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Not All Women Want Minivans

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All too often advertisers make assumptions instead of data-based decisions on what consumers want and how to market it to them. Consider the auto industry as a prime example.

With the end of the year nearing, car dealerships are working feverishly to move cars off their lots to make room for new stock. But as they devise their marketing strategies, many are missing the mark with half of their audience: women.

Women influence the vast majority of automotive purchases. Yet, a recent study by TI Media reveals that nearly three-quarters of women believe the automotive industry doesn’t understand them as consumers. The survey also found that 41% of women think car ads are mostly aimed at men.

It’s time automobile manufacturers and dealerships stop overlooking female buyers, and worse, making assumptions about what women want, and don’t want, in a vehicle.

There is no shortage of contextually targeted car ads, but brands are casting a narrow net. One study even shows that luxury car dealers should be working harder to attract millennial women instead of older men, but I don’t think dealers see it that way.

To build relationships with and engage female buyers, car manufacturers and dealers need to expand their distribution strategies beyond automotive-related content. And while the days of blatant sexism are (mostly) behind us, automotive advertisers need to be sure that ad creative reflects the diverse criteria that informs decision-making, regardless of gender. There is a reason Cadillac’s 2008 ad campaign featuring Kate Walsh is so memorable. It embraces Walsh’s beauty, femininity, and most notably, power.

Thinking beyond the expected

Auto brands need a strategy that is equal parts data and emotion. Ford got the memo. It used an elaborate prank tied to Valentine’s Day to promote its Ford Mustang and crush the cliché that women are bad drivers. Ford asked unsuspecting guys to go on a blind date with a professional stunt driver who speeds off with them in a red Mustang. The guys’ reactions will make you laugh out loud. Kudos to Ford for remembering its female audience and using humor and creativity to reach them in a memorable way.

Mustang ad with stunt driver

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First-party data and market research serve as a baseline, but you need to go deeper and think beyond age and gender. This means bolstering targeting with third-party datasets, including data on prospects’ interests, past purchases, and search history, so you can target the right women with the cars that meet their interests.

If someone is reading mom blogs and searching for car safety ratings, then by all means, promote your family-friendly vehicle with the spacious trunk and proactive crash protection technology. But don’t automatically serve that creative to every female. There are plenty of women who would love to have been the driver doing donuts in that red Mustang.

Your prospect could care about speed, fashion, fuel efficiency—or all three. Studiesshow that female car buyers are meticulous researchers and less likely to make impulsive decisions or be swayed by aesthetics than their male counterparts. Advertisers have an opportunity to use programmatic — specifically, dynamic creative — to target female users with native ads customized to their predicted auto preferences, device usage, shopping behaviors, even color preferences.

Yes, advertisers need data. And most have the data they need to understand each buyer’s unique preferences and behaviors. But they also need human expertise, so they can interrupt that data. Advertisers — in the auto industry and elsewhere — should use that data and intuition to personalize both targeting strategy and creative, so they can have a more genuine conversation with buyers, rather than relying on sweeping generalizations.

Krysta Cain is director, operations, at Causal IQ

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DriveTribe's profit pursuit required solving social and digital media's biggest problems

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DriveTribe, the car-community media brand founded by The Grand Tour trio Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May in 2016, is gaining momentum by developing a unique business model that informs the marketing campaigns of the world’s biggest auto brands.

The media brand's website looks like a cross between an auto publication, Facebook and Reddit. It has arranged its content around ‘Tribes’ like Motorsports, Rally, Celebrity and more, all administered by a team of around 50 staff members and countless regular contributors. To get to this scale, it has had to solve the monetisation issues plaguing digital media and the algorithmic hiccups hampering social media companies like Facebook – and in doing both it has developed an engagement-centric model that it is now pitching to brands.

DriveTribe's chief executive, Jonathan Morris and contributor James May, spoke to The Drum about how the brand is now serving as a ‘petri dish’ for marketers. Morris believes the Tribe approach may serve as a guiding light to niche publishers intent on delivering maximum value to vital brand partners.

In its first year, DriveTribe breached one million users. With the scale in the bag, the next step was to attract brand partners to pursue profitability and sure enough in year two it signed its first major advertiser in Audi. Its Audi e-vehicle content, it found, generated valuable feedback from users and since then, it has been able to levy the power of its highly-engaged enthusiast audience as market research. Auto partners, including Renault, have come aboard for this mix of marketing and fact-finding.

It may come as a surprise, Morris admits, that DriveTribe did not have a solid business model until he took over in November 2017.

Unique partnerships

He says: “Year one was about growing the audience and the brand – and we learned we should steer clear of the social media advertising arbitrage model where you buy £100 of ads on Facebook to make £105 pounds in impression-based advertising.”

