Industry veteran Al Wittemen and the Omni-Channel Marketing team developed a simple approach to optimizing consumer engagement:  Moments + Math. 

For years, our collaboration on The Adventures of Jodi and Brownie were wildly successful. They helped Jason come to terms with many new challenges, and equally as important, affirmed his role as both my story listener and as my story collaborator—the partner I needed to get the story right, both in the first telling and the many subsequent retellings.

Thirty years later, I now realize that the Jodi and Brownie stories prepared me to reimagine the marketing tools and storytelling touch-points that omni-channel marketing requires today—a combination of “moments” (the stories) that build the brand’s narrative arc, and the “math” (the research, insights and modeling analytics) that reveals the consumers’ needs and wants. While I came by the importance of storytelling via a personal route, today we find business leaders like those at Booz & Company at the forefront of the same dynamic model. 

Booz & Company defines omni-channel marketing as experiences that “offer marketers and retailers a holistic approach to reaching consumers with a more integrated message, through any point on their path-to- purchase.” Booz points to five key elements essential for brand marketers to identify, individualize, and include in their omni-channel programs: digitized products; curated experiences; personalization; social activation; and direct commerce. (see chart)

Digitized products offer the largest opportunity to ensure your brand’s story makes its way directly to your consumers (e.g., using smartphones to scan QR codes to access product information and coupons, or an iPad app to download movie tickets at home).

Curated experiences are the sum total of your consumer’s interaction with your brand’s story at all touch-points. This includes experiences across social, mobile, print and TV that deliver meaningful moments that activate the shopper/consumer passion to seek out, purchase and repurchase your brand.

Personalization of the story (across all available channels and touch-points) maximizes the product’s value for every consumer. With all the data and consumer analytics available today, personalization based on consumer preferences is more crucial than ever.

Social activation spreads your story organically across social media channels, such as Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube, which are increasingly becoming the preferred channels of storytelling amongst Generation X and Millennials.

Direct commerce builds upon and is propelled by the relationship brands share with their consumers when they co-create and collaborate to ensure their brand story reflects the wants and needs of those who engage with it.

OMNI-CHANNEL STORYTELLING

What those of us involved with omni-channel marketing have learned is that developing effective brand stories calls for a deep understanding of the mix between creative ingenuity and data-driven analytics. Today’s marketers must:

Understand their audience’s needs as the foundation on which to build their programs. With our world suddenly filled with channels, brand focus has shifted from campaign or outlet to consumer-centric.

Collaborate with their consumers to satisfy those needs, recognizing that the best storytellers make the best story listeners.

Customize the “how” to fit the “what/where/ when/why,” as identified by their collaboration with their consumers.

Seek the superior data netted from agent-based modeling to predict the outcomes of “what if” scenarios and increase the likely success of their brand programs. This data is essential to capturing their audience’s true passions, developing best-practice omni-channel scenarios with the least amount of risk, and enabling the storytellers to test and learn internally from customer preferences that are mathematical and unbiased.

In other words, you need the math to develop the moments. The math tells you where to connect, what to say, how to say it, how much money to spend where, which media tactics to use and the projected return-on-investment. Agent-based modeling is the math you need to tell a story that truly connects emotionally and drives a tangible result.

When people talk about math in marketing they’re usually talking about Big Data. But when’s the last time anyone used Big Data to create a magical moment and tell a story? Everyone plays with historical trend analysis, transaction data and mix modeling. Everyone looks at the data stack, but that only reveals how things used to work, not what kind of story will resonate with consumers where, when and how they are making decisions.

To understand today’s “consumer decision journey,” companies need to apply data visualization, simulations, scenario development and analytics within a process. Simulations aggregate the insights to develop “what-ifs” that produce reliable forecasts. This, in turn, provides additional scenario analysis that enable marketers to explore different possible stories and build a knowledge database in the process.

Applying both the “math” and the “moments” is critical: Where the moments bring critical shared connections between the brand and consumer that tell the brand’s story at various touch-points along the path- to-loyalty, the math provides data to ensure we build upon the correct moments on the front end, and then assess the effectiveness of the story on the back end.

HOW TOYOTA TELLS ITS STORY

Look at what Toyota has accomplished for its Prius. Twenty years ago, Toyota identified a consumer need to lead an environmentally-conscious lifestyle and developed a hybrid car that not only jump-started a new segment of the US automobile industry, but also became an industry leader with a presence around the world.

