Data has always been an unprecedented tool for marketers, from the early days of Web1 to the now booming Web3. A study by McKinsey done last year reported that data-driven marketing will be the new normal, as marketers look to double down on precision and targeted marketing efforts. Companies that hone their data-driven marketing in streamlined ways can also drive significant customer acquisition, especially during periods of rapid change such as that of the pandemic. 
However, brands will have to first update their data modelling systems in order to keep pace with consumers’ changing needs and expectations, and they must also be mindful of consumer behaviour. New data is also key, as well as adopting a wide-angle approach to data collection. Meanwhile, with the impending deprecation of third-party cookies, marketers are also doubling down on first-party data to build up their capabilities. 
An Adobe study released earlier this year found that 45% of practitioners in APAC don’t feel prepared for marketing in a world without cookies, while 59% in Asia rated their preparations for a post-third-party cookie marketing environment as “ineffective/highly ineffective”. Despite the challenges, many brands still forged ahead and pushed to build up their own reservoir of first-party data. 
As we take a look at data-driven marketing, the team turned to the results from A+M‘s #MarketingExcellenceAwards Malaysia 2021 to see which brands scored well among the judges. Here’s the list in alphabetical order.
1. Drinkies Malaysia
Alcohol and spirits distributor Drinkies Malaysia impressed judges with its “Bottoms Up! Forecasting Demand with Party Moments” campaign, aimed at creating higher demand for its products using data, retaining customers and improving brand loyalty. As an alcohol and spirits eCommerce distributor, Drinkies looked to bring the 3.5 million drinkers of alcohol in Malaysia a better online experience. For Drinkies itself, there was also a huge pool of consumers to tap into, who the brand knew little about. Thus, to gain the highest top-of-mind, Drinkies wanted to take it to the next level by looking at data, understanding deep data patterns, enriching performance, and generating higher demand so it can engage with consumers better. 
Drinkies’ strategy was to find a comprehensive CRM solution that uses data and enriched consumer profiles to market Drinkies products and services in a more effective way. Drinkies used DotDigital, an omnichannel marketing automation platform, that connects seamlessly to the Magento shop backend and allows for enriched data extraction, creating smart segments.
drinkies my data
As personalisation is at the core of Drinkies CRM and loyalty practice, and an increasingly important tool in today’s consumer economy, Drinkies equipped its site with digital tools, technology solutions, deep data analytics and smart algorithms to gain a clearer insight into its customers, and deliver based on individual preferences. Drinkies created detailed segmentations to engage consumers at different levels based on their frequency of purchase, the value of their purchase, how active they were in engaging with Drinkies, geolocation tag, and app versus desktop behaviour. The CRM approach also enabled things to be done faster, which proved Drinkies’ advantage as it would help the brand learn from results and map its performance of what works and what doesn’t, and apply the learnings to refine the activations.
In its delivery, Drinkies moved from a digital-first to sales-first approach, applying this across integrated marketing and CRM strategies. Drinkies also ensured that this approach would cut across messaging and media, and across offline and online.
How did the company do this? Drinkies utilised a four-step approach: foundation, testing, iteration, new tactics. For foundation, Drinkies carried out initial data analysis to understand basic user behaviour across the Drinkies site. Once the brand had the insights, it could create simple customer segments, purchase and frequency-based automation.
For the next steps, Drinkies created specific layers to add testing and real-time feedback loops with weekly modifications after the basic automation had started running. This was also used to improve performance capabilities. This included rewarding customers with coupons, where Drinkies did extensive A/B tests, and also added app versus website user segmentation for higher relevance. Its new tactic approach saw the brand utilise topical content to create a unique Stay Home Playbook and ongoing campaign-based activations.
The forecasting systems, CRM automation and overall sync with hyper-relevant moments led to good CRM results. In comparing the brand’s Q3 and Q4 2020 performance, Drinkies saw 66.4% higher page views from emails, 19.9% growth in unique clicks, an improved click to open rate from 6.74% to 9.36%, and a 237% increase in overall transactions.