Pumping up the scale of the mag to monetise a niche site is a “mug’s game” in his opinion. “Unless you are already very big then the best you can do is lose less money than your competitors.”

Instead, DriveTribe realised that its users generate millions of data points (around 15m at the moment). This can inform brands about auto trends and user opinion.

DriveTribe 2

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When courting advertisers, DriveTribe downplays promises of vast social reach buyers may have come to expect. It has learned that several clients also had doubts about the effectiveness of mass reach against a highly engaged audience, and that the auto industry is in need of guidance from consumers. It is currently being disrupted by tech like self-driving cars, sustainable fuel, new car financing, Uber and environmental and health awareness.

These industry shifts mean that “the big brands have to change how they market and how they talk to users,” Morris says. "They need communities they can talk to." DriveTribe has positioned itself to deliver this.

The discovery of this model was in someways a fortuitous accident. Morris realised that Drivetribe was already a brand-friendly place where users discussed the pros and cons of certain car brands. It trialled content marketing, surveys and more to help Audi (better) promote the Audi e-tron electric car.

e-tron quiz

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“We discovered that Audi’s e-tron marketing wasn't quite hitting the right notes. They believed consumers were most concerned about range anxiety and speed but our data found the opposite. Range concerns were overblown, many were planning to buy for the school run and train stations runs as most of them don't actually drive long distances. Also marketing it as a performance car was wrong [because] people were worried they could accelerate too quickly and would put it in the wrong gear and blast through the back of the garage.”

The Tribes were most curious about the e-tron's interior design, its accessories and the noise of its engine. The media brand claims its feedback and data capture is more credible than the industry-standard weighted consumer research and the next stage is to build e-commerce and competition incentives into the product.

Morris says: “Investors see us as a petri dish for a future business model that is not reliant on monthly active users but daily active users and the number of data points they are putting into the core system. Our model is more like a mobile game than an impressions-based publisher”.

As a result, DriveTribe boasts users, not readers, and it needs them to engage as often as possible. To do this, it is looking to inspire a higher quality of content from its top contributors with an ad-revenue share system called Money Box which can be applied for by top creators.

The algorithm issues

In-house journalism and user-generated content were once exclusively ranked and placed by DriveTribe’s all-seeing algorithm; this opened the site to abuse and the algorithm lacked the nuance to spot an informative video or compelling opinion piece.

Morris admits that early criticism was not entirely unfounded. “In the early days a funny, spammy post could perform well because the algorithm loved it. We learned that you need to have real human beings checking that the algorithm hasn't gone mad.”

A team of around 150 ambassadors were put in place to run the Tribes and elevate the best content to make the site a fairer place and live up to DriveTribe's demographic promise.

“Someone who posts one piece of great content a month has a fair crack of the whip now, at the start you could bang out a post every ten minutes and the algorithm would love you – to the detriment of the users.”

He adds: “We were naive and soon realised that we were going to suffer from all of the problems of the big social networks. But, because we are around the car vertical (rather than everything from cat videos to family pictures) we were able to solve that much easier than Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.”

Furthermore, to improve the health of the site, it culled thousands of “zombie Tribes” to focus on the ones that were flourishing.

The launch of this new platform was timed to coincide with the release of Amazon’s first season of The Grand Tour to best benefit from a publicity lift generated by the fame (or infamy) of Clarkson, Hammond and May. Morris admits: “We took a bit of heat about the fact it wasn't perfect on day one. It was nigh on impossible to immediately get it right.”

With series investment into a bulky digital team, DriveTribe owns a platform it now must attract users to. This high-risk, high-reward approach at least insulates the media company from the wider movements in the world of social and search. To social media-dependent publishers, Morris warns: “It could all go away tomorrow with the strike of a pen from Mark Zuckerberg, he has the total right to do that. It concerns me that so many startups rely on social networks. It is a mistake to assume these guys are on your side."

To him, it is “the guys with owned and operated platforms that will win in the end”.

The Grand Tour trio

DriveTribe would not be here today without the marketing lift granted by Clarkson, Hammond and May. Morris says they bring social influence, deliver content, status, guide the product, engage the community and work with commercial partners – the trio are in some cases are bigger brands than most car manufacturers.

“This isn't a startup where the celebrities are never seen or heard from, they are very involved and will be at the staff Christmas party. They are a strong guiding light.

"It was one of the reasons we went to market so quickly. You usually do a soft launch and get it right but we had to immediately jump off the cliff. I would have fewer grey hairs if we had [soft launched] but now we are quite well known."

