sound a world away from traditional demand generation. And it’s true that it requires a deeply analytical and intelligent approach expertly integrated with technical capabilities. But every journey begins with a single step. Marketers who set their sights on smarter demand generation can quickly realize benefits at a micro level that can later be replicated at a larger scale.

Exploring smarter demand generation with one segment of your target audience can be a good place to start. Integrating data, technology, people and tactics for the first time isn’t easy – but it is more manageable and achievable at a smaller scale. Ring-fence a project that leverages insight to improve targeting, messaging and optimization. Then closely monitor the results to track the impact on the sales pipeline. Spotlighting the effectiveness of smarter demand generation in this way, and sharing it at a Board level, can create an appetite for more. It might help secure investment in the technologies and skills required for a wider rollout.

The B2B sector has strived for precision marketing for decades. With the awakening of smarter demand generation, it is finally within reach.


Alex Gill explores this theme in a B2B Marketing webinar on 27 January: How to align your marketing for smarter demand generation and stronger ROI. Book your seat here.

Four Simple Ways to Amplify Your Customer Support with Social Media

Social Media-BlogSocial media is quickly becoming a critical factor in augmenting and enhancing your customer support strategy. Last week, I participated in an industry roundtable hosted by CRM Magazine on the subject. When businesses think of social media, it’s often in terms of marketing or public relations. And while social media is a great tool to help extend both, its impact goes beyond promoting and marketing your company. Increasingly, social media has become a powerful contributor to customer service and support. Customers are now powerful influencers. They take to social media to talk about brands and products – positively and negatively – in an attempt to influence their peers and the brands they buy from. So how do you influence the influencers, and utilize social media to enhance your customer service?

  1. Start by listening.

The first step in extending your customer support system through social media is to listen – and learn. Start by scanning social media channels for complaints, compliments and questions about your brand. Find out who is talking about your brand (customers, prospects, competitors?) and what they’re saying. You can learn a lot about customer pain points and perceptions that you might not learn through your contact center customer support. You will quickly identify areas of opportunity and then you can build a cohesive strategy, start to engage with your customers and prospects – and begin to influence the conversation around your brand.

  1. Set the rules of engagement.

Social media can be a bit like the Wild West – an unpredictable place where anything goes. As such, it is important for brands to devise a set of rules and operational goals. Who will be authorized to speak for your company on social media? How will they go about engaging customers? At what point should a public conversation be moved to a private conversation? Will you have a proactive presence as well as a reactive one? How will your social presence support your brand promise?

A defined social strategy is paramount. Social media is a free-flowing, casual platform that requires 24/7 resources. A single poor choice of words or an ill-timed post can damage your brand. As an example: If a consumer posts a message that your product injured them and you respond by apologizing, you may have implied guilt without knowing any of the facts. Your rules of engagement will ensure that your social customer support benefits both your brand and your customers.

  1. Ready, set, engage.

Your strategy is set, and you’re ready to go. Now it’s time to engage. Find someone who is talking about your brand and start a conversation through authentic engagement. It’s not unusual to find that customers are already reaching out to you using social channels. Whether it’s thanking someone who complimented your brand – or engaging with someone who is seeking assistance with your product or service – a simple conversation can go a long way in changing the perception of your brand. And you just might learn something you hadn’t previously considered. More often than not, the audience you engage via social media will be completely different from those who contact your customer service center. They may have a similar issue or topic, but they are approaching you from a position of influence. Consider it an opportunity to become an invited contributor into a public conversation. When handled correctly, social customer engagements can turn antagonists into fans who will spread the gospel of your brand.

  1. Inject helpful content.

Social customer support should be as proactive as it is reactive. Helpful content – like “how to” guides or useful tips about your product – will help you engage with your customers after the sale, positioning your brand as one that is consistently connected with and cares about its customers. When injecting marketing content into your social presence, be careful not to push hard sales messaging. Imagine social media platforms as a conversational dinner party. It is OK to talk positively about your brand, but hard sell tactics go against what is considered to be a good “social citizen.” Social media audiences can spot a pitch from a mile away and nothing will turn your community away faster.

The Harte Hanks contact center teams and agents utilize these techniques to manage social commentary and customer support for many of their clients. If you would like to dive deeper into how social can enhance your customer support, you can view our roundtable discussion on Destination CRM here.

Technology Is Not a Substitute for Creativity


Marketing has always been a blend of art and science. But the rise of marketing technology has tilted the scales heavily towards the science end of the equation. This is not necessarily a bad thing – the digital revolution has armed marketers with information and techniques that drive more accurate, cost-effective campaigns. Essentially, technology has eliminated a good portion of the “guesswork” traditionally associated with marketing. Again, this is a wonderful development for marketers. Technology allows us to personalize our approach to better connect with audiences and do a better job of meeting their needs and desires. But too much technology can have negative effects – namely, the erosion of creativity.