2. Nestlé Malaysia
Nestlé Malaysia worked with Digitas Malaysia for its campaign to create a connected, digital eco-system that would allow its smaller-scaled brands and D2C businesses thrive in an increasingly digitalised world. Nestlé thus looked to devise a strategy where these brands would be able to stand out while also helping them in creating meaningful connections with consumers and shoppers, so that they could stay ahead of the competition and win customer loyalty.
Smaller brands particularly suffered during the pandemic, as the rapid shift to digital disrupted shopping patterns and forced brands to consider ways to keep customers engaged, across every touchpoint in a complex consumer journey.  For Nestle, a key challenge was to find a way that would help the brand reclaim control and build its own relational intelligence.
Nestlé decided to create a strategic framework that would illustrate the symbiotic relationship between single brands and Nestlé’s multi-branded platform, Dear Nestlé. With a holistic, country-level data strategy approach, Nestlé decided to harmonise online and offline data with Nestlé’s consumer data to form a singular view of its consumers. Nestlé aimed to fast track its brands’ adoption of data marketing approaches as well, by standardising a way to track and measure first-party data growth and impact of data activation on business. 
Families are the core consumer and shopper segment for Nestlé, which is what the brand focused on with this campaign. Naturally, Nestlé aimed to win over them early on – when families are just budding, and keep them within Nestlé’s ecosystem of brands as the families grow and mature. 
From engagement through to conversion, to target and personalise consumers’ stream of content.  From the handful of brands and campaigns that incorporated the activation of first-party data, Nestlé was able to achieve satisfying results that helped with efficient and effective marketing.
nestle strategy 
While Nestlé has stated that it is still currently in the early stages of its marketing transformation journey, which includes shifting towards adopting a more data-driven approach to conducting its marketing activities, this strategy showed that it is a great start to building an arsenal of best practices and insights to use repeatedly to drive continuous improvements and business growth.
3. Taylor’s University
Taylor’s University aimed to boost visibility and propel its business school. This follows a decline in market size for business studies across private, higher education institutions, between 2015 and 2019. Due to the oversaturated and highly competitive market, Taylor’s University looked to differentiate itself from its competitors and make itself more desirable to prospective students. 
Taylor’s Business School needed a clear and compelling business proposition that would be able to cut through the clutter; declining market size amidst an increase in the number of players; and having a lower top of mind in awareness versus competition. The university’s goal was thus to differentiate Taylor’s Business School as a progressive business school, which produces relevant, in-demand graduates with strong business fluency gained by solving real-world challenges, a strategy that would be backed by a steadfast academic faculty, professional bodies, and corporate partners. Secondly, it aimed to grow Taylor’s Business School’s student numbers, market share and profitability.
The first element of its strategy involved distinguishing Taylor’s Business School via Taylor’s sphere, an ecosystem where students sharpen their intellect through a work-based learning curriculum. Taylor’s developed two new programmes anchored in Taylor’s sphere, in order to spearhead the business school’s transformation as a progressive and industry-driven business school.
taylors sphere
One of the new programmes was Bachelor in Entrepreneurship (Team Entrepreneurship) (Hons) where students would be able to work on real projects, in a co-working office environment space, acquire seed funding with the support of an industry-based mentor to graduate as an owner of a start-up. The other programme launched was the Bachelor in Accounting (Fintech) (Hons). The programme was designed in view of changes sweeping the financial services industry and would help students delve beyond accounting into fintech innovation spaces such as blockchain, cloud computing, data analytics and machine learning, with a double internship opportunity and certification from Bloomberg.
For the campaign, Taylor’s opted for an integrated marketing communications approach, that would be backed by technology and intelligence. It employed MADGICX, an AI-backed omnichannel marketing platform with creative intelligence that would enable analysis of creative type, copy length, emoji preference and audience targeting across campaigns. Each aspect was analysed with data to create the optimal campaign strategy.
Overall, based on learnings across ad campaigns by MADGICX, the business school’s campaign budgets shifted gears and refocused on Facebook leads, as opposed to website conversion leads, as cost per website lead was significantly higher versus overall cost per lead. Analysis of each aspect revealed that the best-performing ad type was “Image” as opposed to “Carousel”, and that medium copy length with additional use of emojis were more engaging than ones without.
