People data and its impact on marketing: Q&A with Unilever’s Shawn O’Neal

shawn-o-neal-unilever-czliveIn his session at ClickZ Live Chicago, Shawn O’Neal, vice president of marketing data and analytics at Unilever, will be talking about what Unilever calls “people data” and its impact on marketing. With just a month before the event, we spoke with O’Neal about his role, trends in data-driven marketing, and what exactly Unilever means by “people data.”

ClickZ (CZ): Tell us about your role as VP of marketing data and analytics.

Shawn O’Neal (SO): I lead Unilever’s Global People Data Program, which has the ultimate objective of enabling 1 billion relationships through digital data, analysis, and new ways of connecting with people. This involves the full integration of IT, consumer research, analytics, media, and marketing into a smoothly operating ecosystem of information and insights.

CZ: Your upcoming session at ClickZ Live Chicago is titled “People Data and Its Impact on Marketing.” What is people data?

SO: People data is any and all of the information that we can gather on individuals through direct interaction with our business or other individual permissioned and public sources that help us better understand how people want to interact with our brands and business. More than 2 billion consumers already use our products each day and our marketing investments reach out to them en masse around the world.

The goal of the People Data Programme is to enable marketing teams to do this at the right time, in the right place, with content that provides the highest value to the consumer, which gives them a reason to engage with us beyond the product itself. We believe that the engagement, combined with the reach available in a digital, mobile world is the next battlefield for driving brand equity and growth.

CZ: Can you provide any insights on how to measure the most relevant data to your business in digital channels?

SO: Measurement is still a challenge. The goal and means of getting there is becoming clearer, but measuring the right things for the given objective is the tough part. For instance, if the goal is engagement with your media, measuring impressions isn’t as helpful as measuring click-through rates and time spent on your website. There are dozens of examples like this and there is still a ton to be defined in this space.

Second, the visualization and insights need to be simple. So much so, that a recent college grad could tell the difference between good and bad without the need for an encyclopedia of digital media terms to figure it out.

Lastly, measurement is nothing without engaging storytelling to bring the insights home and influence decision makers to take action.

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