Marketing automation programs are rapidly becoming “cookie cutter” strategies that rely too heavily on the medium of delivery. The “three emails and a landing page” approach can (and often does) work, but as marketing automation becomes more and more prominent, the impact of a “basic” campaign will quickly dissipate. The deluge of analytics available to the modern marketer is a veritable treasure trove of information. But too often, marketers are held hostage by data points, finding themselves afraid to venture outside of the established thinking.

Going forward, brand marketers must rely more on intuition and creativity to avoid becoming just another source of noise in the market. And brands must embrace creativity and avoid the “safe” approach of standardized campaigns. Great ideas have always been the bedrock of great marketing campaigns. Technology will never change that fact. Technology – if developed and implemented correctly – can help marketers amplify creative approaches. Real-time response measurement can quickly let marketers know what’s working and what’s not, allowing them to adjust and mold ideas into messages that get results – and prove beyond a doubt what consumers want to see, hear and, ultimately, buy from brands.

Marketing technology allows brands to paint a clearer picture of their audiences and develop a deeper understanding of their desires, needs and behaviors. Rather than playing it safe, marketers should harness this information to help them develop great ideas that make a lasting impact on audiences.

As we approach the New Year, my advice to marketers for 2016 is: be bold, lean on your intuition, and create smarter, more personal customer interactions.

The Campaign is Dead, Long Live the Campaign


The evolution of the customer journey from vendor-led to the modern, customer-empowered experience has all but killed the idea of a “campaign.” Marketing to today’s consumer is not a short-term affair – it requires a sustained effort that provides the consumer with relevant and useful information at the right time and place. This “long” approach has seemingly ended the usefulness of the traditional campaign, with the thought being that the modern consumer is acutely aware of when they are being marketed to and are turned off by campaigns. While this is partially true – consumers are more aware – the rumors of the campaign’s death are unsubstantiated.

Traditional Campaigns

When we think of the word “campaign” in the traditional sense, we think of short-term, targeted efforts and messaging designed to spur action, like voting for a political candidate or driving consumers to a holiday sale event. In the past, these campaigns were singular efforts, and while not completely disconnected from the brand, existed largely outside of the overall brand message. In essence, the customer journey was brief. Those customers targeted by the campaign were targeted specifically for the campaign, but not necessarily for an ongoing relationship.

It’s All About Semantics

The massive customer journey sea change in the digital age has painted the campaign in a negative light. But the rumors of the campaign’s demise are greatly exaggerated. The campaign is alive and well – if viewed as a tactic rather than a strategy. After all, “campaign” is just a word. Campaigns – no matter what you call them – do have a place in the modern customer journey. But they must be seamlessly integrated into a larger, more macro approach to customer engagement.

The Tactical Approach

To successfully promote your brand and its products or services, simply marketing to consumers is not enough. You must build relationships and build trust. Today’s consumer knows a pitch when they see it and tends to be turned off when approached with a purely sales-driven message, especially as an initial communication. Consumers are, however, receptive to individual campaigns within the larger context of an existing relationship with your brand. Those consumers who already have a level of engagement with your brand – particularly those who have shown increased interest by opting in to your communications – are likely to embrace a campaign for your product or service, or at the very least consider the message.

Consumer engagement communications should never be stagnant – simply promoting the same thing in perpetuity will eventually lead to message fatigue and a loss of interest in your brand. Injecting timely, targeted campaigns into your customer communications can breathe life into your customer engagement and drive revenue for your brand.

Marketing Technology: Where’s My ROI?


The modern customer journey is consumer driven and often fractured. Unlike the linear, vendor-led customer journeys of the past, the buyer is now in full control. With endless options – and a bevvy of information about each product or service readily available for consumers – marketers must devise new ways to attract customers and secure brand awareness and loyalty. A slew of new marketing technology, including CRM, marketing automation and inbound marketing platforms, have risen up to solve the new customer journey riddle. But despite the effectiveness of these platforms, too many B2B companies are reporting negative ROI for marketing technology investments. There are a number of reasons why.

Failure to Launch

The B2B sales cycle is a complex process. Unlike B2C products, there is no such thing as an “impulse purchase.” Buyers typically spend weeks, months and sometimes even years researching and deliberating before deciding on a purchase – particularly where big-ticket items are concerned. Marketing technology can help significantly simplify this process, but it isn’t a magic bullet. Marketing platforms aren’t plug and play; they are a set of interconnected tools for marketers to utilize as part of an overall strategy. Too often, B2B companies purchase marketing technology, but fail to allocate the resources necessary to realize their benefits. Marketing systems are a great delivery system, but engaging and strategic content that guides prospects along the customer journey must be created first. You can buy a car, but if you don’t fill it with gas and get behind the wheel, it isn’t going to move.

Scratching the Surface

Most of the marketing technology platforms available today come equipped with an array of features that justify their cost – intelligent analytics, A/B testing, easy integration, etc. Companies who fail to realize ROI on these products are often utilizing only a fraction of the features available to them. These features can significantly enhance the power of the platform and should be utilized whenever possible.

