In Defense of the Intangible: Before Falling In Love With Measurement, Do You Have An Idea?

Written By Rahul Roy, Consulting Agent at Large, O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul
Edited By Sara Singh, Medill IMC Class Of 2015

Published on 10/21/2015


The Idea Is Everything

One of the most heralded marketers of recent years is Heineken: its “Legendary Journeys/Open Your World” campaign is one of the strongest examples of integrated marketing around. Heineken and their agency, Wieden+Kennedy, have won multiple awards at Cannes, the Effies and everywhere else in between. The campaign has been credited with consistent sales and brand growth since its 2011 launch and is in its fifth year of business success and industry acclaim.

My favorite example from the campaign — for shamelessly biased cultural reasons — is a commercial titled “The Date” from 2011, which unexpectedly uses an old Bollywood movie song as its theme track.

There is a reason the commercial rapidly racked up tens of millions of views. It was a visually stunning rendition of one man’s epic journey with his date through an evening of unexpected encounters with strange characters, set to an inspired background score. On one hand, that could have been it: a purely executional device that garnered enormous attention simply for its surprising catchiness and visual engagement. But of course, it was more: a clear understanding of the consumer mindset wrapped up into an evocative brand promise, all enveloped by a completely fresh campaign idea.

But let’s get serious here – which client approved the use of a Hindi song from 1965; sung by a Muslim singer; from an old movie unknown outside South Asia; executed as a wild performance that basically parodies Bollywood bands of the era; and said — “this is the perfect choice for a global beer brand with no connection to India”?

Which cache of big data served that idea up?

Do We Know Too Much?

This is indeed the era of constantly escalating access to everything, whether one calls it the Information Age, the Sharing Economy, the Collaboration Era or the Age of Big Data. Global information is available to us on multiple platforms, devices and screens with ever-increasing mobility, connectivity and measurability. Media, news and entertainment choices continue to explode and fragment at dizzying speeds.

Correspondingly, our ability to track (almost) every bit of information and tie it to a measurable result has led all of us to be obsessed with the value of measurement at every step of the marketing process. Deluged with and mesmerized by sophisticated tools, we try to quantify, qualify, dissect, segment, target, analyze, report, predict and infographic our way to business nirvana.

But have we unearthed new insights or do we just have more data? Has measurement led to greater clarity or are
we just dazzling ourselves with numbers? Has quantification helped our ideas get better?

Is all our data finding us the next musical choice that will delight and surprise our consumers?

Know Your Soul

  Nike promises to unleash your inner athlete.

  Apple makes beautiful tools for creative minds.

  Southwest gives you the freedom to fly.

  Nordstrom is the epitome of service.

  Redbull gives you wings.

  And Disney is (still) about the magic of childhood.

I love that not one of those ideas came from data. They came from people — founders, innovators, creators, agencies and marketers — who instinctively and persuasively defined an idea that would best reflect the promise of their brand or product. Quantifying the business opportunity was obviously essential, but not the starting point. The springboard, in almost every case, was the articulation of the core idea that summed up the confluence of three key areas: an insight that aligned a consumer need with the promise of a product (or brand).

Yes, data analysis can (and should) hone and evolve positioning, products, brand extensions and campaigns. But the strongest ideas seem to be born of a pure, unvarnished, bold, visceral instinct that defines what they want to sell — and then stay true to the soul of the brand.

The same can be inferred from the successes of the “new” economy. The companies that dominate our business discourse today (even if some of them haven’t even turned a profit yet, but that’s for another topic) aim to be inspirational and almost emotional about what they stand for:

  Facebook nurtures your social network.

  Twitter amplifies your thoughts.

  Instagram showcases your visual expression.

  Pinterest makes you a curator of creativity.

  Airbnb makes you feel at home everywhere.

  Zappos loves to serve you.

The point? It’s no secret that Zappos and Nordstom are incredibly data-driven companies. But from the start they believed, unshakably, that their ethos of service would make them better. With great care, they took the essentially intangible belief of their founders and drove it through every aspect of their business — from operations to employee incentives to marketing — with astonishing success.

The same for Apple or Red Bull: they believed so deeply in the idea behind their products that their products become their brand and their companies become their ideas. Their operations — from product development to design to retail distribution to marketing — simply followed. That’s the power of a well-defined idea.

Data Needs Creativity, Art & Inspiration

What does this all mean for the world of IMC? An idea is only as good as its implementation. No amount of strategic thought, planning or analysis goes anywhere without great creative expression that is consistently executed at the highest levels.

Back to the Heineken campaign: all its varied executions effortlessly fit a larger integrated strategy of “opening your world.” And the idea goes well beyond the advertising: “Open Your World” has become a true brand platform that extends through Heineken’s choices of global sponsorships, live activation events, promotional partners, movie tie-ins, social media tactics, digital platforms and so on.

The campaign demonstrates deep insight into its global audience, has a clearly defined strategy to build the brand around the world, and believes in a very differentiated place for the product in consumers’ lives. But in the end, it all comes to life with some pretty inspired and unconventional artistic choices. I hate to speculate how multiple rounds of data analysis and quantitative testing would have impacted those choices.

Our goal then, as business builders, strategists, marketers, communicators and IMC practitioners, is not just to analyze and follow the data. It’s to find an inspiring idea that showcases the role of the product in our consumers’ lives, amplifies the brand, resonates with people and is embraced by employees.

And central to that goal is to search out, nurture, protect and grow the designers, writers, artists, filmmakers, musicians, technologists and producers who breathe life into these immeasurable ideas.

Make no mistake: without them, there will be no unique and compelling content to measure. [END]


Sara_Rahul.Roy Rahul Roy, having logged 25+ years in the communications business across two continents with McCann, Tatham/Euro RSCG, JWT and FCB, is currently consulting at O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul in Chicago, where he provides advice on new business development and agency growth strategy. His experience spans consumer packaged goods, technology, retail and fast food categories.
DSC_7358* Sara Singh is an integrated thinker, driven to bridge the gap between business and technology. She is passionate about consumer insights and specifically enjoys working in the realm of social media, content marketing and strategic decision making. Before attending Medill, she received her undergraduate degree in journalism and advertising at Indiana University Bloomington.

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