There are no limits to what can be covered, studied, or analysed for brand marketing – Isime Esene, Culture Intelligence from RED

Many successful organisations rely on effective data collection and usage to boost their operations and make critical decisions to deliver value to customers. Chief Intelligence Officer of Culture Intelligence from RED, Isime Esene, speaks with YNaija on ‘big data’ in today’s business world and how brands can leverage data to improve customer experience and loyalty.

When brand managers and experts talk about “big data”, it’s essentially a conversation about quantitative data – scientific, exact and precise. Either in volume, variety, velocity, variability. Could you describe the place of “big data” in culture intelligence, and explain its impact?

First, big data is growing in volume every day because customers are willing to share data with brands to improve their experience, especially when it’s a brand or an organisation that they believe can deliver value. But successful companies know how to collect, analyse and use such large swath of data to achieve their objectives.

Secondly, consumers talk – the methods change depending on the medium. For example, most consumers who have good interaction with a brand on social networks are more likely to recommend it to others. That represents a specific form of data that keeps growing in volume and velocity. But the sheer volume of data can be overwhelming and untidy.

Third, and crucial, big moments determine the culture, which is the biggest challenge for brands and organisations.

However, these preconscious cultural scripts that shape how people understand the world are not always manifest in speech or text. Because big data is about large data and quantity, it is unable to reflect an in-depth meaning.

For example, the enormity of the EndSars protest can be judged based on how much people tweeted, how people are reacting, the reach, etc. But why are people tweeting? Will EndSars be impactful? What are the underlying factors leading to the protest that can’t be captured at the surface?

Why is understanding culture important. Is it different from gaining insights on specific moments in time that can address current brand problems?

Culture provides the framework within which consumers – either as individuals or as a group — function. A significant consequence of culture is its impact on consumption patterns. Successful brands – Apple, Nike, Coca Cola, Harley Davidson, PiggyVest – have adopted their branding strategies in line with specific dominant cultural philosophy and weave their brands into the cultural fibre.

Virtually, if you understand what your consumer believes in and relate your brand to that thing, both the customer and the company’s bottom line will benefit. Through culture intelligence, brands are not only solving current problems. But by understanding culture and associating with it, it is as essential as having a strong brand image.

In engaging a complex market, how important is quantitative data and how should brands invest in it?

Numbers are good, but they are sometimes blind. Culture Intelligence from RED is more interested in what influences the culture and drives choices, and use these insights to unlock new meanings for brands and institutions looking to navigate a complex market. We track and highlight the invisible cultural factors and memorable moments that affect consumers’ lives, perceptions, and choices.

By literally knowing what the streets are saying, we provide granular information that brand managers and experts need to make informed decisions. Through identifying cultural shifts, insights from the tool provide professionals in public and commercial sectors an extensive premise for ideation, testing, and developing strategies that withstand scrutiny and the continuously changing nature of trends and consumer behaviour.

What are the new tool’s functions, Culture Intelligence from RED, and the problems they address?

The tool has two different capabilities. One is the culture mapping function, which we call ‘The Masterlist’. Currently, we have more than 20,000 data points covering People, Places, and Platforms. It’s a simple answer to the question, ‘Where should marketing (sales, communication, brand, sponsorship) managers and agencies spend their monies today?’.

The second is the culture insight function to help commercial, social, and public sector players thrive in a diverse and competitive environment. Through ‘What The Streets Are Saying’, Culture Intelligence from RED tracks consumer behaviour via data, which we collect from our 500-member consumer panel and culture experts across the country to deliver intuitive qualitative insights that cannot be discovered through quantitative research methods.

It aggregates the opinions, behaviours, preferences, intentions, and sentiments, consumers’ decisions to collect direct inputs, recognise problems and identify growth opportunities. The best experts – culture insiders, all leading thinkers and doers with their thoughts, analysis and predictions on the most significant culture moments and issues, deepen our intelligence capability.

What are the services that the tool provides?

We connect clients with experts – selected from our culture insiders and beyond – in specific sectors, business, or industry. We curate subject-matter experts to deliver on the insight that clients need for decision-making.

To reflect first-hand experiences for organisations and businesses, we also conduct niche sessions, including remote roundtables that allow our clients to interact with leading experts. Clients can access the insights they need through such custom sessions with consultants, analysts, and culture custodians.

We also curate shifting market dynamics, consumer perception, and market behaviours from our consumer panel and culture experts through our research reports. Based on request, we provide clients with unvarnished data (videos, audio recordings, surveys, charts, and more) from our 500-member consumer panel and culture experts across the country on trends or conversations that matter in the public and social sector, including corporate institutions.

Currently, there are over 20,000 data points on the tool. How do you decide on the data points that are now available?

Our metrics gather data from the most influential people in culture, every sector, and industry. For instance, the metrics for putting a Place on The Masterlist are using the Resonance Test — a data quality test undertaken by a selected panel of subject experts offering qualified opinions and insights based on experience, trend analysis, and privileged information. Therefore, it varies for every industry.

What are the benefits for businesses trying to fix growth or risk concerns, or even trying to break into new markets?

The benefits for businesses trying to fix growth, or risk concerns, or even break into new markets is unending. Once a company recognises a need to grow and break into new markets, the next thought is to improve their products and services to fit the new audience. Of course, being ‘culturally inclined’ will help them do this better than anyone else.

Once they discover that their existing products or services do not fit the demands of their new customers, they develop or revamp their products and services to address growing customer complaints. It will also help them hire, train, and retain good employees as they look through what is best for the organisation. Lastly, they will have more opportunities to form beneficial partnerships with the international market, hence increasing revenue.

How will it contribute to understanding the country’s wide advertising and media landscape? Are there limits to what can be covered, studied or analysed for brand marketing?

We have gone a step further to improve its capabilities by enabling users to add to the tool’s knowledge base. There are no limits to what can be covered, studied, or analysed for brand marketing – it is big data with culture intelligence. The tool is also constantly being updated so that it is streamlined for easy usage.

Would you say that Nigerian businesses are genuinely investing in data analytics? And if not, how can it be done successfully?

Unfortunately, businesses in Nigeria are yet to grasp the true potential data brings to decision making. More than half of the country’s companies base their decisions on intuition which is static and unreliable. A recent study showed that 56% of organisations have found that their decision-making is based on impulse than data. In comparison, only 16% of the organisations have a defined role for their Chief Data Officer. Most organisations have assigned all responsibilities of Data and Analytics to the Chief Financial Officer.

Only 4 in 10 Nigerian organisations are interested in using artificial intelligence to enable their decisions and enhance their operational processes. As much as 46% of organisations have no data science professional. From this data, we have a clear picture of how the case is in Nigeria. Simply, the answer to rectifying this figure is investing heavily in data analytics that aid decision-making, business policies, and sales.

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