POV: Interview with Matt Blasco, Managing Director of Marketing Analytics & Insights
I’m Matt Blasco, the managing director of analytics and insights at EURO RSCG. I currently live in New York, but I’m originally from Connecticut. I studied economics and math at Columbia University — which my dad commonly referred to as “basket weaving,” since I did not go into engineering. I had imagined that I’d go into business or finance, but an internship with Red Bull led me down the marketing path.
In your role at Euro RSCG Discovery, you focus on the digital presence of brands and how that affects planning? How do you think agencies should be using analytics or different types of data in order to predict or determine the best strategies?
Digital is certainly a piece of the puzzle and the most easily measured, but it is still just a piece. Agencies need to have a holistic view on clients’ campaigns, their competitive landscape and general trend of the industry. That said, analytics needs to be thought about before strategies are set rather than just once it’s time to measure performance. Our insights help drive to Euro RSCG’s Creative Business Ideas™, from which the strategic channel and creative plans are made. We’ve made it a standard practice to forecast performance before a dollar is spent to make sure that we can meet client expectations or at least level set expectations.
Social listening is being emphasized as a key part of any social media outreach. As you collect data on online “chatter”, how do you work with other disciplines (such as the PR department or customer service) in order to change the brand’s traditional consumer outreach?
As you would expect, every client is unique and so too is the social listening strategy. We have large clients who we’ve helped build out their internal social practices with structured governance models and business rules, (i.e. these types of conversations go to PR, customer service or even local agents). We’ve even had a client successfully drive auto sales via social: Yes, completely attributed to social. We also work closely with our own PR team to monitor both Havas and Euro chatter and use it to help steer some of the off-line actions, à la the launch of our CEO David Jone’s recent book, “Who Cares Wins.”
How do you work to understand how digital engagement and campaigns lead to offline “transactions” or even increased brand awareness?
So you want to know our silver bullet? There is seldom a perfect correlation to sales or intent or brand awareness. Often brands come with a list of KPIs to track because that is what’s being talked about most in their office (“Facebook Fans”). We prefer to look at a full spectrum of metrics and let the data tell you what the actual key performance indicators are. To do so often requires these brands to lift the kimono and share sales data so that the market mix models have a dependent variable to track. Momentum™, Net Promoter Score or even Google searches are great proxies for awareness, but you need these all trended over time to really see attribution from the various components of your campaign.
If you can’t always measure this online-to-offline result, how do you work to convince brands of the value of social and digital initiatives?
It used to be that social was sold simply on “you don’t want to be the only one not doing it.” ComScore, Neilsen and the other big research groups have proven beyond a doubt that digital and social have a value, the question is simply how much and what percent of budget and time do we give it. The beauty of digital is that the campaign can outlive the media dollars. This is where the opportunity lies to make the communication two-way and interact with the brand’s audience. At the very least, these channels should be research grounds to better understand the customer’s needs (not just a venue to listen to their complaints and give out freebies).
Compared to traditional methods, the data we can access about a brand’s consumers is incredible. But are the numbers enough? What does Euro RSCG Discovery do with the data in order to understand how a digital campaign is truly performing?
As mentioned before, we are often less concerned with the number of fans that a brand may have than about who they are. Obviously, we all want those coveted “influencers” that will sing praises about your brand, but on an aggregate level we want to see how well their interests align with the personas that the brand targets. Does our Facebook audience mirror the “25- to 54-year-old mom” that the media is targeting? If not, maybe that is highlighting an opportunity or the campaign is performing differently than we expected. A younger audience of passionate advocates may generate a greater lifetime value and be worth dedicating a communications stream to, so long as it doesn’t alienate the core. Looking at performance through the lens of the audience data is not so black and white.
How do you think that social media will continue to play a role in search results and rankings?
I’ll just preface this with, “I am certainly not a Google insider,” but I have my theories. As the volume of social content increases, it would make sense that this will have an impact on Google’s algorithm. Year over year we see social content means more and more Twitter. It’s the least effort, and therefore the easiest to game. As a result, it wouldn’t surprise me if Google de-emphasizes the weight of Twitter in its ranking.
What are some of the data measurement points that are becoming more important for brands, outside of number of followers or fans and site visits?
