Personalisation in a Major Publishing Company

Personalisation, leading to Transformation 

Often, finding a fresh approach is needed to initiate change.

Business practice, team organisation and customer strategies are built around the current way of working, of looking at customers and at marketplaces. The larger the organisation, the harder it can be to introduce new thinking and new ways of working.

When you re-define who your customers are, how they should be addressed and grouped, or you even alter your value-proposition, then change becomes obvious and natural, because the status quo simply does not fit any more.

The usual barriers to achieving this are 1. Coming up with the big new idea; and 2. Proving it with data such that the transformation is recognised as justified and necessary.

CrowdCat worked with the leadership team at a major scientific publisher to achieve just this.

Business Opportunity

The leadership team was seeking to reshape the business.

At the centre of science publishing, and particularly in the area of Open Research (OR), there is a core decision to be made.

Essentially each scientist asks themselves “in which journal should I publish my years of research findings?”

The outcome of these series of singular decisions defines the entire effectiveness of the publishers marketing effort.

Existing Research Findings

Through standard market research, the publisher had determined that there were two major selection drivers for the scientists – relevance and reputation.

Through a variety of well-structured and expertly executed surveys and techniques, the OR team had tried to probe to a deeper level into the way scientists evaluated choice. Due to the complexity of the choice framework however, they only created a map of the IQ-based self-narrative scientists used to retrospectively justify their choices, rather than the deeper mechanics of how those choices were actually made in the first place.

Crowdcat’s Approach

We recognised that this decision is high value, within a culture of rationality and that it suffers from the evaluation of incomplete, incompatible or even contradictory information about best choice.

The latter component forces the use of non-IQ based intelligence, whereas the first and second drive a belief that the evaluation must be on rational IQ based terms. The result is a choice based on radically different parameters from those described by self-report.

We embarked on a discovery project to map out one of these drivers – reputation.

During the exploration phase, we used specialised interview processes to reveal the actual decision-making process that scientists go through. This process is not intellectual or dispassionate, but related to the deep-seated beliefs, values and motivations that lie at the heart of why each scientist decided to dedicate their life to science.

Each decision to publish was in essence discovered to be a miniature replay of the initial decision to commit their life to scientific endeavour.

Selecting an Engagement Framework

We researched and discovered a framework through which we could reproduce this mental context in an online experience.

This framework was chosen as it allowed scientists to explore their personalities and beliefs and how these related to a diversity of heroes in science, people to whom scientists relate strongly.

Starting Small

CrowdCat used the experience to run a series of small scale surveys to allow us to conduct a full quantitative analysis of how the OR audiences organised ideas and the different value levels they placed on them.

Between each survey round we analysed the sensitivity and accuracy of the questions, then by making small amends released a new survey of far higher capability. This approach allowed us to generate highly accurate information from each scientist that completed the quiz.

Engagement and Social Sharing

At this point the good-fit design of the chosen experience displayed its power to engage. The OR team saw click through rates on email treble and – despite the experience in this context taking over 6 minutes to complete – we had a 72% completion rate from the first question.

This higher than expected engagement rate led to larger data sets and ultimately a high quality and resolution of analysis.

Consumer Psychology working at a Mass Scale

In the final phase of the discover project, we engaged with larger and larger volumes of scientists.

To do this we created a fun short digital experience which used the relationships we had learned from surveys to allow our audience to explore themselves in relationship to these heroes within 60 seconds.

This experience generated large positive impact from the audience with complete rates rising to 86%. Although promoted through a number of channels from social media to web-banners, nearly 20% of the completed profiles came from link sharing by those completing the quiz.

Social listening revealed that the experience had generated a large number of positive sentiment, multi-chain, multi-person conversations within the social space.

By the end of the activity over 5000 scientists had engaged with the brand deeply, through that relationship had aligned themselves with the brand through an hero of science.

Audience Insight and Personalisation

The project would have stood up as a successful marketing campaign on its own. However its true value came from the audience insight that it generated.

Every audience through social feedback organises ideas into 3-5 top level categories, and within each audience there are segments whose decision making is primarily influenced by ideas in one of these categories.

CrowdCat’s discovery project allowed these ‘organisations of ideas’ to be mapped in detail into thematic groupings. We then analysed the proportions of the audiences who were primarily influenced by each of the distinct thematic groups.

In short, finding the right messages to send to the right customer.

Results – Brand Engagement and Insight

Immediate benefit was realised in the generation of positive brand relationships and social sharing of voice around  their flagship brand.

Further ongoing value was recognised in the discovery and potential of the high engagement communications framework which could both be used to influence customer behaviour and to gather further ongoing insight.

Results – Organisational Transformation

CrowdCat was able to create additional value for the OR business, by combining its data with pre-existing segmentation information. We were able to study the relationship between customer value and psychological drivers.

This meant that the client could now describe the differences between known segments and how they relate to customer value – a key indicator for data-driven organisational change.

The big new idea – the catalyst for ongoing change – came from the derivation, from new data, of a detailed and actionable psychological model of customers influences that could be employed across all marketing channels.

CrowdCat are now working with this publisher on a long-term personalisation and transformation programme.


Talk to us