On adding a slice of data to your marketing sandwich

Subway's Cristina Wells praises brands that have embedded data and insights into all functions of the marketing value chain.

Creative Data

By Cristina Wells

Oil and water. Fire and ice. What about ideas and numbers – creative and data?

Many marketers have long tended to put the former and latter together into that familiar paradigm of polar opposites. Not me. Not because I profess to be some kind of trailblazer, but because, as a marketer with a science and engineering background, I just can’t help myself.

The geek in me is comforted to see an emerging view among marketers that the best marketing strategies are born out of a balance between data and human observation. Recent research indicates brands that base their marketing strategies on both elements don’t just come out ahead – they’re far ahead.

McKinsey surveyed more than 200 CMOs and other senior marketers and found the most successful ones are integrating data and insights into all functions of the marketing value chain: from brand strategy and consumer insights to consumer experience, product, pricing, content, creative development, media and even measurement. These “integrators,” as they’re known, grow their revenues at about twice the average rate of other S&P 500 Companies who fail to follow that approach, according to McKinsey.

The integrators are my peeps: they embrace the double-barreled benefit of marrying data with qualitative consumer insights at the outset of marketing strategy development. But I find it takes patience to get there: data will help map the right path to growth, showing where your internal gaps may be compared to the rest of your industry – and, by extension, where you can lean in by linking to your greatest core competencies and brand attributes.

At the heart of the Subway brand lies choice, quality and customer control. Qualitative research tells us what Canadians are looking for in terms of new choices, and data from new item tests (limited time offers) quantifies the demand.

It’s not always that simple. Some initiatives can be strong on brand but lacking on the product side. But when both sides work together you can develop a really compelling campaign. Clarity in what your brand stands for – and the expression of that concept in a way that’s relatable to the consumer – is imperative.

This is what underpins our “Make It What You Want” program, which launched in 2017 and featured user-generated content and a greater focus on customization and choice as a point of differentiation. Research data supported our consumer insight that our guests, especially from a millennial and Gen Z point of view, want control – they don’t want formulaic food, nor do they want formulaic lives.

Naturally, loyalty programs – like the one we relaunched last year, giving customers access to a customized experience at every stage of the earning and redemption process – are the mother-lode of data insights specific to your brand. Research informed the development process, and today, not only do we get increased engagement and learn even more about customer purchase preferences through the app data, but our Subway MyWay members also have a higher cheque average – and enrollment continues to grow. Membership has increased by 75% in the first six-months of this year alone.

The integrators are clearly on the right path. Ensuring data and insights are part of the mix is something I’m absolutely committed to continuing in my own work, because it just doesn’t make sense not to.

Subway-Christina WellsCristina Wells is senior marketing director of Subway Canada.