Monday, December 7, 2015

Using STEAM to Innovate How the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art + Design and Math Movement Applies to Marketing Success

By Jenise Osani
Director, Marketing & E-Commerce
Orlando Utilities Commission

Innovation has typically paved the way for success, giving companies a competitive edge and ensuring their future in the marketplace. From new products and systems to services that disrupt industries, transformation has typically been delegated to the halls of engineering or research & product development. In a global economy where the market is confined less and less by geography, marketing professionals need to embrace disciplines practiced by scientists and engineers in order to define new markets and better reach their targets. Each campaign needs to be a living, breathing social conglomerate.  By heating up the basic steps of your marketing process with new disciplines, your campaign will gain STEAM.  

STEAM is a movement championed by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and widely adopted by institutions, corporations and individuals who insert Art+Design into the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) movement. Utilizing the same STEM techniques being taught in elementary schools requires a shift in the way we think in order to make today’s nebulous market more concrete. 

Science, by definition, is systematic knowledge gained through observation and experimentation.  This is always the first step of innovation.  And it’s tough. The reason most marketing campaigns fail is because not enough time is spent understanding the customer.  Unfortunately, to appeal to all types of consumers, marketers can end up creating Frankenstein-like monsters that wreaks havoc on their brand instead of the Adonis they envisioned. While thorough discussions, focus groups, and sample testing are excellent ways to apply science to your own research, other less common practices like ethnography open up opportunities to anticipate customer needs before the customer even becomes aware of them. By visiting consumers in their environment to observe and listen without a quantifiable end-game, gaps appear where marketers can place meaningful messages at the most effective moment. 

Technology seems like an obvious way to insert your brand in your customer’s daily routine – complete your campaign creative, place it through a targeted, aggregated online buy dispersed over various digital channels, geo-fence it for good measure, and you’re done.  That is just one path in the consumer journey. Resonating with customers today requires intersecting the right message at the right time to engage them across traditional and digital channels. Coke Zero’s “drinkable advertising” is a literal example; during the 2015 NCAA Men’s Final Four, Coke launched a TV commercial that prompted viewers to sync the sound of a pouring Coke Zero with Shazam, a music discovery app, that unlocked mobile coupons for a free 20-ounce bottle of soda. This concept used smart phone technology to bridge TV, apps and a traditional storefront. The bad news is, consumers are bombarded with messages at a staggering level. The good news is, with proper research and understanding, technology allows you to cut through thos distractions and reach your customers at moments of impact rather than casting a net and hoping for results.  

Engineering is the next logical step to constructing your marketing juggernaut.  You’ve observed, you’ve experimented, you’ve determined your technological opportunities –now it is time to build.  This requires setting up a system of triggers based on consumer behaviors, much like mechanical engineering but with an x-factor of human behavior. For this, marketing automation is key, because campaigns need to be optimal across multiple channels.  Being smart with your content will target your message more directly, but creativity is also needed.  All of the targeted URLs and data won’t help unless the initial structure is built to collect and utilize information.  Today’s campaigns have many moving and integrated parts.  Engineer your initial structure properly for the best odds of success.

Art relies on intuition much like the hypothesis in a science experiment. So, jumping straight to creation and ignoring science, technology and engineering can result in poor design. Proper research and campaign construction allows marketers to truly focus on the most important elements of this step – effective design. No company has embraced Art and Design as extensively as  Apple.  Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, said, “There's no learning without trying lots of ideas and failing lots of times.” Feel it.  Feed it.  Grow it.  Pluck the seeds from it, plant them and grow another idea.  And another.  And test those.  It’s this cultivation that provides the best tasting fruit that customers want.

Lastly, let the Math in STEAM be the validation of your marketing genius. But, keep in mind, tracking doesn’t always mean having a successful campaign. As long as you gather statistics and analytics, you can use the systems you’ve engineered to assemble stats and make adjustments.  Put in the initial effort so you can test your creations and adjust along the way.

Leveraging STEAM requires a change in the state of marketing. It is important to remember that the core concepts we understand from the STEM methodology only work when you give respect and attention to Art and Design.  As marketing professionals, we all know the importance of Art and Design, but sometimes we forget the importance of the other four.  Working through all five phases will pay off in new opportunities and market share, but you have to be willing to change the form of what we do as marketers.