Most Canadian marketers believe that marketing has evolved more over the last two years than the preceding 50. We are now able to find and engage audiences with unprecedented accuracy, intimacy and scale. Digital is the difference. And having the right digital "toolkit" is what separates those taking advantage of the medium and those who aren't. How do you choose the right tools? You want the ones that yield the richest insights around why, what, who, where and when.
Five powerful questions to guide your brand insights toolkit
In the golden age of advertising, there wasn't much data. We observed each other. We crafted messages based on our perception of human psychology. When we told the right stories, it worked, we connected.
Then we increased our ability to look deeper into customer behavior with consumer studies, sales data and market trends. The stories became less intuitive and more scientific. But we oversimplified. We flattened consumer profiles and optimized around common characteristics.
Today, there's a new richness of digital data that's nothing short of revolutionary. And it's mainly because of that richness that most marketers believe marketing has evolved more during the last two years than the preceding 50. The impact of digital data is that profound.
With more power in the hands of the consumer, people are expressing their desires and intentions online. Experiences are personalized. Data is flowing in real-time. We are making huge leaps in data capture, community creation and the engineering of dynamic experiences that are satisfyingly relevant for customers. Marketers are able to find and engage their audiences with tremendous accuracy, intimacy and scale.
But now there's a new challenge. Like the data itself, the customer has become multi-dimensional and quick to evolve. Knowing the customer—having the all-important insights about behavior and intention that lead to better decisions—has become a game where everything is constantly in motion.
So how do you measure something in motion?
With the right tools.
Building your insights toolkit
Every marketer who wants to harness the power of digital needs a robust "insights toolkit"—a set of tools to help optimize their online presence and understand their customers. The tools are free or almost free. The best ones answer five fundamental questions: who, what, where, when and why?
Never before could a marketer find and engage their audience with such accuracy, intimacy and scale.
Digital insight tools calibrate your customers where they gather: online. Most Canadians are now spending more time online than with any other media. And through their searches and conversations about products and services, they are contributing in real-time to the most powerful database of consumer intentions on Earth.
The big bonus is that what we learn from digital can be applied to the overall customer experience, regardless of the canvas: radio, television, print, in-store, online or out of home.
How does a brand design the most meaningful and relevant experiences for ever-evolving consumers?
You start by asking the right questions.
1. WHY do consumers choose your brand?
"Why" is the most important question. Brands are no longer simply products or services. They represent a set of values. Those values are what attract consumers of a similar mindset. How does your brand equity vision compare to your consumer's understanding of your brand? Has your brand equity shifted over time?
Google Trends uncovers keywords associated with your brand and category over a specific period of time. For example, type your brand name and your competitors' brand names into Google Trends; scroll down the page to keywords. This is the way to identify the main and rising keywords that consumers associate with your brand. An interesting exercise is to change the time horizon and see how these keywords shift over time, or to explore how this varies by geography.
Google Consumer Surveys is a low-cost, real-time digital survey platform that provides a way for brands to poll a national or custom audience. Results are available within a few days. Consider creating a survey asking Canadians who have purchased your products within the last 30 days what they associate with your brand. To take this one step further, create a quarterly recurring survey that shows how your brand associations are evolving over time.
2. WHAT benefits do your consumers value?
Digital "touchpoints" are where you can peer into the functional benefits of your product or service. These include assets like your website, apps, social media communities and review sites. What are consumers saying about your top and lowest offerings? What types of product or service content are being consumed at each touchpoint?
Reviewing sites (such as yelp.com or amazon.ca) can help uncover how consumers feel about your product or service lineup. Look at ratings and reviews for your top and lowest sellers to identify attributes customers are associating with your offering.
Try the Google Keyword Planner to identify functional keywords that consumers associate with your products or services. Within your Adwords account, go to "Tool" and then "Keyword Planner." Identify your category, landing page and country to get keyword and ad group ideas. These results can also indicate how consumers bundle terms together and what features they associate with your categories.
Google Correlate helps you find other search terms that have a similar pattern or activity to your own search term. Try entering your brand name or product name into the search box to find other terms that are often searched with yours. Look for terms with a higher correlation co-efficient (r).