All ad campaigns also used campaign budget optimisation and automated rules to drive performance. The campaign also opted to stop ads if daily cost per lead was more than RM160, and conversely spend more daily if the cost per lead was less than RM120. Lastly, Taylor’s opted for broad interest targets as opposed to custom audiences for its audience targeting approach, having found it to be cheaper and more optimisable.
Taylor’s utilised various channels in the execution of this campaign strategy, mainly focusing on digital, after a Nielsen study from 2018 indicated that 96% of Malaysians own a smartphone, and 84% have access to social media. Its digital efforts included: lead generation ads, programmatic banners, digital banners, social media ads, EDM, digital PR, advertorials and DOOH. Its other key strategy was to host a virtual event, Taylor’s e-Summit, an entrepreneurship webinar where speakers shared experiences of creating demand for business in the online marketplace amidst COVID-19 and held interview sessions to highlight the Team Entrepreneurship degree. It also held a radio programme.
Most of Taylor’s digital efforts were targeted towards Gen Z. Lead-gen ads and SEM campaigns ran at least six months ahead of launch to drive awareness and generate leads for the team entrepreneurship and fintech programmes. Ads to highlight the key outcomes of attaining the Bachelor in Entrepreneurship (Team Entrepreneurship) (Hons) and The Bachelor in Accounting (Fintech) (Hons) were also focused on driving new leads. Additionally, Taylor’s went for publicising op-ed pieces that would highlight entrepreneurship and fintech in a post COVID-19 resurgence.
The digital advertorial and content pieces were posted on Taylor’s website, social media platforms and online media publications such as The Edge Markets and The Star Online, and other education portals featuring Taylor’s latest progressive and unconventional programmes. Content pieces were developed together with researchers, academics, industry partners and students from the business school as well. Topics ranged from the role of universities in contributing to society via linkages and collaboration for more societal impact, to innovation in family-owned businesses, and the changing job landscape. 

During the webinar, titled “Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age”, founders of Boozeats, Burgerlab and The Hive were invited as speakers on the topic of entrepreneurship in a digitalised world. The speakers spoke on the challenges of the pandemic, which conversely created unprecedented opportunities for business owners to reimagine the purpose and potential of their businesses via digital platforms. The engagement talks and sharing of real-life experiences helped students better understand and appreciate the value of a Team Entrepreneurship programme in equipping them with a valuable head start in their entrepreneurial endeavour.
Through its BFM radio exclusive, the business school held engaging interviews to discuss the importance of not just new skills but a new mindset in order to be an entrepreneur in the “new normal”. In particular, beyond strong theoretical knowledge, practical exposure coupled with networking is essential to establish a solid foundation for an entrepreneurship journey. These topics were chosen in alignment with Taylor’s aim to become a top-of-mind business school in the region. The show went live on July 2020 with goals of driving awareness and student enrolment for August intake in 2020. 
Digital OOH screens also lit nine locations in Kuala Lumpur’s CBD (such as Jalan Pinang KLCC, Jalan Maarof Bangsar, KL Sentral/Tun Sambanthan, Persiaran Tropicana Utara) for 15 seconds between July to August 2020. The Team Entrepreneurship ad focused on fast-tracking one’s entrepreneurial success while the Fintech ad accentuated Malaysia’s 1st transformative Accounting and Fintech degree.
In spite of the pandemic, the business school saw a significant increase of over 60% in total student population supported by the innovative and effective use of business intelligence data to drive the campaign. Pending the release of the latest MOE data on IPTS enrolments, the business school was projected to have encroached on the market share of competition, disrupting the marketplace with its new and unconventional degrees. Gross revenue for the business school rose by 17% in July 2021 versus July 2020.
Although spend on the business school’s lead generation campaigns rose in 2021 compared to the previous year, the number of leads grew three times higher. Cost per lead declined by 25% from RM156 in 2020 to RM117 in 2021, and a 30% increase in visitors to Taylor’s Business School webpage was also seen.  
4. YES Malaysia 
Last May, the government announced the Jaringan Prihatin programme, a financial subsidy for telecom providers to assist B40 families and individuals to get access to broadband internet data. This subsidy programme presented an opportunity for local telecom provider, YES, to establish itself as a leading provider of 4G LTE mobile plans, gain market share in the highly competitive space and generate more subscriptions through new user acquisition.