Stove Piping

With so many different types of technology available, B2B companies often have more than one system for sales and marketing. Failure to integrate these systems – particularly marketing automation platforms and CRM software – creates a confusing environment where systems are not communicating with each other and often duplicating efforts. In order to get the most out of marketing software and a favorable ROI, marketing platforms and CRM software should always be integrated.

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Too many B2B companies dive head first into marketing technology – purchasing platforms without a full understanding of the system or a plan to implement it. B2B marketers often find themselves tasked with becoming technology experts trying to implement and integrate systems they know little, if anything, about. Additionally, systems are often purchased before a strategy has been developed to utilize them.

Boost Your ROI

To fully realize the benefits of marketing technology platforms, B2B marketers must view these platforms as an important tool, but as only part of the process. Creative campaigns, strategic plans and actual customer conversations are all an integral part of the modern customer journey as well. Before purchasing a new marketing technology platform, B2B companies should perform due diligence on the products they wish to purchase and have a plan in place on how they will be utilized.

And if you need help boosting the ROI of your marketing investment, Harte Hanks has extensive experience integrating marketing technology with marketing strategy. We’re here to help!

The 4 Biggest Challenges Facing B2B Tech Marketers Today (Part 4)

Unifying Communication Strategies Across Channels Throughout the Customer Journey


Over the past few weeks, we’ve been exploring the four biggest marketing challenges faced by B2B tech companies.

Whether you’ve been following along or just tuning in now, you can find the first three installments about utilizing all available tools and technologies, leveraging high-quality, real-time data and generating ROI with less budget and fewer resources on our blog.

For the fourth and final challenge, I will discuss the best strategies to unify communications across channels in order to drive the customer journey.

CHALLENGE #4: How do I unify communication strategies across channels to drive customers through the buyer journey?

Your brand is a powerful thing. Not only does it represent the essence and promise of your company, it also embodies the expectations and opinions of your customer as they move through their buying journey. Each touch point with your brand is a chance to enhance – or diminish – a customer’s perception.

That means that each piece of advertising, each call to your contact center and each visit to your landing page should work in tandem to convey a consistent message that represents your brand. Just one negative interaction can damage your customer’s perception. And it’s much more difficult to reverse a negative perception than it is to proactively ensure positive customer interactions from the start of a campaign.

So how can we ensure a single view of customer across their entire journey, with consistent brand touch points and a clear, unified message? Read on:

  1. Start with a clear definition of your brand. First and foremost, you need to clearly define what your brand represents. Your brand platform needs to be articulated and shared with everyone in the company, particularly the external-facing representatives. A marketing program is the creative output built on top of the brand, designed to build awareness and the desire to purchase.
  2. Decide what you are trying to achieve with your marketing efforts. What is your vision of success? What are you trying to do and why are you trying to do it? At this stage, it’s helpful to look at what Harte Hanks Creative Director Alan Kittle calls The Beautiful Intersection. Draw two intersecting circles. In one, write out what you or your client wants to say. In the other, detail what your audience wants to hear. The intersection of this Venn Diagram is your sweet spot – the message that will tell your story while resonating with your audience.
  3. Identify the necessary building blocks and work streams. After you define your end goal and key objective, work backwards to figure out what will get your there. Start with a solid strategist or planner. This individual or team should gather and interpret all available data, and determine how that insight into the customer will enable a connection with the brand. Data intelligence should help form creative briefs and build a campaign message that is highly measurable.
  4. Cut through with a single unifying thought. In a complex, multi-channel, multi-territory campaign, it is essential to have one unifying idea that all marketing efforts tie back to. In fact, the more complex the marketing campaign – the more channels, audiences, periods of time – the simpler the message should be. By looking at the whole picture, you can determine how all the pieces fit together throughout the journey: how an audience reacts to an email, then a phone call a few weeks later and a piece of advertising leading them to a customer landing page a few days after that.
  5. Create an ecosystem of collaboration and information sharing. It is essential that all agencies plug into the brand and work together in a creative, synergistic manner to tell the same story. Branding agencies need to work in tandem with creative teams – the strongest teams collaborate to make a greater sum of their parts.

By following these steps for a new marketing idea, or to increase the effectiveness of an in-progress marketing program, it is possible to unify communications across channels and create that single, unifying thought that weaves through the entire customer journey. Data helps inform and define this thought and to create a cycle of excellence: use data to create something with the best chance of success, then look at what to improve and start the process again.

Global Patient Support Needs to ‘Think Local’

PharmaPatient support programs play a vital role in facilitating better disease management and treatment optimization. Traditionally pharmaceutical companies launched such initiatives on a local level. However, from a regional perspective, this sometimes resulted in patchy and fragmented support. Today, many pharmaceutical companies are driving centralized programs that benefit from a more sophisticated and strategic approach.

