It doesn’t take a genius to come up with one simple insight that can be applied to solve a client’s biggest marketing problem. Or, maybe it does.

Joe Amaral is vice president and creative director at Canadian marketing and communications agency, Clever Samurai ( Amaral has won just about every major creative honour there is, including Cannes Lions and Clio Awards. His work has shaped some of the best-known brands in Canada including McDonald’s, Apple, Nissan, Bell, Toshiba, Piller’s and more. And if you ask him what matters most to solving their problems, he quips “it’s all about the insight,” leaving the word “duh” off the end of the sentence as he feels the answer to the question couldn’t be more obvious.

The obvious in Amaral’s mind is not always so obvious. That’s where the genius comes in. “How do we take data, from various sources, and then distill it into a clear and actionable insight? It’s great to have information, but if we don’t have a clear business objective, what good is it?” he muses.

Amaral cites Johnson & Johnson, founded in 1893, as one of the best examples of using insight to fuel the big idea. “In the early 1970s they started marketing baby products to families. J&J had essentially dominated the baby market for decades and wanted to grow. The insight that drove the strategy was that baby products were milder than other products, so adults could use them everyday.” By 1985, 70% of Johnson’s baby powder was used by adults.

Andrew Osmak, CEO of call analytics provider Telmetrics (, has more than two decades of experience building digital and mobile companies that empower marketers. Osmak, like Amaral, believes that sorting through the noise is critical. “Is the insight I am going to glean from the data going to help my customer grow their business? If the answer is yes, find a way to use that data as soon as you can because your competitor is likely doing this already. If the answer is no, store that data. Why? Because you may discover that the ‘noise’ you were hearing today is gold for your customers and your own growth tomorrow.”

There is no shortage of debate on calculating the value of advertising when it relates to driving sales. Pundits differ in their opinions of what are the right measures and the appropriate factors that are unique to each industry. Amaral recognizes the material differences between the marketing of utility companies, computers or food, as Clever Samurai has many clients in each of these and other categories. “As marketers, our job is primarily to drive increased demand for a product or service. And no matter how you measure it, sales increased or they didn’t,” says Amaral.

“We’re working with a client who sells prefabricated steel buildings across North America. Their point-of-difference is that they have a complete and turnkey building service versus most of their competitors who only provide the building materials. The market is looking for someone in the category to make the building process simple for them—‘just handle it.’ That one insight about the turnkey and complete service is what’s fueling their market positioning. And, they will measure Clever Samurai on whether that insight drove their sales,” adds Amaral.

Advertising-to-sales ratio (total advertising expenses as a proportion of sales revenue) and Advertising Elasticity of Demand (percentage change of the increase in advertising relative to the percentage increase in sales) are common measures to evaluate the efficacy of campaigns. Andrew Osmak’s Telmetrics’ operation adds a level of granularity and focus to those marketing campaigns that involve telephone calls from customers and prospects.

“We can gather an unprecedented amount of data on calls across all industries and media types. We can interpret inbound calls to automatically categorize them as leads, low-value calls, existing customer calls, telemarketers and other categories. This helps prove the value of advertising and understand which marketing investments deliver not just calls, but actual leads,” comments Osmak.

Osmak’s past includes the growth and sale of Lavalife, by creating and expanding the online dating company’s market-leading mobile business. He strongly believes that “consumers control the conversation. All types of calls that a consumer initiates—voice call, text, form fill, chat message, email—must be tracked and aggregated to ensure that this unique consumer is engaged in a way that matches their preferences and will convert that consumer into a loyal customer.”

He adds, “when turning data into actionable insights, look at all channels, do not exclude any particular communication type—be it a phone call or a text message—to get a complete picture of what’s working for best conversion and maximum ROI on marketing investment. Soon, using rich data, big data, marketing analytics—the name does not matter—will be completely democratized. We believe that every business should have access to data their marketing activity generates and know what to do with that data to solve their specific challenges.”

Big idea or big data, Amaral and Osmak agree that the ability to derive thoughtful insights continues to expand. “The MarTech industry is moving towards creating reliable, affordable and easy to use solutions to achieve this goal,” says Osmak.

Amaral is cautionary, however: “I’ve seen so many brands and marketers get lost in the forest, foraging around for information—they have forgotten the aim is to find something actionable that can transform their business. At an operational-level, you can address all kinds of marketing issues like acquisition and churn through effective use of data. However if you don’t have the right key insight to hang your brand upon, you’re simply going to flounder.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Direct Marketing. 



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Leigh-Ann Clarke

Leigh-Ann Clarke is director of sales, North America for 360 Leads. She has been with 360 Leads since 2014, following her progressive management career at Yellow Pages Group where she led their sales efforts in digital products, print, telephone sales and neighbourhood directories.