Harnessing the Approachable, Actionable Power of Data

M Booth's chief analytics officer explains how his experiences have brought positive change to the creative agency

Jeff Bodzewski can remember the exact moment his career trajectory changed forever. As a vice president for a public relations and marketing firm, he sat across the table from executives at a major energy company. He wanted them to invest more on PR; they wanted him to justify the spend. “The client asked me why they should allocate more funds to PR when they can better track ROI in other marketing channels like online and search,” he recalls. “I didn’t have the answer.”

Upon realizing that his expertise had a significant gap, Bodzewski picked up the phone and called a mentor, who suggested he pursue an MBA. He did so at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, where he studied data and marketing-oriented engagements. Soon he was building, growing, and leading social-marketing efforts for Nissan, Infiniti, Sprint, and other comparably major clients at some of the country’s biggest agencies like Zocalo Group and Epsilon. In 2014, he joined M Booth as the company’s chief analytics officer. Today, he’s helping clients like Godiva and Unilever connect to broader audiences through advanced tech and data-driven strategies.

What attracted you to M Booth?

Jeff Bodzewski: Reputation. It’s an award-winning creative agency, and it’s a fun challenge to bring this data element to a great team of people who create amazing ideas. I get to work alongside them and show them information about their audience, or how a campaign is performing, or what channels might be right for them. For twenty-eight of its thirty years, M Booth didn’t have a true data capability, and to include that in the great work they do is tremendously interesting.

How do you view your role as chief analytics officer?

Bodzewski: I came up through PR and marketing, so I’ve been telling stories my entire career. That’s held true today, but we tell those stories now through data.

What kind of stories?

Bodzewski: In my ultimate dream world, we wouldn’t even rely on charts and graphs. Our message would be like a children’s book or a fable with plot, tension, conflict, and threats in the marketplace. It ends with the hero acting on the data. But in reality, we just need to make data and analytics approachable to everyone. We’re not the team that comes at you with Excel grids and charts and graphs. We come to you with answers to questions like, “Who is my customer?” and “How is a competitor’s campaign different than ours?” and “Did we actually drive revenues with our campaign?”

What have you found that works? How can you best use data for your clients?

Bodzewski: I break the work into three categories: content strategy, channel strategy, and targeting strategy. In content, we look at what messages they use. In channel, it’s about where consumers get information and how they share it. Targeting deals with what we can learn from household demographics.

What are some unexpected things you find when you comb through this data?

Bodzewski: One client wanted to compete on price but we found that their users cared more about quality. We had an electric manufacturer that used the phrase “home automation,” but our data showed that consumers prefer “smart home.” Home automation sounds difficult and specialized, while smart home is approachable. After this discovery, we helped change their marketing, packaging, and merchandizing.

What are some of your favorite tech tools that enable this approach?

Bodzewski: I bet I have twenty bookmarks on my web browser that I turn to all the time. TrendKite is a big one because it shows how a campaign is or is not working well. We can monitor social shares and lots of specific details. We can now find out how many products a client sells after a major article prints, for example. That was unheard of just two or three years ago.

What are some other favorites?

Bodzewski: I’ve used Atlas from Infegy for about six years. It analyzes behavior and content from a billion individual social channels around the world, and it has a deep linguistics engine. We can tell clients what leading words or emotions consumers connect to their product or brand on social. That’s the tool that lets us discover that the one client’s users cared more about quality than price. SimilarWeb lets us track competitor websites.

Some entrepreneurs or small companies might assume this takes thousands of dollars. Give me one free or inexpensive tool anyone can leverage.

Bodzewski: InfoScout. They’ve built a panel of 200,000 people who are incentivized to take pictures of retail receipts. There is so much you can learn from that. We know what time someone made a purchase. We know what else was in their basket. We know how much they paid, and if they used coupons, etcetera. It’s amazing. There are other tools out there that are $20 or $30 a month. Ask the right questions. Have curiosity. Be disruptive—you can do some real damage.

“It’s like being in school and not having to show your work. Nobody cares about the work behind the curtain—they care about answers and results.”

Tell me about working at M Booth. How do you get non-data savvy clients or colleagues on board?

Bodzewski: We lead with answers, not technology. It’s like being in school and not having to show your work. Nobody cares about the work behind the curtain—they care about answers and results.

What’s most important to working on data issues with designers and other creatives?

Bodzewski: Creatives are some of the most valuable people we have. We have to always consider the audience, and we piece together the story before we even sit with them.

How have those two processes—getting colleagues or clients on board and working with creatives—gone during your time at M Booth?

Bodzewski: I think our question-based methodology has earned us credibility in the organization. We want to use data in an approachable and actionable way, and our results are there. Now, thinking about these things has become second nature for M Booth. It helps us provide the most creative idea that can both reach our customers and have a real business impact.

What’s next? What are you most excited about right now?

Bodzewski: For our team, we’re at a great moment because we’re going to start building and developing some of our own technologies and really customize what we do. In the industry, I’m interested in all the data that’s becoming contextual. There’s so much we can do right now, but I know that in some ways we’re just getting started. It’s an exciting time.