James May

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TV personality and The Grand Tour host James May shared with The Drum he weighs his responsibilities between the brands.

"Amazon has come to see the value of it. They think it is pretty cool. [The Grand Tour and DriveTribe] are perfectly complementary, some people say ‘that is TV, you shouldn't put it on the internet’ but our TV show is actually on the internet so they are not very far apart really.”

He then led into his experience of working on DriveTribe. He writes long-form reviews, runs selfie-like updates and even leans into his inner influencer by partaking in unboxing videos. Captain Slow is speeding into the future of media – perhaps.

James May on digital advertising

"I don't know very much about the business models for advertising but … there is a definite shift in the attitude of advertisers towards things that are focused and engaged rather than bland and enormous.

"Across the internet, advertising, pop-ups and pre-roll are just bloody irritating. It's on YouTube, newspapers webpages. If it is intelligently done, like on DriveTribe, properly focused and bespoke advertising is actually a form of content.

"I am interested in making things out of wood and metal, so if ads come up for interesting tools or shops, I don't get annoyed because that is really relevant.

"That is true of DriveTribe, it is not blunderbuss ads fired at it because there are millions of people using it, it is very focused advertising pointed towards the people who should find that stuff relevant or intriguing. You should never open a piece and be annoyed by the ad."

He says: “In some ways, this is what we always wanted to do. I was never a news journalist, when I wrote for The Telegraph and car magazines, I wrote columns and reviews and travel stories. I remember there was a moment in the history of The Daily Telegraph that they put it online and there would be discussions on my columns between a fairly hardcore, regular number of people that we could debate and I always enjoyed that. DriveTribe is a very sophisticated and inclusive version of that on a bespoke platform that allows for videos and nice pictures and is very easy to use."

May suggests some hacks may fear this discourse with their readers. “They are worried that it will find them out. Paper was the best that we had, the ideas are not different they are just more accessible, and more people can join in.”

For him, DriveTribe encapsulates many of the best aspects of social media, and sidesteps some of the worst.

“DriveTribe is devoted to one subject in its very broadest form, it is not a hardcore car-nerd website but it is not Twitter either. You get car stuff on Twitter and Facebook but DriveTribe is a community, there is always that common ground. You are dealing with people that are at least intrigued by the subject in some way so the responses tend not to be nasty, but constructive or critical and therefore generally quite stimulating.”

In particular, some of the discussion he has generated around certain topics has given him the belief that there is something that clicks with this community-based approach to media.

“it is not about getting millions and millions of people to click your post or hit the Like button, the measure of your success is how many people want to join in the discussion.

“I thought that about TV as well, it is important that the people watching get something out of it. We all secretly want millions of people to watch our shows because we all have fragile egos and we are inadequate and that is why we are on TV but ultimately it feels better to go niche and get a really positive or impassioned response than to do something big and bland that maybe gets a lot of viewers but doesn't leave you any wiser.”

May concludes: “You could do these verticals over anything, people associate us with cars so we did it about cars. When you are known pretty much globally for arseing around with cars, it will help a lot more than just being a startup.”

Chief strategy officer of DriveTribe Richard Beech offered a hint of where the company is going.

“After a good year of commercialisation, we have a model we can scale up and move to other verticals. The next level of funding will help the title scale up and slip into new verticals under the same model.”

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The five tenets of clean data: Preparing chatbot data for marketing personalisation

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Organisations are already using live web chat – and increasingly chatbots – as a critical sales and customer support channel. Gartner says over 80% of companies offer some form of live chat on their website or mobile applications in order to interact with customers, and the chatbot market is likely to grow to $994 million by 2024 according to other market research. Since web chat is both 17-30% cheaper to address questions than a phone call and has the ability to increase conversion by around 20%, this explosion in growth isn’t surprising.

Because web chats and chatbot data can include rich detail about customers – product preferences, complaints or changes to their account – businesses are seeking out more advanced ways to leverage the data in these conversations. The most popular initiative is utilising the data to develop a 360 degree customer profile, which are of the basis of personalised marketing. With 41% of consumers saying they will ditch a company that doesn’t personalise their product/service effectively, bettering understanding customers is no longer just a nice-to-have.

Often the biggest barrier to leveraging web chat and chatbot data, however, is preparing it. Cleansing and preparing this unstructured data and incorporating it with structured customer information has typically required highly skilled data scientists spending enormous amounts of time to bring these diverse sources of data together. This challenge is only multiplied by the rate at which chats are generated, which, for most organisations, can reach the hundreds of thousands each month.

