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In this series, Talk data to me, we chat with leaders from the world’s biggest brands and agencies about how they’re using insights to drive their business strategies.

We caught up with Matt Oakley, global head of data and analytics at Hotwire Global, to get his thoughts on using data to define business strategy, the importance of user experiences in a cookieless future, and what it means to be truly “data driven” today.

Tell us a bit about your role.

My role is to manage our organization’s data and analytics operations, and to create strategic solutions that we can utilize across our global hubs.

These solutions are developed to help our clients harness the power of data across the campaigns and programs that we’re running for them, both on the marketing and the communication side. What that means is helping them use data in a strategic way, measuring the impact of all of those campaigns, and really enabling them to grow as businesses.

What’s keeping you busy at the moment?

Growth and innovation. Data and analytics is a huge part of the growth agenda at Hotwire, and we’ve recently launched a new suite of data offerings for our marketing and communications clients to help them achieve their aims.

What’s your favorite stat in the whole wide world?

I came across a new stat over the weekend which is my current favorite – Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average, which translates to 3.5 billion searches per day.

Talk to me about an example of data-led creativity that you love.

One that comes to mind was something we created last year, a really wonderful study called Decoding Tech Brands – produced in partnership with the University of Sydney Business School. It shows that getting the semiotics of your brand right – I’m talking about the meaning and representations of signs and symbols – can deliver incremental gains that impact top and bottom lines.

Powered by robust academic research and balanced by real world examples, it showed that for tech startups, the key to success is to focus on branding – earlier and more consistently – as well as creating meaningful connections with people, rather than focusing exclusively on product.

How do data and the use of audience insights inform your business strategy? And how does it give you a competitive edge?

We use data across our entire organization. In terms of helping us define business strategy, it ranges from revamping the way that we present ourselves, to looking at our SEO strategies, to evolving what we’re putting out there, and how we speak to our audience.

We craft specific content around what the insights are showing us, like how the audience is interacting with our brand on both our own website and across third-party channels. We’re able to say, “We really want to work with brands X, Y, and Z. How can we make that happen?.” And the answer is we make it happen by using data and insights to feed into our strategy. 

What’s your take on AI and marketing?

We’re leaning on AI and big data to help us understand social media chatter, how audiences perceive a particular brand, or what they’re saying about a client we’re working for – or their competitors. In terms of marketing, it’s looking at audience perceptions and the conversations around a brand to help us tell a compelling story to their audience.

What’s the most interesting thing about your audience?

Our audiences are integral to the way we devise our campaign strategies, and what’s so interesting is that with so many different channels and platforms now, strategies have to be so compelling to make an impact. For instance, across a lot of our marketing campaigns we aim to speak to senior stakeholders; they’re a key audience for us.

One way to reach them is via influencers – and when I say “influencer”, I don’t necessarily mean the usual social media figure, it can also be members of the organization or within a team who might have the ability to influence up within their business. A tool like GWI helps us really drill down on which channel to use effectively.

What will be the biggest threat to your sector in the coming years?

Bad use of data.

The world creates literally trillions of megabytes of data every day, which can be used well – or badly.

If you ask the wrong questions then you’ll start to look at the data in the wrong way – even if the data itself is spot on. Pretty soon you’ll come to the wrong conclusions – all because you initially went down the wrong path.

What’s your take on the cookieless future?

I think a cookieless future will start to enhance the importance of user experiences, whether that’s through Web3 or the metaverse, and ultimately drive deeper consideration, deeper affinity and deeper advocacy.

The point around first-party data is really about customization and the ability to create very rich experiences so that people start to turn into advocates. That’s not what we’ve been accustomed to over the past decade.

What will be the biggest opportunity in your sector in the years to come?

I’ll answer that with a question, what does it mean to be data-driven in 2023? I think being “data-driven” has gone from just using data for particular tasks, to data being influential in the whole decision-making process and having a considerable impact on business strategies.

I think the biggest opportunity in the comms and marketing space is the increased application of AI and predictive analytics to inform strategies, content, and the different mediums we use to reach our audience.

What top trend are you seeing emerge in your wider industry?

It’s the mainstreaming of AI and other innovative technologies. I think there are going to be huge changes as those technologies are woven into everyday life. So the question is, how do we harness the power of that in the right way? Chat GPT is crazy smart now, but it’s just the start. I think it’s going to be exciting to watch.

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Written by

Roger is a senior copywriter at GWI with a special interest in research and data topics. He's written three books on copywriting for major publishers that together have earned him literally dozens of pounds. His hobbies include running, music and writing about himself in the third person.

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