It’s Heartdrive, Not Hard Drive

Over the past couple of years one topic has been at the centre of many business discussions, putting jobs at risk across the board and affecting nearly every industry. That topic is automation. There is a general consensus that automation (or the rise of the machines, in more dramatic terms) is creeping into every sector, endangering a growing number of jobs.

Today, mankind feels threatened by technology that is faster, cheaper, more efficient and sometimes even smarter at reading data and formulating decisions. But is the threat real?

While automation in the past was all ‘muscle’-based, now it’s ‘brain’ – or intelligence – based. In other words, today’s technology has fundamentally altered – and will continue to evolve – the way we humans think and perform with this increased cognitive capacity. As a result, our attention spans have shrunk, currently lasting a mere eight seconds on average (that’s one second less than a goldfish). Our short-term memory retention has also reduced, since we now can rely on search to store information for us in our pockets rather than retaining it in our brains. We no longer need to guess or make attempts at discovering what we don’t know since Google has all the answers.

Another outcome of this new level of automation is that consumers now expect a ‘life on demand’, thanks to an economy where everything is readily available to them, when they need it and exactly how they like it. Ultimately, the way we as a species communicate has transformed dramatically, moving away from a physical interaction to a screen-based exchange, losing the human touch in the process.

Marketing is one of the industries to benefit the most from all these changes in human psychology, as each person leaves a long trail of data behind them when interacting in this brave new world. Such data can now be harvested to enhance our communications and targeting strategies, making them more effective and precise than ever before.

As marketers, does this mean we’re reaching a stage where owning a hard drive, collecting the right data and acquiring the right tools for demand prediction will be enough for us to do our jobs? Definitely not. This is where the ‘heartdrive’ comes into play – an information-led communications approach that leverages technology for demand prediction, as well as human emotion for desire creation.

The heartdrive exists because no matter how informative and revealing data is in guiding our strategies, only human emotion can inspire the storytelling that stimulates consumer desire. If communications based on demand prediction are all about maintaining that marketing heartbeat, then desire creation is about marketing that makes our consumers’ hearts skip a beat. It’s the marketing that pulls the strings of human emotions and sparks desire to want something so bad. Apple is a great example of a brand that does this well in its communications.

However, even the processes we use to create desire are rooted in data. We now have the tools, based on data analysis, to tell us who our brand advocates are, what they like, what they believe in and what makes them tick, and then use this information to develop communication plans that are in sync with their lifestyles. We have reached the stage where we can no longer work from annual flowcharts, having to listen to what our consumers are doing in real time and then develop moment-based communications that resonate with them at that very point in time instead. Developing lookalike audiences allows us to move past our loyalists and identify new prospects that will respond similarly to these communications, thereby expanding our consumer base.

The underlying principle here is that relevance is the only thing that drives consumers’ relationships with a brand. Although automation has given rise to data trails, which we have quickly learned to interpret to point us in the direction of that relevance, only humans can create stories that truly touch people in the deepest of ways. These stories are the brand experiences that liberate consumers from their day-to-day lives, inspiring and motivating them to take the time to engage, share, comment and review the content, and ultimately, help the brand tell its story.

Let’s be clear: a heartdrive is by no means an off-the-shelf product that marketers or agencies can purchase. Rather, it’s a way of thinking that will help us deliver better communication plans for our clients; allow brands to become more personal and relevant to their consumers; and better leverage both the technological and human elements of our jobs in the most innovative way possible. While technology will continue to transform our capabilities, we should embrace its potential instead of fearing it. At the end of the day, it is human emotion and passion that prevails and dictates our future.

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About Author

Fadi Maktabi

With over 10 years of experience in media and marketing, Fadi Maktabi has developed a skillset for driving clients’ businesses forward with integrated marketing and communications planning. After graduating from the American University of Beirut in 2006, Fadi joined OMD UAE to work on the PepsiCo account and quickly excelled at growing the business. In 2009, Fadi moved to OMD Cairo to lead the account for North Africa. Throughout his tenure in the business, Fadi developed the account from a primarily offline one to the integrated approach that is used to manage its communications planning today. In 2012, Fadi returned to OMD’s MENA headquarters to manage the PepsiCo business for the entire region, overseeing 14 markets and 19 brands in the portfolio. Over the years, Fadi has strived to bridge the gap between offline and online media, while ensuring that brand strategies are kept at the heart of every marketing initiative. Today, he extends this skillset and experience in every single market to provide strategic outlooks for all client portfolios at OMD MENA.

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