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Consumer Goods: Creating Sustainable Relationships with Consumers


With predictive analytics, consumer brands create new value with consumers — and drive growth for their organizations today and tomorrow.

Brands may find out who their friends are through social media, but it's predictive analytics that lets them build lasting — and more profitable — relationships.

With analytics, brands get to know and communicate with their customers as individuals. They discover their likes, dislikes, preferences and habits. Analytics imbues the engagement with immediacy: Brands can communicate with consumers within hours and days and sometimes even as they shop.

Immediacy alters the conversation, however, changing the quantity and quality of brand messaging. The more that marketers know about consumers, the more they can effectively communicate with them — and the more personalized and relevant the messaging can be. In a world gone social, the most compelling narrative to advance relationships isn't always a "buy" message; it's often a value exchange.

Analytics helps brands create new value with customers. But to make value sustainable, marketers have to embrace a dramatic shift, moving away from traditional campaigns and 15- or 30-second spots to the far more fluid application of insights from today's 24x7 streams of information.

Embracing Code Halo™ thinking will get brand owners on the road to digital business for 2020. A Code Halo is the swirl of digital information that surrounds consumers, organizations, processes and devices.1 By generating a unique virtual identity for each consumer's halo of clicks, swipes, comments and posts, brands can add context and value. They can launch conversations and begin to foster relationships.

The powerful combination of Code Halo data and predictive analytics is enabling marketers to create the one-to-one relationships with consumers that will ensure continued prosperity.

How to Make Sense of the Data Deluge

Data has always been at the heart of manufacturers' new market opportunities. Traditional direct marketing relied on reams of consumer data, such as addresses, household income and credit scores. It knew how many kids consumers had and the make and model of the cars they drove.

But such information is a droplet compared with the tsunami of data points that swell up daily for modern marketers. And compared with the weeks and months it used to take for consumer input to accumulate, marketers today are increasingly empowered with real-time analytics that surface patterns and correlations on an up-to-the-second basis. As we move closer to 2020, marketers will be clued in to not just which cars consumers drive, for example, but also when and where they last bought gas and the snacks they purchased while refueling.

Already, analytics engines distill the structured data that marketers have traditionally relied on, such as databases, spreadsheets, CRM systems and third-party information. It also brings order to the burgeoning — some might say chaotic — sources of unstructured data, from social media posts, tweets and pins, to call-center recordings, images and feedback from wearable technology like Fitbits®. With analytics, data has met its match.

For marketers, new forms of consumer intimacy and immediacy will emerge over time by distilling Code Halo intersections, interaction by interaction, transaction by transaction.

Manufacturers, Meet Your Consumers 

In order to put analytics to work in brand-building and one-to-one relationships in this more intimate, immediate environment, however, businesses will require new tools and fundamental changes to marketing. Many marketing budgets today are failing to reflect the shift and remain weighted toward traditional media. But to make use of customer Code Halos, brand owners need to look beyond the aggregated, often sporadic view of the consumer afforded by current methodologies and tools.

Take product sampling, for example. Distributing samples used to be as close as marketers got to shoppers. Companies spent millions of dollars on mass-mailing samples or handing them out at retail locations. It was an expensive leap of faith — and typically the end of a potentially profitable relationship with consumers.

With analytics, marketers are starting to draw on more refined data to get their product samples into targeted hands. As they do, analytics enables sampling to become a game-changer, providing marketers with a mechanism to follow up and foster relationships. Would the consumer recommend the product to friends and family? Would they post about it on social media? Would they buy it in stores? It won't be long before manufacturers will be able to push notifications to their sample recipients, prompting them, for example, about a store sale on the product as they pass by.

By probing Code Halos for additional consumer information, marketers can use analytics to identify their products' relevance and quickly determine a consumer's lifetime value for the brand. They can evaluate how much individuals will contribute to the brand's success and whether they want to continue to invest in them. Analytics can also surface audiences that marketers had never considered.

Why Predictive Analytics Creates Sustainable Relationships

Analytics' real benefit for marketers is in using the metrics to predict future behavior. Marketers today are learning to mash-up macro data — like weather, geography and economic information — with micro data that pertains to individual consumers, such as e-mail addresses. They are also experimenting with creative real-time marketing, for example, forecasting growth by tracking social conversations related to current events.

Given analytics' technological progression, this lens will only gain acuity in the near future. Marketers will soon be able to shape product messages by decoding personal halos to an even finer level, such as anticipating shopping patterns by cross-tabbing participants in a hashtag campaign with product purchases.