This approach brings many advantages around compliance, visibility of success and cost-effectiveness of implementation and maintenance. Yet centralized programs can be inherently complex and unwieldy. This is compounded by the fact that they often need to be coordinated at a global or area level to maximize infrastructure and management efficiencies.

Walking the line between global/regional efficiency and local effectiveness is no mean feat. Patient support is not a ‘one size fits all’ discipline; activity needs to be expertly tailored and carefully orchestrated.

At Harte Hanks, we believe five critical factors underpin patient support that is successful both at a global and a local level.

  1. Gather and leverage local knowledge

Understanding the nuances and intricacies of healthcare provision in different regions is essential. Ideally, you should have people on the ground who have in-depth knowledge of their local system and keep a finger on the pulse of any changes or developments.

Typical patient paths can vary significantly between countries for the same disease. Take the patient touchpoints and interactions for the U.S. healthcare system versus the UK’s NHS or Spain’s Seguridad Social. Prescription behaviours, drug dispensing and the length of time between specialist visits can be entirely different. There can even be differences in the role of healthcare practitioners during treatment, in terms of nurse interaction levels, nurse-led advice, pharmacist involvement and primary or speciality care.

  1. Create space for consultation and collaboration

Regional offices need to have clear channels of communication with the head office, and regular opportunities to report back on the local healthcare environment. They need to know that their observations are taken into account and actively used to shape the delivery of patient support in their territory.

At a strategic level, this collaborative approach enables program goals and objectives to be adapted to the realities of each country and healthcare system. It also needs to work at a tactical level, with regional teams of medical and regulatory professionals reviewing and approving materials before they are issued to healthcare professionals and patients.

Pharmaceutical companies often lack the time and resources required to give adequate attention to each country of a global patient support program. This is especially true when implementation needs to happen in parallel with a product launch or other internal deadlines. Working with a trusted third party can be a mutually beneficial solution for individual countries and the global program as whole. They can offer expert guidance as well as coordinate materials distribution and facilitate knowledge sharing.

  1. Ensure processes and training are water-tight

It’s vital that staff delivering the program, especially those with direct patient contact, understand indicators of pharmacovigilance events. Processes need to be in place to ensure that any spontaneous or solicited reports of adverse effects are handled appropriately and escalated in the right timeframes.

A centralized model can ensure that training compliance efforts are optimized and that all pharmacovigilance processes are managed in a cohesive way. A balance needs to be struck to ensure that training and reporting procedures meet certain standards, while respecting any elements or formats that vary between countries.

  1. Coordinated multi-channel communications

Using a CRM suite to facilitate patient and healthcare provider communications boosts efficiency and enables better control of patient support programs. For example, Harte Hanks can act as a multichannel one-stop-shop which is managed centrally but enables local offices to customize activity, such as:

  • Secure data management and hosting, in-line with local privacy rules
  • SMS, email and direct mail assets (drawing on print-on-demand and personalization capabilities)
  • Creation, development and hosting of personalized online portals for patients and healthcare providers, with self-tracking tools to support all digital communications
  • Advanced reporting and analytics to measure success and monitor progress

CRM and digital services should be flexible enough to accommodate multilingual communications and adaptations for the individual needs of each country. For instance, a global program will encounter various regulatory frameworks and the requirements of medical, legal and regulatory teams differ between countries.

  1. Continual improvement philosophy

If program goals and objectives are tailored to local regions, it follows that KPIs need to be tailored too. For measurement to be meaningful, successes or failures need to be considered in context. And they need to feed into the development of ongoing goals and objectives geared towards a cycle of continual improvement. To facilitate effective management at a macro level, it’s important to ensure global real-time visibility across the entire programme, from high-level KPIs to more detailed local perspectives.

The cornerstone of any successful patient support program is recognition that patients are people. They have their own lives, families, work and hobbies, as well as living with a disease or illness. They deserve to be listened to and helped to live their life to the fullest.

Treating patients as people within a program that operates on a global scale is complicated., but with an intelligent, carefully coordinated approach that draws on local knowledge, it is possible to achieve this. Communicating with patients at the right time with the right message via the most appropriate channel is half of the story. Ensuring information and interventions are precisely tailored to their real needs completes the circle, both supporting the treatment and enhancing the overall patient experience.

Harte Hanks handles patient support programmes for leading global pharmaceutical companies. Patient data is handled sensitively and an integrated approach ensures improved patient support and outcomes. Natalia Gallur has more than ten years’ experience in the sector. To learn more about the services we offer, take a look at our case studies.

Taking Your Customers from Anonymous to Known: Introducing Total Customer Discovery

A Deeper Dive into the Solution


Today, we are excited to announce our newest solution to enable smarter customer interactions: Total Customer Discovery. You can learn more about the details through our press release, video and digital guide. In this blog post, I’m going to break down some of the technology components that went into creating it.

