New Agency Is Cocktail of Data and Human-Driven Branding

As data transforms the science of advertising, it’s also changing the art of the profession. Marketing services group W2 aims to apply digital media driven data, often associated with ad targeting and measurement, to the less quantifiable side of advertising: branding. The group has launched branding agency Two Martinis, solidifying a data-driven approach to branding that’s been in development for W2 clients.

“The trend to acquire data sources is one of a need to understand what are going to be the most effective uses of client’s money,” said Aaron Hughes, SVP and creative director at Two Martinis.

The company uses “social media for unaided primary research,” explained Hughes, “to get a true look and understanding of what your brand really means to your customers.”

Hughes finds focus groups to be too “aided” and “guided” to provide a true sense of customer perception. So, the firm relies on a variety of tools and measures, some acquired or licensed, and others developed by W2, “to get a super set of data that’s then crunched by our own proprietary [system].” Following the research and analysis stage, the company works with its clients to identify, then design brand identities. Two Martinis calls this the “Dialog Brand” approach, and has already applied it for LookSmart, Digital Globe, Ringleader Digital, and U.S. Campaign for Burma.

The agency’s name may remind some of the two-cocktail lunch days of the ad industry’s heyday; however, Hughes said the name signifies “an artifact of a dialogue that you’ve had with a customer.” Picture a business meeting at a bar paired with few drenched olives.

For engineering software firm Bentley Systems, the company found some of its clientele online in trade-specific forums discussing the brand and its competitors, which provided insights into what the software meant to the customer base. “It is a pretty painstaking process involving many different sources of information, and being very close to the product offering,” said Hughes, noting that interpreting such information requires human analysis, not just data crunching.

‘”Qualitative and quantitative information are coming back together,” he continued. “We need to be looking at both aspects of that data.” Hughes believes that marketers are beginning to recognize that click-through rates are not an ideal form of measuring digital campaign success.

Other marketing consultancies have strengthened their data and technology capabilities — most notably WPP. The firm recently invested $25 million in analytics and optimization firm Omniture and acquired market research company TNS late last year.

W2 was founded by Larry Weber, who founded tech-centric PR firm The Weber Group, which he sold to Interpublic Group; he then formed another PR operation, Weber Shandwick, within Interpublic. Weber later left Interpublic to start W2 Group, which includes social media consulting outfit Digital Influence Group and marketing services firm Partners and Simons.

Two Martinis, based in Waltham, MA, has about 10 people on staff, some of whom are also senior executives at W2 Group, according to Hughes.

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