Amplifying Your Brand: Why Real-Time Data Is Your New Secret Weapon
Recently, I had the privilege of attending a Forbes CMO Summit, where a fantastic group of CMOs from some of the world's top brands were talking about data. What came through in these discussions was their frustration with the emphasis on the bottom of the marketing funnel when it comes to data, when they believe their focus should be more on creativity and building a brand.
And let's face it: The data that makes CFOs happy — conversion data, ROAS, and ROI — are different than what creatives use. Creatives conduct brand lift studies. Or they A/B test concepts and assets to see what will give their brand an edge in the marketplace.
But once you've established that edge, how do you amplify it? How do you get your earned, owned, and paid media working for you in the best possible way? And when you're talking about paid media, are you using data to your advantage to help answer fundamental questions — questions like:
Here, we call these questions the "Rise Five." And the only way to answer them in real time is by having a robust data infrastructure and knowing what to do with it.
It's something our Chief Technology Officer, Brent Laufenberg, and I have been working toward for quite some time — evolving Connex®, our media optimization platform, to enable CMOs to see how their media spend is pacing and performing across every channel and inform their decision-making to fuel their brand engine.
70-80% of marketing time is spent tracking, organizing, and understanding data, leaving only 20% of the time for thinking about strategy and how to shift tactics or marketing spend to where it best serves the business.
We wanted a way to automate the answers to questions 1, 2, and 3 so that marketers can spend all their time on questions 4 and 5, where they can impact business results the most. I thought I'd share excerpts of our conversation, which you might find helpful in a world where cookies are going away, and marketers will need a way to make decisions about how media is performing across digital channels, all in one place.
Larry: Brent, before we get into the details of how companies can use data to optimize a brand's performance, I want to explain what we mean by "real-time data." What we're doing right now is pulling data at its most frequent availability according to the platform. So, for channels that will only let you pull information once a day, daily is then what we call real time. For search platforms, real-time is every 15 minutes. And what we're moving toward is real-time data in the literal sense — whenever we want or need it.
Now, having clarified this, explain for those who may not be familiar what Connex is and why we created it.
Brent: Absolutely. The exponential proliferation of advertising platforms and constantly changing capabilities within those platforms is a big problem for marketers. Connex brings all that media information together in one place. Think of it as an at-scale, at-your-fingertips paid media management platform. What makes it special is not just the analytics and integration of the data but the awareness of what's going on in real time and the action you can take off that data to optimize the performance of your campaigns.
Larry: So, what kinds of answers can marketers get from Connex that they can't get elsewhere?
Brent: While many agencies do what's called flat pacing, Connex offers pacing across all major social platforms, search, and e-commerce marketplaces. So, for example, let's say you have $30,000 to spend on media this month. Flat pacing divides the number of days in the month by the amount of spend you have. The pace, in this case, would be $1,000 a day.
But we all know there are business cycles, trends, seasonal opportunities, and news moments that can significantly affect demand and opportunities for businesses — Cyber Monday is a great example. There are also certain months, weeks, or days that matter more to a company's sales cycle than others. Using Connex, we can look at our clients' historical data and, based on past performance, provide pacing recommendations that are weighted on days that have proven to matter more and can be automatically adjusted to maximize the value of their spend for every single day of a campaign. It's a much more sophisticated way of thinking about how to allocate spend and then actively managing it as actuals come in.
Larry: And it's what we're enabling marketers to do with this pacing that really sets Connex apart, don't you think?
Brent: Exactly. The ability to pace at this level of granularity, particularly across social platforms, is a singular capability that Rise offers. It allows us to really dial into client spend and optimize it across social platforms and digital channels to reach their customers when and where they're taking action. We can also set alerts around any data metric that notify us of time-sensitive opportunities and risks and help us determine what, if anything, we need to do next.
Larry: I think the alerts are a compelling and powerful way of maximizing results. Do you have an example of this you can share?
Brent: Yes, we've done some case studies that will help. For instance, we have a large e-commerce client that sets up alerts three or four times throughout the day. We wanted to see if certain product segments were overperforming against their goal but still had room to push more ad spend for greater returns. So, multiple times a day, Connex was identifying opportunities to either spend more or pull back by category. Within two weeks of using these alerts, the client saw a 54% increase in return on ad spend and decreased their CPC by 28%. Their overall costs went down by 40% purely based on the fact that we could respond and react to those fluctuations in real time.
Larry: Currently, most advertising budgets are delineated by channels, but I think that's about to change, how do you see it?
Brent: I agree. Today, we're seeing platforms and engines use walled gardens to keep advertisers within their ecosystems, making it hard for them to see and understand consumer touch points across different ecosystems — how customers interact with Google versus Amazon versus Meta.
To grow, modern enterprises can't put all their dollars in one ecosystem. Real-time, cross-channel data allows marketers to allocate dollars with an audience-first, adaptable strategy that follows their customers' journeys and optimizes for what's working or not working for those audiences, as opposed to within specific platforms.
Larry: Let's say it's the 16th of the month, and you need to improve performance by the month’s end. How can real-time data in Connex be used to make that happen?
Brent: You can slice your data by the audience, by funnel, by product category, etc., depending on your business goals to see where your dollars are performing best and worst and then reallocate dollars to the top-performing creative, channel, etc. that's providing the greatest return. The beauty of real-time data in Connex is that you can make decisions very quickly and see the performance gains very quickly.
Larry: What's next for Connex?
Brent: We're focused on developing even more ways to make data actionable in a meaningful way for our clients. In 2024, we will launch programmatic pacing and then a combined, cross-channel pacing dashboard that shows a marketer their whole digital spend — where they're spending and how it's performing against goals and budget. And while we've been using a lot of historical data to provide recommendations, there's an opportunity to build in predictive budgeting and predictive modeling.
Larry: Yes, I find this exciting because it really answers the important question of incrementality in marketing. It could help answer the question, "If I gave you $10,000 additional media dollars, how many more conversions could you generate?" And the reverse for budget cuts, "What will it cost us if we reduce our spend?"
Brent: Right. There are exciting opportunities for us to data mine and use machine learning and predictive models to make those types of recommendations within a channel, as well as across channels. From this foundation, we could gain a real understanding of incrementality. And in terms of forecasting KPIs and goal setting, it could show us what each marketing dollar equals in business gains.
Larry: I was just telling a reporter recently that to turn data into a powerful decision-making engine in the workplace, I believe you need to bring together three critical pieces:
When you combine talented people with robust data and systems that other companies don't have, your business will evolve.
But I also think it's important not to lose sight of the fact that there are different types of data for different types of roles and different purposes. It can be built into the creative process in a way that will give marketers an edge. It does have a place at the top of the marketing funnel.