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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Data-driven digital content is key to brand success

March 23, 2020 | By Jessica Hall, Vice President of Product Strategy & Design–3Pillar Global @JessHallway

Every company today, regardless of industry, is a digital company. This has to be the case for a company to survive in the connected age.

What this means is that every company has an abundance of data. However, some just aren’t using it to the fullest advantage. That’s one of the reasons many companies choose third-party partners to help them wade through it and strategize a path toward stronger customer engagement.

So what have you got?

The first step to successfully reaching new customers and retaining current ones is by analyzing the data you have. What are current customers interested in? Does one age group, gender or economic background dominate the current customer base? What values and features appeal to them, and which ones don’t? How do they want to receive their information, and why? 

One thing that insights provided by data analysis can do is help a company better tell its story. For example, when Proctor & Gamble’s Febreeze originally launched, it was a failure. So P&G hired a researcher from Harvard Business School to help them sort through their data and create new data by interviewing potential customers.

They discovered that the people who needed the product most had no idea they needed it, because they had gotten so used to their odors. With this knowledge, they adjusted their messaging, promoting Febreeze as a kind of “finishing touch” product you use after cleaning a room. Their new advertisements were incredibly successful.

So what do you need?

In other instances, new data forces companies to completely overhaul their digital infrastructure and find new ways to engage their audiences. This was our experience working with PBS in 2009. The data showed the company that users were moving away from broadcast television and towards web-based programming and content.

This posed a particular problem for PBS: The organization was spread out across 187 different member stations, and many of those stations had started to build out their own online viewing experiences. PBS needed a backbone – one strong enough to keep together different kinds of content, different mediums and different platforms.

So that’s what we did. We created a fully digital ecosystem that incorporated content from PBS and PBS Kids and built APIs that transmitted that content to iPads, set-top boxes, and smartphones across the country. As a result, PBS saw a huge spike in engagement. The PBS and PBS Kids app boast over 58 million downloads and their platforms stream hundreds of millions of videos each month.

Significantly, this new digital-first approach enabled the organization to generate even more insights that drove content and strengthened programming. But these huge changes all emerged from that core, data-driven insight. Without it, PBS would have floundered.

Real insights drive results

It’s important to note that not all data is relevant – it’s about knowing what the right data is in a data-saturated era. Data only matters if it gives insights into the people a company is trying to connect with. Then, this data has to be leveraged to communicate with customers in a memorable way. Too many people find their attention divided among multiple phones, laptops, channels, and platforms.

As we enter this new decade, take advantage of these key digital tools, but remember that even the most cutting-edge innovations aren’t what make a sale. It’s knowing who people are and helping them envision who they can be.

About the author

Jessica Hall is vice president of product strategy and design at 3Pillar Global and the co-author of The Product Mindset: Succeed in the Digital Economy by Changing the Way Your Organization Thinks.

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