Soul’s Ben Rachel: advertising should prize the ‘fifth P’ – predictability – above disruption

Disruption has become one of the primary watchwords in modern marketing speak. There’s so much emphasis on the new and the shiny, on the world evolving at a massive rate propelled by technology. No wonder, then, that conventional wisdom has it that the brands and products that disrupt the status quo must be the ones that succeed.

And, let’s face it, it’s so much more exciting to rip everything up and start again than focus on what you already have. But I’d argue technology has delivered something to modern marketing that is an antonym for disruption: a fifth ‘P’ in the shape of predictability.

Yes, the original ‘four Ps’ (Price, Product, Promotion, and Place) are still the fundamentals. A product needs to be fit for purpose and be available at the right place for the right price. But the unprecedented development in data, technology, and platforms has led to the rise of predictability. Affording marketers the opportunity to make brands and products fitter for (and here’s yet another ‘P’) purpose and to make their advertising so much more effective.

There’s a strong recent example in the success of so-called alt-left politics in the shape of Momentum and similar organisations mobilising people to vote in the recent election. They are, rightly, seen as disruptors for bypassing traditional media channels and making use of data triangulation to underpin their case. Yet what they are really making use of, in the shape of products such as ‘My Nearest Marginal,’ which offers a car pooling service to supporters in marginal seats, is predictability provided by data.

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In some ways, the roots of this predictability lie in the old direct marketing world when people used to rent base lists such as the Electoral Roll and then overlay lifestyle database information describing people who had purchased dishwashers. This created propensity data to provide knowledge of who was then more likely to buy a product or service.

Now we are in a situation, due to the rise of social platforms, where propensity data is available in real-time. We know what people want because we know what they’ve said, who they’ve said it to and how they change their minds when other people react. This predictability is powerful for today’s marketer because it provides two benefits: we can establish people’s patterns of behaviour to encourage them to buy more than one product and to repeat a purchase, and we can talk to them before the buying event has even occurred.

This is possible due to algorithms and scraping of social data via affordable and accessible services such as Oracle’s Bluekai. With the majority of marketers focusing at the moment on efficiency and effectiveness, the predictability that such activity provides allows brands to engage with a higher number of people in an effective way, reducing advertising wastage. Predictability, in the shape of real-time data analysis, helps clients to spend less while achieving higher returns.

The marketing industry’s big tragedy remains a lack of attention to results even in the presence of so much data. Using data consistently as the basis for creative and content that resoundingly impacts on ROI is the next challenge for clients and agencies.

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This challenge needs to be faced because the predictability provided by real-time data sources makes it such a powerful connection and amplification tool. It’s high time that the industry understands this and learns to applaud the power of predictability as much as it does disruption.

Ben Rachel is a founder and planning director of Soul.

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