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Unilever’s ‘All Things Hair’ provides stellar example of big data in action

unilever_allthingshair

Big data might be one of those phrases we’re all now used to hearing, but finding examples of those truly using it effectively (and willing to talk about it) are few and far between.

Enter then Unilever’s All Things Hair, a YouTube channel from the UK that really speaks to real-time relevance thanks to true data insights.

Created in conjunction with agency Razorfish, it is filled with hair styling tutorials from leading video bloggers (vloggers). That content isn’t arbitrary however, rather selected based on Google searches.

Unilever partnered with the search giant to gain real-time insights into what exactly people are looking for knowledge on. There are 11 billion searches about hair on Google every year; 30 million each day – a rich pool to draw from, enabling the company to predict what solutions, problems and styles people care about.

That information is sent to the vloggers – many of whom have several million followers in their own right too – who are paid by Unilever to create the tutorial content incorporating brands including Toni & Guy, Dove and VO5.

Speaking at Cannes Lions this year, Unilever chief marketing and communications officer, Keith Weed, said: “The content is relevant, useful and authentic. It’s a really cool application of big data, based on what is actually big insights.”

It’s also a great example of merging together real-time search data with influencer and content marketing. Cleverly it does so in a way that retains an authentic feel, rather than a hardline promotional one.

Accordingly, the channel has generated over 17 million views and an average viewing time of one minute and 51 seconds, since it launched in December 2013.

Some example content:

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Blocks business Comment fashmash mobile

Luxury brands must shift from interruption to relevance, says Google

piastanchina_google

The fashion industry needs to focus in on relevancy and personalisation in order to better reach today’s luxury consumer, said Pia Stanchina, Industry Manager of fashion at Google UK, during last week’s #fashmash event in London.

While your average consumer expects to now get what they want, when they want, where they want, the same is doubly true when applied to luxury, she explained to the crowd of 75 guests – heads of digital and social media from across the fashion industry, including designer brands, retailers and relevant technology companies – who were celebrating the relaunch of Fashion & Mash at the all-new Google Glass Basecamp.

She referred to luxury consumers as “more mobile, more demanding and more connected” than ever. The stats back it up: luxury consumers have 2x the smartphone penetration of the average consumer, and 75% of them now research luxury purchases online, according to a study from Google in September 2013 called ” How wealthy shoppers buy luxury goods: a global view”.

In fact, mobile searches in most retail categories are set to overtake desktop searches in mid-December in the UK. But for luxury searches, mobile is due to overtake desktop in just the next week or two. “These consumers now expect to be able to access information at any time and from any device,” Stanchina said.

In spite of this, the luxury industry is still incredibly hesitant to facilitate it. “While no one will argue with the importance of protecting a luxury brand’s equity, a brand is only valuable as long as it is relevant,” argued Stanchina. She outlined mass retailers as having had a more experimental approach in helping them stay up to date with changing consumer behaviour. Macy’s, John Lewis, Tesco and Argos have all set up incubators and labs to test and develop new tech in-house, she said. It’s in this space we’re seeing true omnichannel strategies emerge.

For luxury meanwhile, there remains real caution around taking any missteps when it even comes to communications with customers. This is particularly the case when you look at the seasonal campaign work put out.

“On social, we instinctively understand that as the name implies, it is a forum for engagement. And yet, when it comes to the main communications that most brands produce, these will still be one-way broadcast-style flighted campaigns on TV, in the press, outdoor and online.

“And while we know our customers don’t live in a flighted world and don’t all have the same history with our brand, they all get the same message. The customer that has invested in a piece every season for the last 10 years, sees the same image as someone considering their first purchase from us,” Stanchina explained.

She called for brands to move towards an “Always Ready” approach – shifting from the sometimes on, sometimes off, activity of flighted campaigns, to being ready to interact with consumers at any point that is most relevant for them. Tailoring those interactions then becomes the critical part.

“Digital marketing technology allows us to understand exactly what the previous interactions were that a customer had with us and tailor our communications to deliver the natural next step in the conversation,” she said.

Luxury brands should be taking advantage of this to push relevant messages about products they know consumers love, rather than relying on generic ads showcasing their entire lines. They should also be responding to search queries with personalised answers based on both the content and the context of the question, said Stanchina, referring to whether said consumer is on a mobile, has been to the brand’s site before or has seen a display ad for the product they’re researching.

