For marketers, providing a great user experience often means taking risks to see what resonates. It requires toeing the line between experimenting with promising channels and strategies—and being distracted by shiny yet ultimately fruitless endeavors.
Dawn Winchester, chief digital officer for North America at Publicis, told Marketing Dive she makes sure her team stays on point when testing new tactics. Winchester makes sure there is a strong growth potential in what they test out, and that what they're trying out is fundamentally tied to the brand strategy. In her work at Publicis with brands like Citibank and P&G, Winchester has helped clients transform their marketing into fully integrated strategies that can scale in a digital-first world.
What good marketing boils down to, she told Marketing Dive in an interview, is looking beyond creative work and data, and really zooming in on what drives value for consumers. For Winchester, the biggest issue is the human issue.
Winchester believes that bringing humanity back into data-driven marketing will set the tone for which trends advertisers test out, what types of candidates they hire and the strength of the work they carry out. When you prioritize the people you're trying to reach and look at what you're doing from their perspective, it gives new meaning to the data analysis and the creative work being done. Most importantly, it helps ensure your message gets heard.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
What is one trend you have your eye on right now?
Dawn Winchester (DW): Data and how we use data in the industry and the way we look at it.
Right now, data has become sort of an abstraction for us. We're vilifying and selling data; it's become this almost absurd obsession and many businesses out there are monetizing data as one of their key revenue streams, especially in the startup world. I think the tension back against that is [...] there's a growing awareness of a data surveillance structure that is existing from a marketing perspective. From a consumer perspective, there's certainly a 'Big Brother' issue.
There's also a bad thing happening a little bit in the marketing, agency and brand world where we're sort of losing sight of the humans that are actually at the center of all this. So something we (at the agency) think is potentially a nice trend forward is to really put humans back into data. And to start using some of the techniques like human-centered design, digital ethnography and things we're building out, certainly in my agency, that are about collecting data as a service to humans.
How do you convince people to put humans at the center of data?
DW: From an agency perspective – where we're working on briefs for clients, bringing them ideas and communications platforms, applications and experience ideas – what I think is important is a sort of human-centered approach to design.
It's not just the media targeting thing; it's more about how can we use this to develop real insight and to use that insight to figure out how we can come into a consumer's life to add value. [We need to ask] ... what do they need, what are their challenges, what are their barriers, what are their unmet needs in the industry right now, what are the tensions in the category? And use the data to reveal that, versus just to target and deploy our media.
That's really one of the biggest issues right now. We need to bring back creativity and experience back to the center of what we're doing so it's not just about media targeting. We've got to start thinking about how we transition from looking at data and spreadsheets, to how that becomes personas of individuals we're looking at as having journeys and experiences in their lives. And how we set new metrics that aren't just about how many times somebody clicked on something, but maybe about their personal success rates.
There's a lot of things that we can bring to bear that would really change how we think about how we invest our clients' money and the types of experiences we build for them.
As marketing roles merge, do you think there's a need to better blend the artistic and scientific sides of the space?
DW: In our industry specifically, we divided the art and science of our business many years ago. We have our "creative" agencies and our "media" agencies, and the media agencies work in Excel where the creative agencies all work in InDesign. And the challenges we have every day, and the question we get from clients all the time, is how do we get those things back in harmony and sequence?
Putting the consumer journey at the heart of [what we do] so that we're looking at how these things happen through the lens of the consumer versus just through the objectives of the marketing plan is important. The other path forward for us is to co-locate teams so they can start learning from each other. We've built a couple of teams here for our Citi client, for example, for our P&G client where we've co-located a much more diverse set of people than we've ever had before and we're unlocking new opportunity and perspective because of that. It's not just the same people solving the same problems; it's a new cast of characters working in a new way.
How has digital and mobile impacted the skills you look for in new hires?
DW: The agency business has always been a team sport business so we've always looked at collaboration as one of the key skill sets we have. Once we hire that person, we look at how we are building a hybrid individual. Across the scope of their time within our business, how are we giving them different assignments? Are we exposing them to different things and essentially starting to cross-train that next generation of leaders?
But even more than collaboration, you need the ability to self-learn because the world keeps changing. when I started in this business doing "digital," smartphones didn't exist. Facebook didn't exist, YouTube didn't exist – I was on CompuServe! And no one can train you for that. You've got to have a skill set to self-educate, be innately curious, be able to make leaps of judgment, and potentially create connectivity between things that might look like they're disparate or diverse on the face of them, but could actually come together in an interesting way on the back end.
Speaking of adapting, how do you decide which platforms are worth your while given that so many pop up and disappear and evolve so quickly?
DW: We take a consumer lens on these things, so if our consumer is using these platforms or if there's a new platform that our consumer seems to be moving quickly towards, then that becomes a priority for us. It's about being where our consumers are and being a part of their conversation and serving their needs within those environments. It's just easier for us if we say, all right, what are our consumers doing?
There are absolutely brands that aren't targeting, for example, the Snapchat community, but for those who are, if we miss a big trend, that's a big miss for the brand. We want to be proactively investigating and experimenting and growing up along with these platforms because we know there's always going to be a new round of platforms every year that we need to look at.
We did some research recently with millennials and Gen Z, they just have an aptitude for many more platforms, and for them it's not forever. The ephemeral trend doesn't bother them, and they're able to innately move and hop onto that next thing very quickly. They're just kind of moving with the cultural zeitgeist and the flow, and we need to move as quickly.