Campaign planning with audience-first strategy

23rd September 2020

Before we get into audience first strategy, it’s true that a great, big idea is what drives successful campaigns – no matter the budget.

Good ideas sell. 100% agreed.

Data doesn’t replace that approach, ever.

In order to arrive at those ideas, first, you need knowledge about an audience or potential customer. Usually, that knowledge is institutional, or it comes from a piece of research. Often, that research takes some time that we don’t always have.

Research can also be biased.

Here, at D/A, we advocate an ‘audience-first’ scientific approach to campaign planning, brand strategy and marketing implementation. Our proprietary Sila tool helps with this.

It doesn’t replace creativity, it layers it to be more memorable for consumers. Even if your audience is everyone, knowing them is the battle.

We try to make that easier.

What is Audience First strategy?

Simply put it’s knowing your audience more than they know themselves, and putting that at the front of whatever it is we want to do.

We are not talking here about personalisation, which has significant scalability issues.

Audience-first is just as applicable for a brand strategy, category work through to campaign planning.

It’s about a robust understanding of where your customers are. It comes from three main pillars:

  • They key things they care about.
  • The things do they do.
  • Their personality traits.

Answering these questions in a robust way means creatives and media planners have the depth to be able to make work that resonates more deeply. This means effective work, as it drives either greater ROI or more ‘bang for the buck’.

The process follows a very simple process:

  • Identify
  • Monitor
  • Track
  • Segment
  • Preferences
  • Plan

We’re going to share some examples of our approach here.

Starting at the Lake, head north.

Sila is a giant data lake, allowing multiple streams of information to collect over time. By not focusing on keywords, but rather people, we eliminate biases.

Biases can be present on the researcher side by introducing keywords (guessing what is important to a person, from our own perspective) or on the subject side by social desirability bias (saying what I think the interviewer wants to hear).

By starting in the lake we build expertise that allows us to cascade insights through an audience. It works like this:

Audience First Planning Strategy Approach

This is our Identify and Monitor stage.

What’s most important to your audience?

To get what we need from the lake, we apply the data science of transformation, natural language processing and statistical models. Then it’s time for setting about tracking and understanding the audiences preferences.

This is done in three really simple, but strategic ways. First, we track topics that link the defined audience together – what are the common elements?
Topic Understand is important to deciding what an audience considers important

Secondly, data points for the topic allow us to understand audience key demographics.

Demographics from Sila analysis

Lastly, we then are able to work with our connectors to IBM Watson to understand the personality of the audience through a complex, well documented exceptional process that allows us to understand how likely someone is to exhibit a certain behaviour:

Personality Starburst chart from IBM Watson and Sila

That allows a deep understanding of the audience’s preferences, makeup and allows deeper examinations of an audience. By applying a scientific method to this understanding we have an accurate, quick, picture of our audience whether they are one person, or a million.

Layering up your audience first strategy

Getting to the truth of a brand is as important as connecting to a universal truth for our audience. This is where we place the audience first, and then work backwards.

By understanding:

  • Trends and topics;
  • Audience make up and demographics;
  • Pain points and positive elements;
  • Channel presence and use;
  • Digital consumer preferences;
  • Connections and affinities to brands.

We get unique perspectives to the creative to allow a strong base to create something effective. It also gives media planners a specific way of targeting audiences.

This is what makes the difference between a good campaign and one that truly moves the profit needle for a company.

By understanding the complexity of an audience, we’re better able to move needles of profit, and after all – that’s the job of marketing.

Check out this can be scaled from small, to large, in our case studies.

Further reading.

There’s hundreds of articles on what marketing strategy (or, planning) is, and how it comes together to create the foundation of great creativity, aside from the audience-first approach that we have. Our go-to’s are Julian Cole’s Planning Dirty, Mark Pollard’s Sweathead, or follow Zoe Scaman on Twitter for cool insights to Gen-Z globally (warning, some content is NSFW in the swear-y sense).