In a nutshell, Total Customer Discovery provides a holistic, 360-degree profile of customers, merging data from online and offline channels and across devices. This single customer view encompasses data across demographics (contact data, social profiles); psychographics (interests), historical (purchase and promotion history) and influencing power (networks, connections). With this richer customer view, marketers can deliver enhanced and personalized customer experiences, leading to increased acquisition, retention and, ultimately, ROI.

So without further ado, here are the different components of the Total Customer Discovery Solution and what they help address:

Solution Component: Cross Screen Identification

With cross-screen identification, each customer has a persistent, unique ID that carries with them, helping marketers track associated devices with that customer even when customers delete their browsing history (and their cookies). With Total Customer Discovery, we can identify and track customers across various devices (mobile phones, tablets, computers, laptops and so on), learning their behaviors, adding to their customer profiles and offering a seamless brand experiences across touch points that takes into consideration their past purchase history and preferences.

Solution Component: Cross Journey Mapping

To solve the problem of internal silos and overwhelming amounts of data, the cross journey mapping function captures customer’s digital behavior and stores meaningful attributes, such as click, searches, interests, preference, etc. to produce richer, more multi-dimensional customer profiles. These attributes can then be linked with other data sources within an organization such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database. Total Customer Discovery identifies customer interactions across multiple devices and channels, so that we can track a customer throughout their entire journey, from smartphone, to tablet, to computer, to in-store.

Solution Component: Data Onboarding

A single view of customers provides a comprehensive view of the purchase journey. Integrating both online and offline data helps round out the single view of customer for a comprehensive picture of customer behavior for better retargeting and personalization. With data onboarding, online and offline data are merged and customer files are created using email or physical address lists that are matched with a database of advertiser tracking parameters. Particularly for brick-and-mortar stores, integrating online and offline data sources is crucial for delivering relevant content across channels based on the customer identification, from digital interactions on their smartphone to offline purchases at a retail store.

Solution Component: Social Linkage

Personalized, relevant content is the key to driving ROI in today’s world of real-time “micro-moments.” With social linkage, customers’ social interactions and behaviors are tracked across sites to enable deeper customer segmentation. Social linkage takes data from over 150 social sites, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+, and gives marketers insightful social profile data to inform their social investment decisions and make their digital marketing efforts more effective.

We’d love to tell you more about how Total Customer Discovery takes customers from anonymous to known. For more information, you can visit or email

What the X in SXSWi Stands For.

During my first trip to Austin’s annual union of Interactive, Film and Music Festivals, I’ve spotted a micro trend that I’m going to encourage my creative teams to bake into more of their ideas…multiplication. Here are four ways I saw ideas converge to create something bigger, better and more powerful.

SuperSuper at SXSW

During Twitter co-founder Biz Stone’s session, he talked about his new venture – Super – a heavily visual social platform described on their App Store page as, “Bold opinions become tiny works of art.” It’s Snapchat meets Pop Art! Heavily inspired by Barbara Kruger, this is Biz’s latest attempt to build something that allows users to share their thoughts built off opening statements like, “I LOVE” or “I’M ALL” or even “ONCE UPON A TIME” … the convergence of gallery images and text overlays is anarchic and encourages self-expression and personalization way beyond Instagram or Twitter.

As an Art Director I’m all in. And I’m taking bets on which brands might experiment with it soon.

Patrick Mulford

theAudience ECD presented his unique viewpoint on how brands should use social media. It was mind-blowing – it made me want to be a better creative thought leader. The Natural Architecture of Social Media transplants the biological theory (of how living organisms grow by having seven basic needs met) into how social networks thrive. Here’s an extract from Patrick’s introduction:

People have talked about the social ‘ecosystem’, as if it comprises distinct, intelligent consumers for a long time. But they’ve always overlooked one key fact: social media networks are the heart of the ecosystem. They are holonic structures – individual, but acting as a whole. The creation of social media networks turned computers and smartphones into something amazing: doorways into a landscape, nourished by content and thriving on emotion expressed through the act of sharing.

I’ll definitely be quoting Mulford within client conversations in the coming months.

MeerkatMeerkat at SXSW

Another app, another amalgamation … Meerkat combines Twitter with live video streaming. Causing a storm of controversy, as Twitter turns off its access to Social Graph just as ‘South By’ started, this clever platform allows you to stream content from your phone and tweet simultaneously. Connections can respond and their tweets appear on top of the feed … it’s very smart and very powerful stuff. It seems as if this will emerge as the “it” App of SXSWi 2015, and I can’t wait to see how the relationship with Twitter develops. Some think the behemoth of social media is trying to shut down the competition as it tries to launch its newly-bought Periscope; I hope they can work it out because this amazing evolution of communication could create amazing opportunities for connecting with audiences.