Back to my earlier comment, these are metrics but not likely KPIs. You can spend media dollars and easily achieve high fans, followers or site visits. That said, do they bounce when they get there or ever return to the fan page? Metrics with a higher level of effort are the ones that need to be optimized to: coupon downloads, car configurations, on-site video tutorials, retweets or fan page engagement. The ultimate metric will remain sales, but Net Promoter Score (or an equivalent) and Google search data are being used more widely throughout organizations.
What challenges have measuring mobile engagement, visits and advertising posed for your team?
We can easily see the visitors and what they do on the site, so from that perspective, none. I’m less concerned with simple mobile advertising metrics and more concerned with knowing how it plays into the greater mix. The multi-screen consumer is a hot topic for us and getting a clearer understanding of how, when and for what purpose each channel is used and attributing it to final outcomes. If a car shopper does his or her primary research on a desktop, expands their consideration set after browsing on their tablet, confirms their decision after seeing a sexy ad for the new model on TV followed by a pricing offer and then uses their mobile phone to find the nearest dealer…that’s what we are fascinated by and want to improve with mobile.
What role does a director of analytics and insights play when planning a digital project, be it a website launch, redesign or content strategy?
My primary role is threefold: providing research and insights to inform the strategy, forecast potential results once the strategy begins to take form and making sure the measurement is thought of in advance to enable the necessary tracking and benchmarking.
Eric Ries wrote a great book called “The Lean Startup.” One of his key tenets is about pivoting. If you define short timelines and success criteria, you can check in frequently and nimbly pivot directions if something isn’t working. I think this is a great way that analytics can be a core component of all of these projects (digital or not).
How do you think the analytics and data analyst field will continue to grow? What trends are you excited about?
Our CSO, Tom Morton, presented at one of the OMMA conferences recently and had a mind-numbing stat that I’ll do my best to paraphrase: In 2010, people created 800 billion gigabytes of information. In his words — a MacBook Air for every person on the planet. By 2020, this amount of information created by each person is expected to increase by 50 times. McKinsey thinks that the US workforce will need an extra 1.5 million data-literate managers to cope with that volume of data.
I don’t know if the growth will be that staggering, but it’s certainly not going to decline anytime soon. The days of “it just feels right” or “this is how it’s always been done” have come and gone. Brand managers are being increasingly held accountable to performance, and being that guy or girl that the CEO turns to in a meeting for insights and recommendations certainly is not the worst position to be in.
What cannot be tracked right now that you hope will be trackable in the future?
There’s a lot that can be tracked but isn’t because of privacy. I’m in the market for a car right now, and think it would be great if I could have car companies competing for my business based on the sites I’ve visited. Call me crazy, but I think of personalization as a utility, not something scary.
Favorite blogs or individuals you follow for insights on analytics?
Avinash — His name is so ubiquitous in the marketing analytics industry that he’s like our Madonna, no last name needed. His blog, Occam’s Razor, is great source for information and new ideas, but like Madonna, he’s even better in person.
One reason that you love what you do: I get to surround myself with a team of smart people and help people improve their businesses. To say I have aspirations of helping solve world issues seems so cliché, but that’s David Jones’, our CEO, goal, and he seems to be making some serious strides. I’m sure he could use some number power.
Mentor: I’ve had a few, and I think you’ll see the clear underlying theme. I’d be lying if I didn’t include my dad on the list. In addition to the “be a good person” life lessons, he always advocated using logic and figuring things out on my own. He viewed college’s primary benefit not as what you learned, but learning how to think. David Helfand, my astronomy professor at Columbia, continued the logic-centric focus and forced us to do back-of-the-envelope calculations on just about everything. The last question of our final exam was, “How much does Columbia spend every year on Christmas lights?” and all he provided was the cost of a kilowatt hour of electricity. Everything else required you to make assumptions. Assumptive modeling has become a staple of our team, from weeding out strategic thinkers during interveiws to forecasting clients’ business success. Finally I’d say one of my first bosses, Michael Kaushansky. He taught me the ropes of true analytics and how to make it tell a story.
Must read book: “The Fountainhead”
Feature image courtesy of Flickr user alangrlane.