As part of the programme, YES launched its Prihatin Plan, a free subscription package that included a smartphone, 12-months of free internet data and access to premium subscription-based content. However, the opportunity didn’t come without its challenges, as 11 other telecom companies were also granted the same subsidy, levelling the playing field with competitors offering similar packages. This made it difficult for YES’s Prihatin promotion to stand out. On top of this, there was the challenge of audience targeting. The subsidy programme was designed specifically to assist B40 groups, but household income information was rarely available for business use, and databases with income data often solicited a high price tag. To address these challenges, YES worked with ForwardPMX to devise a performance campaign strategy to break through the market clutter and drive subscriptions.
With competitors expected to launch Prihatin promotions at the same time, the team at YES understood the urgency of having a media strategy capable of accurately targeting B40 audiences. A thorough understanding of the audience and their user journeys was needed to create a more cohesive brand experience, delivering the right message, at the right time and at the right place. Without household income data available, YES initiated a market research project using third-party resources to identify audience signals that the telco could tap into.
The research resulted in the creation of three ideal target consumer segments, each with unique interests and online behaviours, and most importantly mobile-first users. These behavioural signals were used to guide our targeting parameters and our media strategy. To narrow targeting even further, different Malaysian states were categorised into three geographical tiers based on income averages, which were used to inform the brand’s media budget allocation. However, the identification of B40 audiences from third-party platforms was not accurate enough for efficient targeting. Thus, YES devised a two-phased campaign strategy, designed to gather first-party data to drive our data-driven approach.
yesmalaysiacampaign
The first phase was launched on 26 March, one month before the official launch of the Prihatin Plan. The primary objective was to collect first-party data on B40 audiences in preparation for the official launch, focusing on driving brand consideration and conversion to identify verified B40 individuals and families. YES created an exclusive offer for B40 audiences during Phase One, launching the 40GB for B40 Plan. Applicants needed to verify their B40 status for approval, ensuring that all new subscribers were within the brand’s target group. It started with audience prospecting using preliminary signals identified from the market research.
Those who interacted with the ads were directed to the campaign landing page to apply for the plan, allowing YES to collect first-party data throughout the process. Traffic data from those who visited the website was also collected. With the new data in hand, YES narrowed down B40 audience targeting by creating lookalike audiences using the first-party subscriber data. This helped refine its audience, increasing the likelihood of reaching the B40 target segment. To drive greater conversions, a series of top-down retargeting campaigns were launched to engage those that had landed on the campaign page but had not yet been converted.
Phase Two, aka the official Prihatin Campaign, began on 30 April, soon after the subsidy became available. Using first-party audience data and performance insights from phase one, the team was able to make further performance optimisations for the campaign structure, to set up and drive greater subscription uptake amongst B40 audiences. The geographical tiers by income were then reorganised based on phase one performance and budgets were reshuffled, placing more emphasis on regions that showed the most successful conversations.
Media budgets also shifted between channels to those that were most effective in bringing high propensity prospects. To generate buzz in the market, YES launched a large-scale brand campaign during the first few weeks of May, using the first-party data signals collected from Phase One
to target high propensity audiences.
YES’s media strategy was based on three key statistics:
Programmatic platforms including DV360, Quantcast and mobile-based platforms, S4M and Ogury, formed the key distribution channels for prospecting. The platforms’ expansive ad inventory allowed YES to gain maximum reach while allowing it to refine its target audience, through automated optimisation capabilities, which was critical as we lacked consumer data. The first-party data from phase one was used to create lookalike audiences on these platforms for more efficient and targeted prospecting.
Social and video platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok, also dominated the mid-funnel. YES made use of Facebook’s unique profile targeting capabilities to reach audiences by occupation (blue-collar employment) and interests (mobile brands, telco brand followers). Twitter allowed the brand to reach followers of competitors through keywords and brand following. YouTube and TikTok were crucial in driving mass reach, with YouTube being the only platform with income data available. Retargeting campaigns were also run via social for a more personalised experience. Google Search campaigns were launched to drive conversions.
