For the latest in our series of Firestarters events for the Performance Marketing community we brought together three fantastic speakers to focus on different aspects of a critical theme – growth. Google have partnered with Econsultancy recently on a piece of research around how performance marketing agencies are catalysing their own and their client's growth so it was an opportune time but we wanted to take a broad look at how performance marketing practice can support revenue and profit growth. On the night we had three very different perspectives which, as can often happen at Firestarters, gave a diverse set of angles on the topic but also contained some common themes.
Phil Barden, Author of Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy, took a consumer focused view on supporting growth through a better understanding of the decision science around purchase behaviour. Using some fascinating examples, he showed how people work with the signals they get in order to make (sometimes counter-intuitive) decisions, and how our models of economic behaviour are far from perfect. Even simple heuristics like our tendency to process numbers by size congruency (the size of pricing on a label can make a big difference to sales), or to make visual-based shortcuts (some discount prices look more like discounts and so are far more effective), or to favour packaging which shows a larger number of the product on it. Phil talked about how marketers (and performance marketers) can easily miss opportunities to make simple, small changes that can have a big effect by combining learnings from psychology and behavioural economics – like the loyalty card with two out of ten occasions pre-stamped which drove a 79% increase in sales, or how playing french music in the wine store drove a huge uplift in french wine sales. If effective advertising starts with getting noticed, simple principles around how we see things, look for contrast, and how eyes like to look at other faces.
If it's then about how we can get recognition and meaning, it becomes about how we can use association, visual cues and processing fluency to support understanding (there was an amazing example of how an ad that featured a piece of cake on a plate with a fork was much more effective when the fork was on the right hand side of the plate rather than the left – because most people are right handed). And if it's then about action and buying behaviour, understanding decision rules and how products can serve specific customer goals can support conversion optimisation (like when guest checkout came in and dramatically increased conversion for retailers). It was a fascinating talk that opened up some interesting questions around how this kind of decision science thinking can combine with the data signals and targeting capabilities that performance agencies are increasingly adept at in order to get the right message to the right person in the right context in a compelling way.
Libby Darley, Performance Planning Director at iProspect spoke about reminding ourselves of the fundamentals of marketing – how the narrative around the fragmentation of attention and short-termism can distract us from the basics of driving growth which is ultimately about selling more, selling TO more, or selling FOR more. The understanding that we have around business objectives and the consumer and company contexts that surround them remain critical. These fundamentals, she said, haven't changed but the context of how we can use data and targeting to deliver them have (but even here she made the point that data has always been used in some context in marketing). She used a lovely example of how she'd personally been able to help a local Theatre company to sell out an event through working within the constraints of a tiny budget but keeping to the fundamentals.
Ultimately the opportunity is for performance marketers to utilise their knowledge of data to serve a clear set of related objectives (business, media, campaign), and then also to work to a clear learning objective which can overlay great targeting with right creative, right time, right context. Be clear about what growth is/means to you, put data at the centre (not an addition) and don't overcomplicate.
Next up, Katherine Sale from Serpico at Croud made the point that performance marketing growth has not been hard to find but emphasised just how important it is for the industry to come back to a true understanding of what will actually make consumers buy from the brands that agencies work with. She used a great example of one of the first TV ads, Claude Hopkins' ad for Pepsodent (a story described in Charles Duhigg's book The Power of Habit) – which helped drive an increase in the proportion of the population that brushed their teeth from 7% to 65%, by bringing to life all the relatable reasons why people should clean their teeth and by creating a new habit. Kat then talked about the importance of relating to changing customer expectation and what people care about now, and how smart use of targeting when combined with a great product or service can really amplify effect – there was a great example here of using analytics for a business insurance business to identify core high value customers and then creating custom segments of highly relevant in-market audiences to deliver an appropriate message, driving an 8% increase in quotes and a 41% decrease in cost per quote.
The talks brought together themes around reminding ourselves of the fundamentals of great marketing and advertising whilst also bringing in new opportunities around combining a better understanding of decision science and how customers make buying choices with the targeting, learning and optimisation capabilities that performance marketing is becoming so good at. My thanks as always to Google for hosting, Scriberia for visualising (you can see the full visualisation below, or a larger version here), and to all those who came and joined in the debate. The next Performance Firestarters will be in the Autumn, so looking forward to that already.