She added: “As Tom Ford – a man who knows a thing or two about luxury and brand building – has stated, ‘Time and silence are the most luxurious things today’. So let’s not interrupt our consumer’s time or break their silence, unless they are actually asking us to or we have something highly relevant to say to them.”

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Blocks business e-commerce technology

Accelerating change at retail – a chat on innovation with WGSN, John Lewis and Zappos Labs

By day, I’m a global senior editor at WGSN, where we’ve been running an ongoing series of Google+ Hangouts (#wgsnhangout), chatting to experts from across the industry each month on subjects as varied as wearable technologycatwalk trends to know aboutthe future of fashion and more.

This month, the subject was retail innovation. I interviewed Will Young, director of Zappos Labs; John Vary, innovation manager at John Lewis; and Lorna Hall, WGSN’s head of market intelligence. Check out the video above for more on what’s currently shifting the landscape through the eyes of a heritage retail brand and a large US e-commerce player.

We chat about improving the consumer experience, introducing new technologies, partnering with start-ups, gaining internal buy-in, the ever-important role of omnichannel and more. There’s also a quick-fire round flagging up how soon (18 months, three-five years, or not at all) retailers need to care about innovations such as beacons, 3D printing, wearable tech, drones and virtual reality.

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business Editor's pick social media

Calvin Klein CCO outlines ‘brand truths’ at Cannes Lions festival

Calvin Klein Melisa Goldie, Cannes Lions

Creating consumer engagement today depends on the passion and courage put in by the brand, said Melisa Goldie, CCO of Calvin Klein at the 61st annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this past week.

“Talent and truth, and craftsmanship and creativity, are all really important, but they’re only important if you’re passionate about your beliefs… and then brave enough to say it,” she explained.

That thought followed a presentation outlining the four ‘brand truths’ of Calvin Klein – principles she referred to as the underpinning of its marketing messaging for nearly four decades, and the very focus that enables it to be both passionate and accordingly brave. They include seeking simplicity, dancing with controversy, leveraging tension and embracing culture.

Simplicity is a straightforward one, she said. “Think simply, but with rigorous attention.” She referenced Michelangelo’s statue of David – when asked how he carved it from a single piece of rock, he said it was simple: he just removed everything that wasn’t David.

“Calvin and controversy have long been friends,” she quipped for the next truth, highlighting such campaigns as it’s 1982 men’s underwear ad in Times Square starring Olympic pole vaulter Tom Hintnaus that literally stopped traffic. “It ushered in a new era of objectifying men,” she said. “It led to the acceptance of the male form in mainstream American advertising.”

Importantly, controversy can mean relevancy, making a brand seem modern and interesting, she highlighted. “From a business perspective, [that] then means very high ROI.”

Leveraging tension – the next brand truth – does of course sit very neatly hand-in-hand with this at times. For Calvin Klein it’s often been about leveraging visual or sexual tension, such as between Mark Wahlberg and Kate Moss with their iconic shoot in 1992.

katemoss_markwahlberg_CalvinKlein

But Goldie also suggested examples of other brands who dutifully play off different tensions. Nike leverages the idea of who a consumer wants to be and their couch: Dove sits between self doubt and a truer definition of beauty; and Apple has always looked to self actualisation and conforming, between the individual and the organisation, and between us and them. The latter’s now infamous 1984 ad is “one of the best examples of leveraging tension the industry has ever created”, Goldie said.

The brand’s final truth is about embracing culture, something Goldie said Calvin Klein has both been shaped by and has helped shape. “We have always been willing to get into bed with popular culture. It has allowed us to create deeper and more committed relationships with our consumers.”

That idea is ever more relevant today, she said, as we evolve into a world where culture happens ‘digital first’. “The dawn of the digital age means culture is more relevant [for brands] than ever before. You have to look at culture through a digital lens, then decide which changes are meaningful for you and which ones can help you shape and grow.”

Importantly, digital enables a brand to see relationships and communities being formed at far greater speed, she emphasised. “It’s now on their terms,” she said with regards to how consumers engage with your brand and the value of allowing them to feel increasingly involved in it. The #mycalvins campaign, which crowdsources selfies of fans in their Calvin Klein underwear, is her team’s efforts to respond to that.

“Today [consumers] have a personal role to play in the Calvin Klein story. We don’t want to be their parents, we want to be their partners.”

Stay tuned for a full round-up of the fashion campaigns that won at this year’s Cannes Lions festival later this week.

Photo credit: Getty Images