Reaching out to consumers on the basis of their focus of interest, rather than their membership of a socio-economic group, is the basic idea behind Affinity Marketing. Experts from two French firms working in this field – Synomia and linkfluence – explain.

Affinity Marketing: Brands ‟need to capture what consumers are saying about them”

Affinity Marketing is a very fashionable tool these days, but few people really understand how it actually works. So Jean de Chambure, Head of Consulting at Atelier Asia, and journalist François Sorel set out to throw some light on the subject by interviewing two experts – Philippe Aït Yahia, CEO of Data Analytics consultancy Synomia and Guilhem Fouetillou, co-founder and Director for Strategy & Innovation at social media intelligence company linkfluence – for a L’Atelier numérique podcast on the BFM Business channel.

Digital is all-pervasive nowadays, and old-style audience segmentation no longer makes much sense. It makes much more sense to reflect on what is happening, to question this revolution in usage and behaviour, in order to extract data that can be used as a springboard for a constructive conversation between brands and users. This is what Affinity Marketing sets out to do.

L’Atelier: To help us get an idea of what Affinity Marketing means, could you tell us what exactly Synomia offers its clients?

Philippe Aït Yahia: Well, in order to draw up communication and marketing strategies that can be used by every department in a company, Synomia asks one very basic question: is the firm able to create and provide products and services that will really meet the expectations of its public – in the broadest sense? Will the company’s offerings be able to satisfy the demand?

Brands from all sectors can make use of Affinity Marketing – what we used to call ‘tribal marketing’. By drawing on conversational data – which is our raw material – companies can nowadays identify and list topics and focuses of interest shared by groups which go beyond the traditional population segments such as gender and socio-economic categories. Firms can for instance make use of data to help them communicate effectively with people in a given geographical area.

Let’s imagine for example that you have a firm working in the solar panel sector, and you’re looking to find potential customers who might be interested in installing a solar panel system on their roof. We can work upstream to identify topics and focuses of interest which will indicate people your firm ought to be targeting. And we can do this from a variety of aspects. We can identify people who’re interested in green energy, people who’re registered with a community that’s more focused on the economic aspects and wants to lower the cost of energy, or those whose primary concern is obtaining a tax break. And the list goes on…

So what exactly does Synomia do? Do you combine macro-economic data with data on communities?

Philippe Aït Yahia: Well, the basic principle is to understand where the demand is to be found and to capture it, since it goes without saying that the demand can be digitised. We use our technology to identify audience meeting points, the places where demand is expressed in order to then segment the conversations into focuses of interest. This enables us to set up customer acquisition strategies for our client brands.

And what can linkfluence add to this approach?

Guilhem Fouetillou: Oh, we have quite a complementary approach. Our starting point is to map the web, i.e. we look at the way websites, blogs, forums, and media channels are interconnected. If you can see how the various sites are connected to each other, you can gauge how influence is built up and how messages are relayed.

At this very moment our tools are capturing and analysing over 300 million sources worldwide in real time. In addition, we differentiate between negative and positive comments, how the brand name is promulgating itself, the affinities that are being created and spreading from place to place, from point to point. This gives us a view of what impacts and influences an audience.

There’s a lot of talk about Big Data but how exactly can it help you in your two aproaches?

Guilhem Fouetillou: I believe that the promise of Big Data is mainly still to come. And this is very exciting. Today we’re using perhaps 5%, 10% of the potential of Big Data – which in itself is already enormous.

How important is social media data in relation to all data on the Internet?

Guilhem Fouetillou: To give you an idea, just for our 300 clients we capture and analyse 110 million pieces of content daily – articles, pictures, videos – in less than 10 milliseconds.

In order to do that we use semantic search engines and also iconographic analysis. The iconographic analysis tool is very important. In the beginning the market was only interested in brand monitoring and e-reputation. Today we’re dealing with new players who want to go beyond a narcissistic vision of marketing and really get to know their customers. They seek a broader understanding of the consumer. Beyond what they say about themselves, brands need to capture what consumers are saying about them.

Philippe Aït Yahia: It’s a basic necessity. Companies need to know everything that’s being said about them. We’ve just talked about Big Data, what’s being produced by social media and the Internet in general. But firms sometimes end up forgetting that they already have a massive amount of data available to them, which just needs analysing.

One telling example is satisfaction measurement. When a company regularly asks its customers for feedback during their online shopping journey, they get conversational data. And this data can be combined with transaction data to help build a better customer experience.

Edited by Lila Meghraoua