Data and insights more important than ever

There is no excuse for not utilising them to inform your marketing and communications decisions, says CARMA’s Mazen Nahawi

The past year brought a variety of head-turning marcoms campaigns, including AI-driven animations of spaceships flying out of Emirates Towers and a futurist city at The Line in Neom, as well as spectacular launches of the Royal Atlantis and the growing clout of LIV on the professional golf circuit.

Billions are being spent on advertising, public relations, social, and digital campaigns promoting these mega projects across the booming economies of the GCC. It’s hard for even a casual observer not to notice how much is being invested.

The big question is: are any of these campaigns working?

We all know that lots of likes and shares create visibility and ‘engagement noise’ – but do they actually lead to more sales, higher revenue, and a better reputation? The answer is maybe.

Sometimes they do, sometimes they do not.

We know that without data and insights, any investment in marketing communications becomes a guessing game run by amateurs who care more about the colours of a creative than the impact of the value proposition.

Long past are the days of relying purely on gut instinct and spending on campaigns just because that’s what has always been done. Everyone on the client side, from governments and corporations to NGOs and sports organisations, must demand a clear 360-degree data approach from your internal teams as well as your agencies.

More data is available now than ever before, and there is no excuse for not utilising it to inform your marketing and communications decisions. The explosion of AI makes collating, summarising, and analysing this wealth of data increasingly more manageable.

The right approach must include the fundamentals of good research, including strong and credible pre-campaign planning that identifies key stakeholders, issues, opportunities and threats. It is also important to test strategic messaging and platform relevance before getting started.

Pre-campaign research does not mean doing a quick Google search of general trends. Desktop research is not acceptable – on its own – when it comes to getting the data and insights you need before investing in a communications effort.

Measuring your outputs (what activity you do, where it lands, and how many people view your content) as well as your outtakes (what people think and feel about your content or brand) provides critical data and insights into who you are reaching and whether they believe your messages.

Opportunities and resources will be wasted by launching a campaign without the information needed to refine your strategy or discontinue ineffective approaches. Unfortunately, many communicators and marketers overlook this crucial step.

Outputs and outtakes represent important metrics for the marketing communications team itself as it manages the day-to-day of a campaign, but the true measure of success comes from tracking outcomes – the business impact of your marcoms activity. CEOs, government ministers and leaders of all types stopped accepting vanity metrics like advertising value equivalency (AVEs) years ago. They have made clear that they won’t listen to even more ridiculous metrics like ‘Potential Reach’ and ‘Impressions.’

Real leaders demand to see a clear link between marketing communications and business results. This requires doing the hard work of combining media analysis and public opinion research. It may not be easy, but professional researchers and analysts do this for a living and the best of them are increasingly advising the C-level as much as any other business consultant.

Successful campaigns are built on a foundation of a shared understanding of the desired outcomes – and agreement on how to measure them – before the first bit of creative energy gets expended.

Marketers, communicators, and other leaders in the business must work from an agreed set of expectations from the beginning to keep campaigns on track and producing excellent results.

Proper systems must be put in place to facilitate the gathering and analysis of the data required to produce actionable insights. The time to do this is before the campaign debuts to the public and requires close coordination between the expert analysts, the creative teams, and the C-suite.

Executives rightly focus on ROI and demand accountability from their marketing communications and advertising teams. Those agencies and internal teams that can prove positive ROI using real data will benefit from increased investment, while those that don’t will be left behind.

As we head into an overheating economy in the GCC and a potential global slowdown next year, one thing is certain: competition will become even more fierce. The winners will guide their campaigns with great data – and use insights to prove that they made a difference to the bottom line.

By Mazen Nahawi, Founder & Group CEO of CARMA