I used Meerkat during my last panel session and I had seven users ‘tune in’ to my broadcast. The session was hosted by Dazed’s Editor-in-Chief, Tim Noakes, who questioned actor Shia LeBeouf about his year-long collaboration with ‘meta modernist’ artists Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner.

Which leads me to my last example of multiplication from SXSWi 2015.


Before I start my own commentary, please read LaBeouf’s introduction:

When people say, “listen to your heart”, they are urging us to tune in to the loving side of our selves; the imaginative, the intuitive, the compassionate, the inner wisdom we all possess. They are telling us to listen to our passion. As we roam the SXSW festival, the data of my heart will roam the networks, transmitted live for us to follow together in real time for the duration. With our physical distance collapsed by the networks, that innermost and most intimate of rhythms will be rendered immediate on our digital screens.

Visiting let you see Shia’s real-time heartbeat visualized simply but mesmerically. It takes the ever-increasing trend of quantified self into the art world and attempts to reach out in an thought-provoking way. Being able to follow his heartbeart, even when LaBeouf is sleeping for instance, is surely the most ‘access’ any celebrity has ever offered to the public.

It’s just one of the ‘pieces’ the three have created since their coming together. #STARTCREATING saw them skywrite the hashtag in the skies above LA in February last year. And, more famously, LaBeouf allowed himself to be locked in a room with the public in the #IAMSORRY? experiment not long after the actor angered so many after being caught plagiarising graphic novelist Daniel Clowes for a short film entered at Cannes.

But how the group talked about their process, of deciding what art to create next, was the most interesting thing for me – they claim to be a ‘hive mind’ and use a veto system so that they must all agree to their next project or not do it.


Right now, that level of collaboration is beyond anything we have with our clients … but can you imagine the powerful relationship you could have if the agency had the power to could veto client decisions? True equality, complete trust and absolute interdependence – now that’s something worth thinking about.

But let’s start simpler and easier. When Harte Hanks creative teams stretch their thinking beyond a single channel, the chance to multiply the effectiveness of that creative is limitless. The bigger and more transcendent the idea, the better and more powerful it will become to help create smarter customer interactions.

And that’s where I intend to start, tomorrow.

Creativity and risk: a fine balance

Two heads are better than oneHighly-creative marketing campaigns are often labelled as ‘risky’. Any marketer will tell you that the more creative an idea is, the harder it is to get it signed-off.

Yet we all know that risk can reap rewards. And research has shown that a euro invested in a highly creative campaign had almost double the sales impact of a euro spent on a non-creative campaign (download the report here).

So the challenge marketers face is finding ways to manage risk effectively in the context of creativity. How can we make more intelligent, informed risk-based decisions?

“To be alive at all involves some risk.”

German psychologist Gerd Gigernezer held a fascinating talk about the role of risk in decision making at Bristol’s Festival of Ideas this week. Many of his points had interesting parallels with our industry.

Gigernezer began with Harold Macmillan’s infamous quote, “To be alive at all involves some risk.” In other words, it’s how you deal with it that matters.

Most of us are not good at forecasting risk – we tend to fear mass calamities, while ignoring more realistic and immediate dangers. For instance in the year after 9/11, long distance car journeys in the US rose dramatically – people feared flying. However, in that period zero people died in commercial aircraft crashes while the number of monthly deaths on the roads rose by around 45 per cent. This could reasonably be attributed to the fear of flying and it’s a dramatic example of the impact of not being risk-literate.

The reporting or communication of risk is often part of the problem. Frequently when we are told of a risk, we are not told the absolute, but only the relative risk. A tragic case study of this was a front page article reporting that the contraceptive pill ‘doubled’ risks of thrombosis. The actual risk study showed that 2 in 7000 pill takers developed the condition, compared to only 1 in 7000 non-pill takers. So the absolute increase in risk is 1 in 7000 or 0.0001 per cent. Sadly, the panic following the article led to a surge in unplanned pregnancies and an estimated 13,000 additional abortions the following year.

Always Ask, Percent of What? What is the Absolute Risk Increase?

Risk differs from uncertainty – the former is when the variables are (more or less) known. The second when they’re not. Risk not the same as uncertainty. The best decision under risk is not the best decision under uncertainty. It is important for marketers to understand this, since there is always some element of uncertainty in any communications campaign. You cannot predict what will be happening in the lives of your target audience on any given day, or what external factors may have an impact on how your activity is interpreted.

Heuristics are a good way of making complex decisions in uncertain situations. Heuristics are, in Gigernezer’s words, ‘rules of thumb’. The example he gave was catching a high ball – rather than trying to carry out the various equations required to know how fast to run to predict its flight and catch it, we instinctively know that if our eye-line to the ball remains steady as it falls we will intercept it. This is despite uncertainty around gravity, wind speed, acceleration rates etc. The pilots of the plane that ditched in the Hudson River in 2009 used this – they saw that the airport tower was ‘falling’ in their eye-line, and knew they would not make the runway.

