How building a data-driven marketing organization can increase innovation


As part of the third installment in a series on new ways to drive innovation, I connected with Teresa Barreira, CMO of Publicis Sapient. The first article in the series looked at a new way of thinking about innovation and the second article explored how “ways of working” can be innovated to drive growth. In this article, Barreira explores how she uses data-driven marketing to increase organizational innovation.

Kimberly whitler: Many leaders believe that innovation is about improving / adding products and services. What do you think of the innovation mechanisms that leaders can use to drive growth?

Teresa Barreira: It may or may not be surprising, but I think data is the foundation for better innovation. Data can tell us what decisions we need to make based on insight versus intuition. I always say, “the data had a better idea”. You would think that we are going to walk into a room with a whiteboard, and an explosion of creativity will emerge. But today, creativity comes from data. It tells us what works and what doesn’t. This allows us to make adjustments that move the needle over time. Today, most digital businesses are able to innovate continuously (e.g. Amazon, Uber) because they are powered by data, which allows them to learn, make changes and evolve. This may or may not be surprising, but for me data is a critical ingredient needed to drive innovation.

Whitler: Can you give an example?

Barreira: During the pandemic, we leveraged customer knowledge and behaviors to create a next-generation platform called HOW speaks. To be relevant, we thought we should keep the videos under 15 minutes. We ended up putting up six videos and then watching how people interacted with the content. We had 2.5,000 attendees to our live virtual webcasts, while our on-demand virtual events generated 9.5 times the reach of attendance and greater contribution to the pipeline. We constantly measure, learn, then imagine. Data is the mechanism that enables us to innovate with precision. We have now launched 70 episodes through our HOW Talks (for example, see Publicis Sapient video on outlook 2021).

Whitler: Can you give an overview of how this changes what you know and therefore how you innovate?

Barreira: The reflection began with the launch of a streaming platform for short interactive content, all of less than 5 minutes, called The COMMENT channel, it is the first of its kind. We knew that 4 key components were necessary for the success of the platform: scalability, data, customization and connectivity. To generate data, we needed scale and volume. Once we had the data, we could create personalization and personalization, delivering personalized content to key audiences. And finally, the data has informed us about what works and what doesn’t, and allows us to improve, optimize and test. This has led to incredible results and impact. Not only have we been able to extend the platform since its launch in August, but The HOW Channel generated 30% of our marketing pipeline last year in just 4 months.

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