Engagement Labs shows data can drive brilliant market effort

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 4.13.12 PM
A screen grab from an RBC marketing campaign.

One of the minds behind a unique set of RBC marketing videos says in the age of big data, there is no need for companies to play a hunch when it comes to choosing a promotional strategy.

Anthony Wolch is the Chief Creative Officer for Engagement Labs, a Toronto-based company that leverages social technology to maximize client marketing goals.

Mr. Wolch said Engagement Labs was approached by RBC to design a marketing campaign which would appeal to first-time home buyers.

The first step was to understand them, Mr. Wolch explained. Engagement Labs accomplished this by conducting extensive social listening to determine which specific emotions those home buyers commonly experience.

An “unequivocal” pattern soon emerged in the data, Mr. Wolch said.

“Those emotions lend themselves well to different film genres,” Mr. Wolch explained. “Drama, romance, horror, science fiction. Some people experience all of them.”

The early stages are somewhat romantic, as the couple imagines the experiences they will have in the home, such as decorating and raising a family.

The next stage is akin to a drama or suspense thriller, where they wait to see if a bid has been accepted. That is followed by the horror of being outbid before the couple finds themselves in a science fiction tale of imagining eventual home ownership well into the future if at all.

Engagement Labs set out to dimensionalize those emotions into a cinematic narrative which follows a young, upscale couple through the home buying process. The first introduces the pair, showing them getting married, at work, and socializing. It has the look and feel of a romantic comedy.

Everything changes when the young woman announces she is pregnant.

In the second installment, the couple has their sights set on a particular home but have to contend with multiple offers. Stress begins to set in and they have arguments.

The third has a darker tone, complete with flickering lights, a gravel-voiced narrator, and suspicious potential neighbor.

The fourth, soon to be released, has a futuristic tone with robots and humor.

To create that movie trailer feel, Engagement Labs, incorporated appropriate music, high definition quality video, tone setting voices and feature film quality camera angles to make the viewer feel they are watching a Hollywood trailer.

The Hollywood feel should come as no accident, Mr. Wolch said. That is because Engagement Labs hired Hollywood directors to produce them.

The early installments were directed by Jeremiah Chechik, whose credits include Benny and Joon, The Avengers, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

The upcoming episode is directed by German directing duo Alex and Steffen. According to their Vimeo page, they specialize in visual effects-intense commercials which they direct and lead in post production. Winners of the 2005 Young Directors Award at the Cannes Film Festival, the pair have a feature film slated for release in 2016.

“This may be one of the last commercials they ever produce,” Mr. Wolch said.

The quality gulf between the RBC videos and most of the promotional content on the internet is wide, with one reason being companies do not grasp the difference between how media is consumed on the internet and how it is consumed on television, Mr. Wolch said.

“There is a difference between a marketer who understands the demographic and one who is just marketing,” Mr. Wolch explained.

Many companies simply slap their commercials on YouTube and that brings little benefit, he said. People do not want to be strictly marketed to on the internet.

“Their expectation is better than garbage,” Mr. Wolch said. “Simple commercials can actually result in negative engagement.”

Successful engagement begins by having a conversation with the consumer, Mr. Wolch explained. But do not start talking immediately upon entering the online community, because you may not be welcome.

“To market successfully this way, you have to be the consummate listener. Become part of the community and participate.”

Once you develop a currency with the community, then you can initiate dialog, Mr. Wolch said.

Marketers accomplish this by creating desirable content, incentives, or a combination, Mr. Wolch added.

RBC’s content is desirable because they succeeded in create a movie-like experience in which the consumer can immerse themselves. Because the presentation quality and style evoke a sense of movie attendance the viewer chooses to become involved.

“A television commercial says this is my cereal and this is my bowl,” Mr. Wolch said. “I eat the cereal, I smile and then I hear its name again. At no point can they insert the consumer into the narrative.”

In order to successfully engage internet media consumers, marketers have to understand the different types of data which can be collected by the newest available methods. Only so many do, Mr. Wolch said.

Then you need to know what to do with the data. The pool narrows yet again.

“Hops, barley, and water make beer. Many people know that,” Mr. Wolch said. “But not everyone can make good beer.”

The ingredients are the data, but it takes a master distiller to combine them, Mr. Wolch admitted.

“You are using data to dimensionalize human insights which produce irrefutable results.”

The romantic comedy episode has been seen more than one million times while the entire campaign is approaching the two million view mark. Eighty percent of the people viewing the videos watch them to the end, an outstanding rate, Mr. Wolch said.

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