As years passed and Toyota continued to engage and research its consumers, it found that its loyalists wanted to be both a part of an environmentally- conscious lifestyle movement and a community of passionate, Prius-loving optimists. Toyota understood that the Prius story needed to evolve to meet the changing needs of its audience while still remaining true to its original essence.

Toyota did the research, confirmed that the essence of the brand message (optimism, passion, and environmental responsibility) was correct; communicated and collaborated with its consumers across traditional and social-media channels; and developed customized programs. For instance, recognizing that driving an environmentally advanced car is a “badge of honor,” Toyota created an actual badge for Prius brand enthusiasts.

To satisfy its loyalists’ need for passion and community, Toyota collaborated with two passionate Prius owners—Danny Cooper and Russell Frost—to create an event called “To Go Before.” The idea was to provide a way for Prius optimists to get together, learn and have fun. The event took place in Riverside, California (knowing that the Prius is the most popular model in the entire state!). It was co-sponsored by Toyota and other companies, staffed by Toyota employees, and supported by Prius volunteers.

Understanding the need to customize the event, Toyota varied its involvement across multiple touch- points. An invitation via Facebook offered technical sessions, test-drives and goodie bags. Toyota also provided vehicles for attendees to drive throughout the weekend, including a drive “on a challenging, classic California mountain switchback road.”

Keeping the brand message in front of its audience, engaging them with product messages, and creating emissary opportunities, Toyota, in collaboration with Danny Cooper and Russell Frost, created a unique program loyalists loved.

In its two decades of selling the Prius, Toyota has had many more hits than misses. It has listened to its audience, engaged them at appropriate touch-points, cultivated word-of-mouth and social activation with both their online and offline communities. We can see that this commitment to telling the right story is reflected in its sales, brand equity, and the iconic reverence for the Prius as the vehicle you think of when you hear the word “hybrid.”

JODI & BROWNIE: THE NEXT GENERATION

Circling back around to my personal storytelling, another great omni-channel success story recently came to me through my daughter-in-law, Jessi.

Shortly after learning she was expecting a child, Jessi switched from drinking low-cost, private-label milk to a premium brand, Horizon Organic. It wasn’t that Jessi woke up one day without a taste for private- label milk—it was because of the wellness and emotional connection she made with Horizon Organic. After a close friend impressed on Jessi the importance of drinking organic milk while pregnant, she turned online to learn more.

Once Jessi saw the plethora of helpful solutions, the customized information offered via multiple channels, and the links to other natural products, Horizon Organic’s site became her go-to resource for not only milk-related information, but all her dietary needs during pregnancy.

When I took a closer look at the Horizon story, it became clear that the brand had done an outstanding job learning who its audience is, creating its message, and collaborating with moms and kids to deliver world-class, customized experiences.

The brand works back from what moms need— which is support in raising healthy, happy families —and provides the information that makes it easy for them to make healthy choices for their families. For instance, on Horizon’s website it is easy for a mom to decide which drink is best for her child’s lunchbox by providing comparative information between organic milk and leading juices.

The site also offers insights into how to introduce toddlers to milk and which foods, in addition to milk, moms should try to buy organic. It features an entire page of “Mom’s Resources,” with best-practice articles on raising healthy kids using the USDA MyPlate diet, and videos of interviews with kids for their take on healthy eating.

On its Pinterest page, Horizon has boards dedicated to the interests of moms raising healthy families such as ‘”Lunch Box Love,” “Healthy Living,” “Wholesome Dinner,” and “Cooking with Horizon.” Its Facebook page is filled with healthy, happy family solutions and posts about organic grocery shopping on a budget. It even features posts about organic arts and crafts.

Jessi tells me she doesn’t mind Horizon’s premium price because the value she receives outweighs the extra expense. In fact, Horizon Organic resonates so deeply with her, she says the brand will always be a staple for her children. From a personal perspective, I’m going to be interested to see how the brand’s storytelling evolves to keep Jessi and other moms like her engaged.

I’m also looking forward to creating bedtime stories with my grandchildren. I love a good story. I’m a good story listener and collaborator, and I have no doubt they’ll help me, once again, become a good storyteller.

Introductions are the hardest part.

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