Aligning our models and maps to the new digital landscape

The first maps were…

Our first maps were not in fact maps of land, mountains, rivers or cities. The first maps, dating back before 10,000 BC, were of the stars. Hunters and gatherers needed to move between settlements or survival was at stake, and the stars above them offered the most common and reliable patterns. As strategists, we can learn something very important from our ancestors: in an ever shifting competitive terrain, rely on any tools that are a) readily available b) useful and c) simple to communicate.

The maps we have…

Digital, mobile and other virtual technologies have redefined many aspects of our lives.  Our old tools of mapping and understanding have focused on tracking a linear relationship between a brand and a customer, a funnel, on a quarterly or bi-annual basis. Unfortunately, these rough sketches are no longer useful and relevant, as they cannot explain the non-linear relationship between customers and brands as we understand it today, and these maps are rarely reflective of dynamic category reshuffles.

A new brand model

Geoffrey Moore, a well-published and very current marketing and technology strategist, created a very useful Four Gears model for brands, which underlines two distinctions from previous funnel models. Brands need to be a) constantly available digitally, and b) enlisting advocates to do the work for them. The only way for the final outcome, the monetize gear, to move and generate value is if all other gears are spinning:

Unfortunately, these gears do not stand for anything that a brand can simply ‘check off’ once for each customer. Instead they are states that the brand must always strive for:

Acquire: A brand needs to be available and maintain relevance and interest online

Engage: it must reach users with content, stories and identities, as much as its products and services

Enlist: it must create advocates and enable them to brag, sell and push their products and vision

Only through the maintenance of these three concurrent states can we monetize in the new digital marketplace: reach virality, advertise efficiently, and create loyal, repeat customers.   

From a model to a map

Good maps are really about making the most of the data around us to get us where we need to be. We may have this robust, contrarian model proposed by Geoffrey Moore, but unfortunately quantifying each gear in some perfect sense doesn’t comply with the demands of staying ‘current’ and ‘useful.’ At Truth, we work with multiple data sources and methodologies. We scoured the world of data and insight for metrics, which can help a brand reflect, monitor their competitors, and understand shifts in their space with agility and leanness.

If we focus on understanding one gear that is particularly relevant to a client problem, we can swiftly diagnose and optimise key bottlenecks. For example, the enlist / ‘building advocacy’ gear can be very important for the tech space where early adoption is key to building momentum around fresh products. Strong love from techies and geeks leads to ‘sold out’ product launches, co-creation and useful feedbacks, and a flurry of organic social media attention.  

Case study: mapping advocacy in the FinTech space

Let’s take an example of our approach from the FinTech brand space, specifically companies with digital wallets and new payment systems – where a digital methodology is particularly relevant since engagement, conversion, and advocacy mostly happen online. We used a comprehensive data methodology to quantify advocacy as digital consumer experiences from online search and traffic, to the publication, curation and sharing of content.  

We built a weekly digital advocacy index throughout Q4 2015  for 24 relevant brands using a multidimensional set of metrics, including the average number of advocates, their intensity, loyalty, and their effectiveness in generating earned media. Our results:

We come full circle – navigating advocacy

After a few processing and clustering algorithms of our data, we arrive at an example of a classification of the brands by their advocacy, offering a few surprises but also some familiar conclusions. 

In the top left quadrant, we find that some of the best-known names, Square, Stripe and PayPal, are best at generating loyal, intense and effective advocates. Square is the clear leader of the pack. It’s not surprising since they’re the newest kid on the block, and their recent rise has been attributed to the WOM of their initial users.

The ‘loyal and niche’ (top right), and the ‘many, but weak’ advocates (bottom left) quadrants highlight two category of brands which face substantially different problems – growth versus authenticity.

What’s particularly surprising is to find Apple Pay in the second category, with a large amount of advocates who are not particularly loyal or effective. However, this won’t be the first time you hear about Apple Pay’s lukewarm reception by even their diehard consumers.

What’s next after we map out the strength and weakness of your advocacy and that of your competitors? How can you use this information to better align your brand and marketing strategies? Specifically, what channels do you need to be on and whom do you need to target?

Because we aggregate data from the tiniest social interaction, we can use an exhaustive list of key drivers to optimize your advocacy indicators, such as elements in your digital and social advertising strategy, characteristics of your brand influencers, to the nuances across as many as a dozen different channels. This is the most important step of a good map, navigating to where we need to be: an effective, validated brand and marketing strategy.