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Published February 11th 2019

Interview: Brilliant Noise’s Maddy Cooper on Why Brands Have a Responsibility to Understand Their Customers

Big brands have access to incredible technology. Why aren’t they using it effectively?

Maddy’s work takes her all around the globe but today’s meeting involved a two-minute trip down the road from Brilliant Noise’s Brighton office to Brandwatch HQ.

Her day started around 5:30am when she hit the gym to train for an upcoming triathlon – she likes to get up and exercise before her children wake up so they don’t mind (and notice) she’s missing. Three and a half hours later she’s done her training for the day, visited the office and is ready for an interview. I neglected to tell her I hadn’t even had my breakfast yet.

Maddy is one of the co-founders of Brilliant Noise, a management consultancy and data-led creative agency made up of 40 people that boasts an impressive roster of clients.

The primary theme of our chat is innovation or, as Maddy sees it, the lack of it. This is something that genuinely frustrates her and she doesn’t mince her words around the irresponsibility of brands who fail to make proper use of powerful new technologies.

Bobbing along

Maddy says that the bulk of the way her team approaches innovation is in capability building for their clients. Brilliant Noise is working with teams who’ve invested in the best marketing technology but simply aren’t getting the most out of it.

“We do a lot of work with big FMCG organizations. They might have the best suite of technology – the best social listening, the best content distribution – and they don’t know how to use it. Their media planning is deeply outdated.”

This disconnect between what’s possible and what’s done, especially when brands continue to act as they always have, is something Maddy’s both annoyed by and fascinated with.

“It’s really irresponsible of big organizations to be spending all of their money on media just because it’s what they’ve always done – it’s quite lazy to do that. Customers are ignoring it, they’re blocking the adverts and aren’t interested in it anyway. So being focused on how things have always been done, without sorting out actually how to be relevant to customers now, that makes me really interested.”

The problem is, the stakes around innovation aren’t just nice-to-haves. The world is changing. Big brands that might once have seemed invincible are crumbling.

“It’s socially really irresponsible when organizations don’t get who their customers are and what they’re interested in and what they need. If an organization takes responsibility for understanding their audiences, properly using signals to listen to their audience and responding with the right kind of marketing, then their brands would survive and the economy would thrive as a result. That kind of innovation is so needed.”

Changing gears

“Clients will invest in having the best technology and then they just make 5% use of it,” Maddy says. “So they go through all the procurement palaver of getting the best to meet their needs and then they don’t take the step of really evaluating their customer’s journeys and experiences and wants, where they are, what they want, what they’re interested in.”

To use an athletic comparison, it’s like someone who buys the best bike in the store but never makes use of the gears. Part of Brilliant Noise’s work involves enabling companies to see and ultimately yield the full potential of the technology that’s available.

This doesn’t necessarily come down to the nitty gritty of platform training. Instead, Maddy sees it as a behavioral and attitudinal change.

“Just giving everyone the technology is 5% of the answer, but that behavioural side of it, to enable them to really understand and emotionally buy in to using the best of the technology means you can massively transform the impact and value you can get from it. That’s a particularly interesting area of our work.”

This kind of enablement work isn’t just good for team productivity, but also personal development.

“If you compare the behaviors of the team to what the technology could enable each member to do you can completely transform someone’s impact. You can build their efficiency and their career growth because they can use the technology to maximize what they’re doing.”

Maddy isn’t talking about everything shiny and new, either. She says that things like AI and VR make her excited and cross in equal measures, often tempting brands to invest in gimmicks rather than truly listening to what their customers want and need.

“People are so busy and there’s this obsession with doing more, doing more, and this transition to modern marketing doesn’t mean doing absolutely everything. It needs to be doing less but doing it better because you’re doing what the customers want.”

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

“The thing we really focus on is having long term friendships with our clients that are really genuine. There are clients we’ve worked with for well over 10 years,” Maddy says.

Her favorite clients are the team at EDF Energy who she says are truly ambitious about prioritizing content and influencer marketing and transforming their in-house team’s capabilities too.

The kind of change that’s needed for slow-moving institutions to adapt to make use of the latest technology and truly understand their evolving customer set won’t happen overnight. But, with support from experts, brands can begin the marathon and reap the benefits of true innovation.

Thanks to Maddy for speaking with us. You can find her on LinkedIn here.

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