The goal is to convert metrics into higher acquisition and retention rates. Viral hits produce a spike of interest — who didn't like the infamous Oreo SuperBowl tweet? But overemphasis on creating them often distracts marketers from the bigger picture: Focusing on the customers who want to interact with them.

It's marketing's mission to create consumer relationships that are sustainable. Customer engagement is key — and will grow even more important moving forward as consumers become increasingly accustomed to more curated and personal experiences, services and offers.

Rather than crafting splashy individual moments, CG marketers need to review their plans and then continue to listen to consumers, learn from them and optimize their efforts. When they do, the important moments occur organically.

In our work with Code Halos, we see distinct patterns of how they emerge within corporations. The consumer industry's long history of data use makes it ripe for Code Halo thinking. Initiatives often need to incubate for periods of time as companies master the technology and processes needed to build the halos. But once they do, marketing programs can begin to scale their use of Code Halos and leverage the insights gained into core customer-facing capabilities.

How To Begin Building Relationships

How can marketing organizations begin using predictive analytics to create more insightful strategies? The following steps enable marketers to start building relationships that will prepare them for and sharpen their competitive edge into the next decade — and beyond:

  • Promote a cultural shift in how your organization engages consumers. The "mass marketing machine" remains institutionalized within most companies. But marketing has moved from 15- and 30-second spots to a 24x7 communications cycle. To realize the business potential of one-to-one consumer relationships, start making the cultural shifts necessary to evangelize the power of connecting with individuals. Examine how your company can respond in relevant ways to always-on customers connected across multiple channels.

  • Create an enterprise view of consumers. Break down brand silos by examining how consumers might engage with the entire portfolio of brands. Why, when, where and how might shoppers purchase across all of an organization's brands? Today's consumers want more opportunities and cross-portfolio strategies can provide them. Code Halo thinking can inform customer needs, wants and desires. For instance, by distilling transactional and interactional data, correlated with product halos, brand owners can see where markets are heading and what products need to be developed or refined, before customers even articulate their preferences.

  • Form a dedicated consumer relationship group. Managing across the organization's portfolio of brands requires focus. Assemble a team to carry out the task. To ensure the integration of brand planning with relationship management, assign a consumer relationship expert to each brand.

  • Deploy a predictive marketing analytics engine. Successfully executing relationship marketing strategies and tactics requires an advanced understanding of consumer behavior via analytics and predictive modeling of consumer data.

Generating and applying insights is the key to developing meaningful consumer relationships. So is mastering new predictive analytical tools. Typical measures of marketing effectiveness are backward-looking, while predictive analytics looks forward. This requires marketers to move beyond traditional methodologies and aggregated tools for data and adopt formats that allow them to be predictive and take action. Being familiar with the tools is only the start. Using them to build customer relationships is the next — and necessary — step.

Our thinking on predictive analytics solutions is reflected in our Consumer Insights Command Center (CICC), which analyzes consumer activity and behavior and enables marketers to begin to create one-to-one relationships (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

  • Test, learn and optimize. Today's influx of insights allows for more innovative methods of engagement and high-impact creative. For example, how can you connect with in-store customers through mobile channels? Looking ahead, brand owners must be willing to test new outreach models like smart shelves and connected-home devices. Keep in mind that both success and failure provide insights and opportunities to optimize your marketing program. Risk is inherent. Don't fear it.

  • Plan beyond the initial consumer engagement. It's a post-campaign world. Gone are the days when marketers' programs consisted of, say, planning five spots in advance. Marketers today need to think of long-term engagement. Apply the steady stream of consumer insights to continuously explore new methods of adding value to the relationship.

  • Focus brand marketing expenditures to build awareness. The typical marketing budget allocates an estimated 70% of its spend to brand awareness through mass marketing techniques like broadcast and 30% to consumer engagement. We see predictive analytics upending that tradition. While companies will continue to spend on mass marketing, they will direct a much larger percentage of their budget to building consumer engagement through digital channels, including testing new communication opportunities in social and mobile to gain relevance with consumers.

Backed by the powerful combination of predictive analytics and Code Halo data, marketers can begin to create lasting one-to-one relationships with consumers for sustainable and mutual value over the near and long term.

1 To learn more about Code Halos, read "Code Rules: A Playbook for Managing at the Crossroads," Cognizant Technology Solutions, June 2013, and "Code Halos: How the Digital Lives of People, Things and Organizations are Changing the Rules of Business," by Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig and Ben Pring, published by John Wiley & Sons, April 2014,

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Consumer Goods: Creating Sustainable Relationships with Consumers