The global lockdown impacted businesses worldwide, but one sector struggles more than most to adapt to the new normal: marketing.
There hasn’t been a point in living memory when consumer personality has shifted so quickly and so drastically and those marketeers working with traditional profiling stereotypes have struggled to catch up.
At his “work from home” office, which happens to be an entirely off-grid cave system on a volcano in the Canary Islands, one digital marketeer has seen his inbox light up. Alex Sass, whose company invented the SENSE engine for consumer profiling, believes that the best insights for the ‘new normal’ come not from experience but from Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.
“Our technology has been running for some years. It’s an NLP [neuro-linguistic-programming] system designed to extrapolate a mass of data and deliver a personality profile for any consumer or lifestyle group” explains Sass. Essentially what he created was a machine capable of studying human personality over time and in sub-groups so that anyone in academia, commerce or politics could see the differences between one group and another on a mathematical scale.
What’s so critical about this use of technology within a field as creative as marketing and advertising is that the ‘brainmaps’ produced by Sass and others are based on an extraordinarily large feed of information. Historically, should a brand director want to understand and act upon change, surveys and workshops would be their first port of call. Something that’s just impossible during lockdown and expensive beyond.
So, what sort of actionable data comes out of these magic black boxes? For Sass, his company focusses on consumer needs and values which might seem obvious on the surface. During lockdown, people were drawn to streaming entertainment and provisions. But this simplistic view hides a wealth of more interesting trends. For example, finding the sweetspot in time when marketing switched from ‘unnecessary and intrusive’ to ‘a useful feeling of normality’ to ‘critical support’ in the form of products emerging to help humanity survive and thrive.
Machines that study human fears, levels of introversion, societal bonds and emergence of ‘reclusive protection’ (a phrase Sass uses which seems quite apt), must be on the shopping list of agencies worldwide. After all, you don’t have to be an Amazon or a Coca-Cola to know that nothing is now predictable. The wrong tone of message at the wrong time can do much more harm than ever and the right message creates bonds and sales that can help a company survive.
Brands can be a positive light when we’re seeking comfort and reassurance. The right commercial outreach, based on the science of personality, can not only create clicks but also plant the seed for a more human, long-lasting connection between brand and purchaser. “For me, it’s wonderfully ironic that we now have machines to help us reintroduce humanity to the commercial equation.” A conclusion that will probably keep Sass’s lab in business for some time to come.
The SENSE Engine was created by Oregon Technology, a digital research lab with staff in the UK, France, USA and Spain.