Sramana Mitra: What are the use cases? Where are you applying those capabilities to?
Doug Randall: There’re a couple of use cases. The big one that I like to think of is changing a narrative. Let me give you an example. We work with a very large foundation that is interested in having more underprivileged Americans attend college. They approached us and they said, “Here’s what our messaging has been. We want to know what we can do to get people to believe more in the value of going to college.”
What we found was that the narrative landscape fell primarily into two different categories. One was a very systems-oriented almost academic discussion of the issue. The other was a set of narratives that we see much more on the ground. That’s not surprising. What was surprising is that our client is a well-funded foundation. They were messaging primarily in an echo chamber. They were only being heard and engaged with a very small subset of the population – the people who are already believers.
The challenge for them was, how do they connect their message authentically to change the narrative among people who they actually are trying to influence. We help them refrain how their messaging works. At that level, we help with an energy company. We help them understand how to speak differently to their constituents about their technology. That’s a whole area of winning a narrative battle and changing the narrative landscape.
The second use case is around segmentation. Most market segmentation that happens today is still demographics. There’s a reason for that. It’s a good reason. It’s easy to identify those people but we do a different kind of segmentation which is belief-based segmentation. What are the stories that people have? This is what we did for Microsoft where they wanted to understand the small to medium sized markets better. They sell to this market and they’re seeing this plumbing. Their question was, “How do we connect with this market? How do we think of them beyond business size?”
What we found was a set of really distinct segments that exists that they could market to. An example of one of the segment was a group that was feeling incredibly overwhelmed. They were overwhelmed by choice. They were overwhelmed because they didn’t have sufficient resources. They were overwhelmed in every way. They just needed serenity and help in some way. There’s a whole other set of narratives around the believers. They want to believe that they’re creating something different and novel and new in the world and that they are just striving for excellence. It’s around the corner that you just need to keep at it.
Those two beliefs systems each have a set of narratives under them that Microsoft realizes that they could speak to. They needed to speak differently about the purchasing process to someone who was frustrated and overwhelmed and to someone who was more aspirational. Each of those required fundamentally different marketing styles and different kinds of webcasts and content. This is a very common thing that we do with companies – help them understand the stories that their audiences have so that they can better connect with their audiences either by changing their products or changing their messaging.
Sramana Mitra: Very interesting. How do you charge?
Doug Randall: There are three set of things that we do. The first is we create the narrative landscape and that’s generally a one-time setup fee that requires human intervention. It really is a combination of technology and humans in order to provide the value. The second thing that we do is we provide specific recommendations where we go after the influencers in the market. The third is we monitor and track. We help our customers understand how things are moving and changing. That’s a subscription service.