Heuristics are in fact so useful in decision making in uncertain situations they tend to be more accurate than relying on ‘expertise’. The example was given of a famous Nobel Prize winning stock market investor who invented a complex algorithm for predicting stock performance. While this has been widely adopted, for his own investments he simply uses the formula 1/n (n=number of investments) to decide investment weighting, i.e. he evenly spreads them and never invests in a product he doesn’t understand. This simple ‘heuristic’ outperformed complex weighting algorithms 70 per cent of the time.

However people tend to prefer relying on experts. In business this is sometimes manifested in ‘defensive decision making’ – where the risk is outsourced by the decision maker. Even when he/she instinctively feels a decision is bad, by going with the ‘expert’ or the committee he/she does not take the blame. So the team suffers but the individual is protected. In Gigernezer’s research more than 90 per cent of senior execs admitted to using this tactic.

Leaders Take Risks

Leadership is about taking risks if instinct tells you it is the right thing to do.

On the dangers of relying on ‘experience’ over instinct Gigernezer described the ‘turkey illusion’. Initially turkeys fear humans, but as they are repeatedly fed and not threatened by humans, that fear reduces. And if the turkey decided to use algorithmic models based on its past experience forecasting risk, by the 100th day the turkey would perceive the risk to now be negligible. Except it’s now Thanksgiving Day.

If you don’t understand the context, you don’t understand the risk – so the situation actually remains uncertain, and the turkey should have kept listening to its instincts.

Key Takeaways

  • Complex problems often require simple solutions, driven by instinct or innate heuristics.
  • Risk is important – we need to take risks and sometimes fail, because by trying to avoid all risks we a) kid ourselves, and b) are actually more likely to fail.
  • To quote another German psychologist, Erich Fromm, ‘creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties’.
  • By understanding, and embracing, the inevitable uncertainties we face as marketers we can make better decisions. Highly creative campaigns will always involve an element of risk. But there is also inherent risk in non-creative campaigns, it is just less apparent.


Make Art, Not Ads

A visit to an Austin art gallery brought to light something I’ve been thinking about lately. The line between art and advertising—when done right—can be nonexistent. Replace the artist’s signature with a tasteful logo, and with the best ads, the difference is negligible. The most compelling pieces shared a theme: They were unexpected. They had a twist that challenged what I thought I already knew. How can we use this to make art, not ads? Here are some places to start.

Is It Wall-Worthy?

Is it aesthetically pleasing? Does it look like a piece of art you might hang in your home? Lego and Penguin Audiobooks both mastered the art of wall-worthiness with these visually powerful campaigns. No words are included, simply because none are necessary.

Blattner Brunner for Lego:



McCann Worldgroup, Mumbai, India, for Penguin Audiobooks:


Play With Mediums

Change the way a platform is normally used. See everything as a potential canvas. Dana Tanamachi has created a niche for herself making beautiful chalk art for a range of brands, including Burton Snowboards and Nike. You’re not supposed to play with your food, but in this case, Target does it—tastefully. French agency June21 transformed a common bus stop billboard—first into a recycling center, then into a beautiful art display.

Dana Tanamachi for Burton Snowboards:



Allan Peters for Target:

Make People Feel

Advertising doesn’t go viral because people are indifferent about it. It goes viral because it forces people to get something out of it: a laugh, a cry, an inspiration, a new perspective. No one is better at this art than viral king Casey Neistat. In another example, shot on a mere $1,300 budget, this provocative, heartwarming video surpassed 75 million views. The train system in Melbourne, Australia, could have created yet another dull (and ignored) safety video, but instead, took this satisfyingly dark humor approach.

Casey Niestat for Nike:


McCann Melbourne for Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia:

Have an Opinion

Don’t be afraid to stand for something. Google got major props when it expressed its “difference in opinion” over Russia’s intolerance of gay rights during the Sochi Olympics. Based on taking a stand for women, Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, which recently turned 10, has been well-received—and shared—time and time again.

Cynthia Wade for Dove:

What do you think makes advertising art? Leave a comment below so we can discuss it further.

Recent research by the Harvard Business Review proves that artistic value in advertising does in fact have a positive impact on its effectiveness to drive conversion. Download the Creativity in Advertising: When It Works and When It Doesn’t report to learn more.

Marketing Automation and Creativity: a Yin and Yang Relationship?

reading tabletWe are happy to welcome a guest blogger, Ray Coppinger, Online Marketing Manager EMEA from Marketo.

Automation is a very clinical word, isn’t it? What comes to mind when you hear it? I think of Orwell’s Big Brother and I see “greyness”, conformity and lack of freedom. It’s definitely not a word I would associate with creativity.

So it may seem paradoxical but when I think of marketing automation and creativity, I see a truly symbiotic relationship. Creativity is supported and enabled by marketing automation; while marketing automation requires creativity to reach its full potential. The art of creativity and the scientific approach to marketing embody opposite, but not necessarily opposing, principles. A bit like Yin and Yang; when the two achieve harmony, the outcome is a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the parts.

