Human Emotion inspires marketers’ data-driven decisions

Media is more powerful than ever. Despite many changes, one thing remains constant. Media – regardless of form or function – provides touch points that enable marketers to connect brands to customers.

Behind each touch point are moments of inspiration. This was the theme of the American Marketing Association’s (AMA) 2014 Annual Conference in New Orleans. For marketers, inspiration is a game changer. Inspired marketing transforms average ideas into exceptional insights.

Today’s brands often turn to big data in search of inspiration. Big data – the ability to transform multiple inputs into meaningful analysis – is top of mind for virtually every marketer. The conference underscored how applying the right data is more important than the volume of data.

When Persuasion Fails, Try Seduction

John Kearnon of BrainJuicer explains, “We think much less than we think we think.” In other words, focusing on relevant data empowers marketers to authentically understand people and their emotions. Marketers that unlock these truths identify what motivates people to take action – learning, sharing, and buying.

“Marketing is really more seduction than persuasion,” says Kearnon. Speakers from several brands, including Frito-Lay and JCPenney, illustrated this practice at work.

How to Cook Up Snackable Content – Literally

When it comes to discovering new findings from data, Pam Forbus is a pioneer. Her leadership is shaking up how Frito-Lay thinks about snacks. As vice president of strategic insights at PepsiCo, Forbus draws inspiration from what real people do with their food. Her team is using data analytics to redefine Frito-Lay’s approach in the snacking category. Instead of traditional snack segments such as “pretzels” and “potato chips,” her team focuses on moments when people and snacks come together around specific occasions; these are Frito-Lay’s new battlegrounds.

The team’s efforts have resulted in breakthrough marketing programs, including “Do Us a Flavor,” a nationwide promotion that asked Americans to create the recipe for a one-of-a-kind potato chip. From social media to shelf sales, the results demonstrate Forbus’ overarching vision, “We must figure out how to have unpredictable marketing that produces very predictable results.”

Why Brand Restoration Requires Love

Nothing is more inspirational or unpredictable than a turnaround story. And Debra Berman, CMO of J.C. Penney, knows something about a comeback.

Berman arrived in 2013 at a low point for J.C. Penney. Former CEO and Apple executive Ron Johnson’s missteps left the legacy retailer rudderless. Armed with a changed logo and sales strategy, Johnson tried – and failed – to persuade Americans of a new and different J.C. Penney.

A self-professed lover of “brand restoration,” Berman is nurturing the retailer back to health. Data revealed something Johnson failed to realize; J.C. Penney’s long-held heritage around comfort was exactly what the brand needed to rebound back to relevance.

Beyond revenue gains and increased sales, Berman is changing how J.C. Penney uses media and advertising to connect with target customers. J.C. Penney’s new tagline – “When it fits, you feel it” – summarizes Berman’s entire strategy. The brand’s long-time customers most inspired Berman. It’s within this vein that she was able to “tap [consumers’] passion and turn it in J.C. Penney’s favor.”

What Marketers Can Learn from Inspiration

Inspired marketing demonstrates the immeasurable value made possible by media and communications. Carla Hendra, global chairman of OgilvyRED, said, “Marketing has a catalytic effect on the quality of life for millions of people.” At the heart of Hendra’s conviction are reminders for any marketer:

  1. Inspiration enables marketers to make sense of disparate research and data.
  2. Inspiration requires marketers to love both products and customers.
  3. Inspiration, when paired with technology, can generate marketing impact at a mass scale.
  4. Inspiration reminds marketers how products are the clearest articulation of a brand’s value.
  5. Inspiration is a guiding principle for vital decisions, which equally defends “no” as well as “yes.”


david gromeDavid M. Grome is account director at Butler/Till, a 100 percent employee-owned media and communications agency. Clients work with David to build marketing programs grounded in business strategy, customer insights, and market intelligence. Past clients include Verizon Wireless, Daimler, and KeyBank.