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Shell Leader Shares Best Strategies For ‘Humanized Data-Led Creativity’

October 23, 2020 Sarah Cavill

At 2020 ANA Masters of Marketing Conference: A Virtual Experience, Dean Aragon, CEO and global VP of brand at Shell Brands International, explained his philosophy on how brands need to humanize their marketing through deep-dive data insights and informed creative. “Marketers today have an abundance of big data, but not enough insight. We can’t reduce people to data signals. When we find the human beings hidden beneath the data, we get much more effective creative,” explained Aragon.

Brands Need To Be There For Humans, Not Just Consumers

Shutterstock_1282956880 Cheerful african student black woman sitting at table studying using laptop reading a book, take a break holding mobile phone surfing internet received message from friend chatting about weekend plans

The conduct, culture and choices of brands are what influence and shape overall brand perception and the success of future advertising campaigns. According to Aragon, a philosophy of “business for humans and brands for humans” can lead consumers to not just “buy, but buy into” brands. A combination of both purposes, the sale and the brand mission, can create a more enduring sense of differentiation than a brand that is solely focused on the bottom line. Consumers want brands that are true to their missions, going beyond transactional.

Marketers Need To Go Deeper With Their Data

“People talk about data scientists, but what we need are data alchemists. Data can enable creativity, but it’s critical to understand the stakeholders. The why. The deep psychological levers that target that right stimuli to get the desired response, beyond just a message transfer,” explained Aragon. A brand that just parrots data insights is likely a brand that doesn’t know its customers well and hasn’t decided what its purpose is or how to communicate its brand mission. Once a brand has established its fundamental truth and anchor points, it should feel free to change style but not substance. 

For Shell, the goal of transforming into the “energy business of the future” is reflected in their campaigns. From encouraging more women in engineering to “The Great Travel Hack,” a YouTube campaign that challenged travelers to go across the country in the most eco-friendly way possible, Shell’s #makethefuture initiatives have generated 4 billion views on YouTube and 4 million deeper engagements, according to Aragon. With all Shell’s advertising campaigns, especially one like “The Great Travel Hack” which was ongoing, data allows the creative to stay dynamic and change direction if necessary.

Brands Must Go Beyond Personalization, Finding Shared Meaning With Consumers

“Brands must be obsessed with the human dimensions,” said Aragon. It’s not enough to just personalize. “Big ideas demand shared meaning,” that reaches the heart of what matters to consumers. Once brands know what matters to people, they can effectively differentiate by creating true meaning for their audiences versus simply suggesting the benefit of transactions. By answering the larger questions consumers have about, in the case of Shell, the future of energy, and actually walking the walk, brands can resonate with consumers. 

“Humans are far too complicated to be reduced down to data points without nuance,” said Aragon. Brands that harness their big data for deeper insights can create effective creative, meaningful connections with consumers and lasting purpose-driven brands.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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