Closing the loop: it’s time to plan by putting the customer first

by: on 15 January 2015

The paid-owned-earned framework beloved of media planners doesn’t reflect customer reality. It is behaviour-led connected planning that will revolutionise media, says Adam Smith, Head of Media Strategy, dunnhumby.

  • "Brands and their agencies must now look to connect with customers to understand the links between what they see and hear, what they feel and think and what they do, at an individual level."
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  • Adam Smith, Head of Media Strategy, dunnhumby

On paper, the paid-owned-earned framework works. Encompassing creative, media, content, social, word of mouth and more, it ticks all the boxes.

The problem, of course, is that it doesn’t reflect reality. No one heads to the shops on a Saturday afternoon exclaiming “I’ve had an amazing brand experience and I can’t wait to see how the retail engagement part of this customer journey is going to turn out!”

Unfortunately, due to the media metrics and measurement data available, media planners are institutionally conditioned to think in paid-earned-owned silos.

But this channel-centric approach isn’t good enough anymore. Certainly not in a world in which analogue media is digitising fast, and where, with the right connections, newly digitised media becomes not only addressable but personalisable.

Instead, brands and their agencies must now look to connect with customers to understand the links between what they see and hear, what they feel and think and what they do, at an individual level. They must treat customers in the digital space as real people, rather than anonymous clicks, and with a mindset that genuinely aims to make their customers’ digital lives easier, better or simpler as a result.

The benefits of this approach are obvious. Media wastage is reduced, efficiency increased and with smarter and more relevant communications, the overall customer experience is improved. The better the customer experience, the greater the chance of creating loyalty. And it’s loyalty that leads to advocacy and long-term sustainable business growth.

How could we create such an approach? It begins with measurement. Without the right customer level measurement and evaluation, planners and strategists are left to fly blind in a world of aggregated data. We all know that common currencies relevant across all channels are required, but finding these has not always been easy.

But things have changed. It is now possible to connect media exposure with purchase behaviour at household level, for example, matching TV viewing data with the same household’s shopping data. Further overlaying representative attitudinal panels onto these same single source datasets creates the Holy Grail of media planning – a view connecting what customers see, hear, think, feel and do.

This new connected data framework between media exposure, attitudes and purchase data revolutionises the current media planning approach. We can move from disconnected planning focussed on the channel and looking from the outside-in, to a new customer-centric approach that starts by first identifying the customer through behaviours, before extending this behaviour as a common currency in to channels – an inside out model. It removes the ‘line’ that communications have typically resided above or below. It creates a line of sight that crosses platforms, channels and devices and transforms the very nature of traditional brand media from a ‘reach’ only delivery model to one with an ability to be part of an ‘always-on’ CRM plan that for the first time can accurately be measured and evaluated as a driver of repeat purchase, and therefore dialogue.

At dunnhumby, we call this approach connected behavioural planning and it is achieved with a few key steps.

Firstly, segment customer behaviour to understand where future growth will come from.

Businesses must consider more carefully what needs to happen in order to reach their sales targets; Do existing customers need to buy more, lapsed customers need to buy again or new customers need to be attracted to the brand for the first time? It’s probably a combination of all three.

Next, having formed the right data partnerships that connect media exposure and purchase data at an individual level, it is then possible to understand where these different customer segments exist across channels and devices, to know the channels they prefer to engage with and how best to reach them. As a merged single source dataset, it is also possible to ask customers why they prefer a particular medium or buy that brand (over time) by the formation and overlay of representative customer panels.

Finally, it is important to join the dots and bring everything together in a consistent manner. The original segments identified at the measurement and evaluation stage are the same behavioural segments a brand can target and activate their media against. The process therefore creates a silver thread bringing together strategy, insight, planning, buying, measurement and evaluation.

Such an approach means it’s now possible to close the loop. We know what somebody has been exposed to on TV and what has happened as a result. We already know what they were exposed to in-store. And in some cases we also know how they have talked about a product in the social space.

This is connected behavioural planning in action, and it’s not a mythical theory years in to the future. It’s happening right now.

The opportunity for brands and media agencies to put the customer at the heart of their planning in order to build better customer experiences that ultimately create loyalty, value and trust, has been transformed.

By Adam Smith, Head of Media Strategy, dunnhumby