Struggling with Data-Driven Marketing?
Focus on Authenticity Instead for Effective Campaigns

David Ambrose

Jan 2021

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Photo by Thgusstavo Santana.

There is no debating that data driven marketing is all the rage right now. The press, industry blogs, and marketing agencies sing the praises of each new tool and technique that allows companies to gather customer information, optimize campaigns, and get more all-important clicks. And it is easy to understand why they focus so much on data – measuring results has always been a challenge for agencies and marketing departments, executives love seeing numbers and tracking trends, and data-driven campaigns can be made effective using more money instead of creativity.

The problem is that it is very hard for small organizations to win the data game, and consumers are tired of having their privacy invaded and being treated as a number. They crave authenticity and consumer generated content, and with platforms like Power Story it’s easier than ever for you to deliver campaigns that meet their needs.

Will Data-Driven Digital
Marketing Work for You?

The truth is that data driven marketing works – if you have the luxury of playing the numbers game. Acquiring and analyzing data is expensive. The big players have the budget to buy consumer information, dominate keywords, and run highly-optimized campaigns. Even if their bounce rates are high and their conversion rates are low, they can drive revenue by throwing more money at the problem.

Photo by Thgusstavo Santana.

The stakes are very different for small or even medium-sized businesses and not-for-profit entities. Every dollar in the marketing budget is precious, and none of it can be wasted acquiring data through purchase or trial-and-error optimization. Bigger companies can afford to out-bid the little guys almost every time.

To cope with this challenge, many small businesses try to get into the data game is by staying on top of the newest trends and tricks in SEO/SEM and digital marketing. This is time consuming and requires constant changes in policy and strategy, potentially upending entire marketing campaigns. And even then, the large companies have dozens of full-time analysts whose entire job is to learn the new tricks and implement them seamlessly. By the time you come across an article describing “The Top Ten New Digital Marketing Trends of the Year” or “Three New Ways to Own the SEO Battle”, chances are that the big guys have been implementing the strategies for months.

“ So, the best way for small businesses to stand out and start beating the large companies in digital marketing is by playing a different game, rather than trying new strategies while following the same rules. So, what should you focus on instead of data? ”

By Thgusstavo Santana

Consumers Are Over Data-Driven Campaigns

The light at the end of the tunnel for small businesses is that consumers are tired of data-driven marketing too. Recent concerns over data privacy policies, most notably at Facebook, have made consumers wary of ads that seem too-targeted. Also, as companies have focused more and more on data, they have started ignoring the actual messaging. They optimize for open rates, click-through rates, cost per click, and just about every other metric. But they frequently fall short of paying attention to actual consumer engagement and sales.

Photo by Thgusstavo Santana.

“As a result, creativity falls by the wayside. People click misleading links, end up on the company site, and then leave as soon as they realize that they’ve been fooled. Or, they take the first few steps that the campaign tracks, but never convert because the company does not show that it actually cares about their concerns or even about their business.”

By Thgusstavo Santana

At the end of the day, data-driven marketing sees consumers as statistics and it shows. Consumers aren’t stupid and they don’t appreciate being treated as just another number. Nine out of ten consumers feel like ads are becoming more intrusive and generic, while eight out ten feel like they are being tracked by retargeted ads.

Consumers feel tracked but not listened to or valued by brands. They desperately want to be treated differently by companies. Here’s where small businesses can step up and lead the movement to a new kind of advertising – or rather an old art form that has been lost in the wave of data.

Authentic Messaging: A Path Forward

What consumers crave is authenticity. Approximately 85% of consumers, and 90% of Millennials, say that authenticity is important when deciding what brands they support. Meanwhile, most consumers believe that less than half of brands actually create authentic content and a third of Millennials have unfollowed a brand because of inauthentic content.

So, how can companies meet the challenge of providing authentic marketing content? A significant majority of consumers believe that user generated content is the most authentic and have an uncanny ability to expose company-produced content masquerading as consumer generated seven out of ten times.

Photo by Thgusstavo Santana.

This should come as no surprise, since word-of-mouth has long been one of the most effective forms of brand promotion. Customers are almost twice as likely to trust and buy from a brand that has been recommended by a friend, and each word-of-mouth impression results in five times as many sales as each paid media impression.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the most effective media campaigns use consumer-generated content to simulate word-of-mouth marketing and create genuine word-of-mouth buzz.

Photo by Thgusstavo Santana.

Take as an example a project to encourage voter turnout in Georgia. As part of the project we invited students at Clark Atlanta University to record videos using the Power Story platform about why they were voting. We then uploaded the videos to Facebook with a simple caption and targeted the posts right back at students from Clark Atlanta University.

With virtually no creative input on our part, we created an effective marketing campaign that came as close as possible to organic word-of-mouth advertising. We empowered students to tell their stories to their peers and did as little as possible to package the message, so that it was clearly authentic and spoke to the students as powerfully as possible. The campaign outperformed 90% of similar ads according to Facebook, with a budget-friendly $0.07 cost-per-click.

Final Thoughts

Data-driven marketing may dominate the headlines, but it disproportionately benefits large organizations and increasingly alienates consumers desperate for authenticity. Small businesses and nonprofits can strategically leverage user-generated content to achieve a new level of authentic marketing with the proven benefits of word-of-mouth advertising. Best of all, platforms like Power Story make it easy for you to solicit and curate consumer content to create cost-effective, high-impact campaigns.

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