As marketers begin preparing this data, there are several considerations to keep in mind in order to extract the most value from it, ensure its accuracy, and utilise solutions to accelerate the notoriously time-consuming process. At Trifacta, we call these considerations our tenets of clean data. For those working with web chat or chatbot data – or any diverse data – we’ve listed them below.

Understand the context to set appropriate targets

Involving individuals with the appropriate context for the data they are working with at the preparation stage is essential to understanding how it should be transformed and what “good enough” looks like from a data quality perspective. For web chat and chatbot data, those who are closely aligned to customers and associated business objectives can better understand the nuances of it, and focus their preparation efforts and targets accordingly.

Identify issues early and often

When preparing any data – unstructured or otherwise – it’s essential to ensure that the data is consistent, complete ,current and conforms to known standards or patterns. Marketers and their team of experts should be checking every data set against these four Cs of data quality and identify any issues early, and often. Web chat and chatbot data, which is often riddled with typos or mistakes as customers type quickly, is likely to skew the results of any initiative if not remediated. It’s far more efficient to spot these issues early on in the process, rather than when an analysis isn’t delivering quality results.

Allow others across the business to collaborate and contribute additional data

In today’s customer-centric world, there are numerous departments around the business interested in mining web chat data for new insights and contributing their own data to add value to the organisation. For example, combining individual spending patterns from the finance team with positive web chat mentions around “credit cards” or negative mentions about “debt” could help financial services marketers promote certain financial products more accurately. For this kind of data sharing to happen, experts across the business should have the ability to access and transform web chat and chatbot data with data preparation solutions that encourage openness, collaboration and enable easy information sharing. Restricting access to non-PII customer data only restricts the benefits it can generate.

Once preparation is set in motion, constantly monitor

Once organisations automate data preparation workflows to transform this data, they must still continually validate the results of these workflows. They should always look to answer questions like, “is the data that showed up today what we expected? How is it different than what we have historically seen?” and “are variances meaningful?”. This is an ongoing effort that requires automation to ensure data pipelines and the resulting analysis doesn't degrade unexpectedly over time. It’s vital to keep checking back.

Ensure total transparency throughout the entire process

With increasingly strict and evolving legislation around data privacy, being able to ensure transparency throughout the data preparation process is essential. It’s not enough to communicate results; you need to show your work, whether to meet external compliance requirements, or for your own internal credibility. This is particularly important for organisations dealing with highly sensitive information like bank details that may be shared over web chat. To ensure your results are secure and can be reproduced, understood and trusted, you have to be able to audit how and when the data was transformed, as well as who transformed it.

With web chats increasingly becoming the customer service channel of choice, the value that they provide personalised marketing campaigns only continues to grow. This data can help power an organisation, but only with proper data preparation practices, as detailed in the clean data tenets.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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Dolce & Gabbana's branding at all time low in China after racist ad scandal

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Dolce & Gabbana’s brand has fallen in favor among consumers in China since the release of its racist and sexist ads that made fun of chopsticks, which led e-commerce and retail giants to remove its products and the cancellation of its fashion show.

The Italian fashion brand health score has fallen 14.1 points with Chinese consumers, dropping from a relatively healthy score of +3.3 to -11.4, despite the founders of the brand releasing an apology video, according to YouGov.

The market research company’s BrandIndex data found a spike in the number of people seeing D&G ads but said the increase has been largely based on negative sentiment. D&G’s ad awareness score, which measures how many consumers have noticed a brand’s advertisements, was at +1.1. The viral nature of the ad saw its score rise to +12.1, an increase of 11 points.

However, its buzz score, which measures whether people have heard anything positive or negative about a brand, plummeted. A week before the fashion show was cancelled, D&G’s buzz score was at +6.5, but subsequently fell to -15.0.

This indicates a drop of 21.5 points in under two weeks, a big fluctuation for a brand whose score had previously remained steady throughout the year.

With it is recommended score, which measures whether people would recommend the brand to others, falling from +6.0 a week before the cancelled show, to -15.3, according to YouGov, this indicates that consumers are now less likely to recommend the brand to friends and family.

“Whatever its motivation for releasing them, it seems as though Chinese consumers have noticed D&G’s questionable ads,” said Ervin Ha, the head of data products for the Asia Pacific at YouGov.

“While its awareness might have increased, it is to the detriment of its brand health. It remains to be seen how long the downward trend continues and whether the company can salvage its brand image in the eyes of Chinese consumers.”

The downfall of D&G has seen its competitors like Gucci benefiting, with its Index score improving by 3.6 points since in the same time frame while Prada’s rose by 3.1 points.

It remains to be seen if D&G can recover from this saga. Agencies based in China like WE Red Bridge and Stink Shanghai recently spoke to The Drum about how they work with global brands to hit the right note in China.

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