Let’s explore this idea and see some real examples of how marketing automation and creativity drive better experiences, happier customers and more revenue.

Marketing Automation: A Catalyst for Creativity

Many eulogies have been written for email marketing over the last few years. The infamous line that “email marketing is dead” delivers approximately 170 million search results in Google. Yet, email remains the most effective and profitable way to turn prospects into customers.

Email Marketing is one of the core components of marketing automation – not email marketing in the “batch and blast” way but intelligent, behavior based email marketing that only marketing automation platforms can deliver in a sustainable, scalable way. Consider for a moment, the traditional approach to email marketing – build a database of names, segment into lists (e.g. industry, location), send emails and then repeat. This approach is effective up to a certain point but is constrained by data that won’t evolve and get richer (beyond the email activity). Ultimately, this doesn’t account for how your customers and prospects interact with you.

With marketing automation being able to provide the intersection between demographic and behavioral data, real 1:1 relationships can be created at scale. So, you want to target all individuals over the age of 40 in London, who subscribe to your newsletter and have visited your pricing page in the last week? No problem. You want to thank everyone who subscribed to your blog today and give them a gift-card because you reached 1000 subscribers? Easy. Marketing automation gives marketers a single, complete view of the people in their database. It provides the creative “dots” and all marketers need to do, is join those dots to create intelligent and helpful marketing experiences.

Creativity: The Secret Sauce of Marketing Automation

So, we can see that marketing automation is an incredibly powerful tool for helping marketers to be in the right place, at the right time. But getting there becomes the easy part – engagement has to be the objective. This is where creativity becomes the secret sauce. If we again focus on email marketing, there are an almost infinite number of ways that creativity in the content, design and overall experience (from inbox to landing page) can impact the chances of engagement.

Take the humble subject line as an example; a very significant 64% of emails are opened just because of the subject line. So how creative can you get? Are you educating, asking a question or announcing a sale in your subject line? The impact of this very small part of an email demonstrates perfectly how creative content matters; without it, the value of marketing automation is greatly reduced. And how about the actual content in the email itself? Is your copy “human”? Does it read like a template, which was prepared for a batch and blast email? Or does it sound like someone typed out a note directly for the recipient? Again, all these questions point to the importance of creative content in taking advantage of being in the right place at the right time.

Today’s marketer has an incredibly tough job to capture the attention of their customers or prospects. Everyday, there are more competitors for that attention. So, it has never been more important to ensure that marketers are giving themselves the best chance by communicating at the right time and with content that demands attention and drives engagement.

Colorful Emotions

6088690308_1439df8198_zBecause people shop emotionally, if you really want your advertising to connect with them, you need to appeal to their hearts, as well as their heads.

Creative advertising taps into emotions and helps your brand develop a connection with the buyer. And if people feel connected with you, they’re more likely to buy from you.

So what can we do to make sure our communications get people feeling as well as thinking?

Obviously there are numerous methods. But because most of them have been used by advertisers for many years, we have a lot of insight and knowledge about what works.

There are too many to include all of them here, but we’ll make a start with one of the key elements in any piece of communication – color.

Color: Conditioning and Culture

93% of people say color influences purchases. But how do we know which colors work best? Well, fortunately certain colors seem to evoke similar emotions in most people. It’s part of our conditioning. We see yellow and think of sunflowers and summer months; we see grey and think of dark wintery days.

Of course, culture affects how people react to color, too – that’s because certain colors come to be associated with certain values. In the west, white is the color of ‘purity’ and is associated with marriage. Whereas in India, red is the color of marriage. And in China, white is associated with funerals.

Cultural associations also change over time; for example, pink has come to be associated with women because it’s seen as a ‘feminine’ color. But did you know pink used to be for boys and blue for girls? It’s true – in the 19th century England, pink ribbons or decorations were often worn by boys, and while men wore red uniforms, boys wore pink. Blue was popular for girls because it’s the color the Virgin Mary is traditionally pictured in.

You probably find this very odd because pink has been internalized as the ‘natural’ color to express a certain type of femininity.

Because of this, advertisers often use pink to attract the female audience, but like most people, women are more complex, and can sometimes react against pink in advertising. In fact, when making certain purchase decisions, they may not want to be associated with a ‘girly’ femininity. Take cars: some women may like pink, fluffy cars, but research carried out by iSeeCars, and cited in Forbes, shows that women often want cars in colors that are not traditionally seen as ‘feminine’.

So, the point I’m making is that we must be careful not to leap on stereotypical color choices as they can backfire, provoking the wrong emotion and causing a disconnect.

The message is – be careful with color. It’s easy to let personal taste, pre-conceptions and stereotypes affect your judgement. But your agency creatives have been trained in using color and will be able to advise on how best to use it.

Photo credit: Vishwas Krishna
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