YES also created two campaign types – a brand campaign which included keywords with “YES” and package names; and generic campaigns, which focused on keywords such as competitor brands, telco providers, mobile plans and the Prihatin programme.
The two-phased campaign strategy was a huge success in drumming buzz and interest for YES’s Prihatin Plan. YES’s data-driven approach secured high interest and consideration amongst B40 groups in the first phase. Within one and a half weeks of the second phase, YES successfully attracted new subscribers, more than the initial target. Phase two activations were 56 times more efficient in cost per B40 sign up, compared to phase one. While the campaign is still ongoing, by June 30th, 2021, YES acquired a total of 879K new subscribers between the two phases.
5. TM ONE 
TM ONE, a local connectivity provider, looked to restore trust in consumers in viewing the telco company as a trusted partner and government-linked company that would encourage Malaysians to adapt to digital. The company looked to improve its brand perception, mainly among enterprises, to deliver complex IT solutions such as cloud and cybersecurity. This was key in supporting the company’s growth strategy beyond connectivity.
TM ONE had to build public credibility, to illustrate that it was a partner that customers could trust when it came to digital transformation initiatives. So far, TM ONE had been relying on traditional marketing means, such as events, workshops and presentations, as its main channels for brand building and lead generation, until they were forced to shift gears due to COVID-19. The company looked to how it could leverage digital content and channels to achieve its objectives by turning to data-driven marketing.
To conceptualise a data-driven B2B marketing strategy, TM ONE worked with IDC and GetIT to produce desk and market research reports in order to understand the opportunities and challenges each of its target audiences was facing. The reports showed that every industry wanted to reap benefits of emerging technologies such as AI, cloud, machine learning, IoT andcybersecurity and had begun investing in those areas. In spite of this, Malaysian enterprises and the public sector were revealed to be behind the curve. 
TM ONE recognised this discrepancy as an opportunity to become the trusted partner of Malaysians by aiding their digitalisation efforts. As a newcomer in the IT space however, TM ONE would have to compete with the likes of Microsoft, Azure and AWS in the Cloud market, and that of Akamai and Fortinet in the Cybersecurity space. The company thus needed to grow its business further and prove that it was knowledgeable in AI, IoT, big data, IR 4.0 and smart services in order to be considered a reliable digital transformation partner. 
Veering away from traditional marketing, TM ONE decided to leverage content marketing to engage, nurture and convert prospects into customers. The company also needed to show that it understood its customer’s challenges and their industry-specific needs. TM ONE thus worked with GetIT’s insight team to produce in-depth research reports for target accounts and industries. TM ONE also derived and developed a personalised content plan for each industry.
This process included creating the content plan, which looked at real-decision makers from each industry – details such as their job responsibilities, aspirations and challenges. The topics were then matched to the buying journey for each decision-maker, from research to purchase. TM ONE also partnered with IDC to jointly produce custom info briefs on the state of cloud and cybersecurity in Malaysia, to raise the company’s visibility as well as awareness of the company’s knowledge of the two markets. While the reports would normally cost US$4,500 to download, TM ONE elected to use the reports as lead magnets instead, with outreach campaigns executed on LinkedIn and EDMs sent to TM ONE’s database. The outreach campaign started in January 2021 and lasted for three months.
TM ONE also used Pardot, a marketing automation tool, to personalise the content of each decision-maker who had downloaded the info brief. This included content such as eBooks, infographics, factsheets, newsletters, articles and webinars, tailored for their industry throughout their buying journey. 
The campaign allowed TM ONE to achieve its main objective of improving its brand perception as a trusted digital transformation partner and provider of complex IT solutions. According to its quarterly brand health tracker report prepared by Kantar, it was revealed that overall, 60% of TM ONE’s customers think it exhibits technological thought leadership (16 point increase), is trusted (16 point increase), offers integrated solutions (six point increase) and offers cloud solutions meeting their needs (27 point increase). This contributed to the growth of its brand power by 0.9 points from Q4 2020 to Q1 2021 (from 7.6 to 8.5). In addition, its NPS Score increased by three points to 42 (1H2021) from FY2020.
Photo courtesy: 123RF
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