3. WHO are your consumers?
With more brand voices competing for attention, finding your brand champions can be difficult. Complicating things is the fact that today's consumer is evolving rapidlyâadopting new technologies, interests and attitudes more readily than ever before.
To better understand the rapidly-evolving consumer, and instead of merely targeting platforms where customers usually hang out, some innovative brands have started looking for "handraisers." These are people who are making choice-based actions to interact with your brand: searching for your category, visiting your website, downloading your app, clicking on your ads and watching your videos. These are fans. They want to engage and experience your brand. And they want to hear from you.
Understanding your handraisers can help your brand further refine the why and what. For example, is an unexpected consumer segment interacting with your brand? Are they using your products and services based on the intended use, or do they see an alternative value proposition outside of your established value proposition?
Brands and agencies are leveraging Google Consumer Surveys to find out more about their consumers' tastes and preferences. Create a survey to test creative concepts, discover lifestyle trends and identify preferences for your target audience. Google Consumer Surveys will automatically allow you to analyze your data using gender, demographic, geographic and household income filters.
Demographic profiles and affinity snapshots of your site visitors are now included in Google Analytics. To find these, go to the "Audience" menu and select "Demographics" or "Interests." Affinity snapshots help brand marketers understand the types of content that resonate with customers. From aspiring chefs to do-it-yourselfers, you might be surprised at who shows up as a brand handraiser.
4. WHERE are consumers finding you?
Referral sources are how consumers find you. These sources can shed valuable light on the strength of your marketing campaigns and identify your most influential advocates. For example, are consumers going straight to your site or directly to a product landing page? How does this behavior change when you have an active TV, radio or digital campaign in market? You can also find out if many visitors are navigating to your site from third-party review sites. Why would your consumers trust a third-party community over ratings or reviews on your own site?
How consumers find you can help reinforce your brand equity and help you identify ways to further enhance the customer experience.
Google Analytics can provide a wealth of information about your shopper base. If you have e-commerce enabled, you can identify the average value of a customer by referral source and how loyal a customer is to your brand, based on visit frequency, preferred content and purchase-interest indicators. To find out more about how customers find you, navigate to the "Acquisition" menu in Google Analytics.
The Customer Journey to Online Purchase tool is a powerful way to understand different media channels with which a customer engages prior to making an online purchase with you. Select your country and industry to find out which digital channels assist—build awareness, consideration, and intent—and which channels are most likely to be the final interaction prior to purchase.
5. WHEN do consumers interact with you?
Understanding when consumers interact with you is another way to map back to the foundations of your brand—the what and why. Do customers search for your brand during certain times of the year? Are consumers interacting with your digital touchpoints during operational hours? Is a large percentage of your consumer base browsing your offering when they really should be sleeping? Or perhaps they are in-store, checking prices or product features on their smartphones.
Google Trends highlights when consumers search for your brands and competitors. Try using the tool to determine your brand's distinct competitive set. Do all brands in your category peak at the same point during the year or do different brands peak at different times?
Google AdWords and Google Analytics can both provide more granular insight into when handraisers are searching for your brands and interacting with your digital touchpoints. Try looking for time-of-day or day-of-week patterns of behavior and how these vary when you have an active campaign in market.
Knowing the narrative before telling the story
As humans, we all have personal narratives that run deep. They are ever-changing accounts of our journey to find meaning in an increasingly chaotic world. Like our personal narratives, great marketing can carve meaning from chaos. It can describe — in :30s, 140 characters or on a billboard alongside a crowded highway—a vision of a world we want to believe in.
As marketers, our mission is to align the stories of our brands with the narratives of our customers.
And our customers are helping us. They are relating their narratives in a staggering outpouring of voluntary online sharing. Their handraising is the brightest beacon of what's working, what is not working and what could work. And with the right tools, those insights can be yours.
 ADOBE | DIGITAL DISTRESS: What Keeps Marketers Up at Night? Slide 10.
 The 2013 CMUST Report: Unearthing Internet Time (Commissioned by IAB Canada). Dec 2013.