Brand equity has a big role in RCI's strategy

By Kelly LeVoyer, Editorial Director, SAS

Editor's note: In this Analytical Marketing series, learn how a few dynamic executives at top brands have led their organizations into the modern world of data-driven marketing. Check back next month for the next article in the series.

RCI is no stranger to innovation. The company pioneered the concept of vacation exchange in 1974 and changed the way millions of timeshare owners experience the world. As senior vice president of global marketing for RCI (part of the Wyndham Worldwide family of brands), Phil Brojan takes modernization seriously, and sees it as a primary strategy to improve brand recognition in a highly competitive market.

Serving a membership base is quite different from using an open market model with an endless supply of customers, Brojan says. “Our interactions with our members require a good deal of context to be meaningful. That makes it even more important that we know them very well, and make our offers and services highly relevant.”

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Phil Brojan, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing at RCI

Analytics enhances brand equity

RCI’s marketing organization began its analytical marketing transformation about eight years ago. “I still remember the meeting that started it all,” Brojan says. “I can remember exactly where people were sitting. We had so many people participating in what we knew was going to be a sea change for RCI, that some people had to sit on the countertops around the edge of the boardroom.

That was the point at which we all made the commitment that we were going to transform – we were going to become a much more data-driven organization. It was all driven by a simple fact: We were a membership organization that simply didn’t know enough about our members. We wanted to make sure we had reliable data to understand our customer better and to make better decisions. And we knew that had to change. Luckily we have great senior leaders who trust and empower us; we had a lot of encouragement and support.”

That transformation has enabled the company to segment and model customer data and act on it quickly. “We can personalize communications and sales channels like the web and make them more relevant and timely.” Data scientists work within the organization and collaborate with data analysts on advanced analytical techniques like optimization and modeling. “We’re seeing more direct attribution of revenue back to campaigns and we’re better able to see what’s working and what’s not.”

The impact of this analytical transformation is enhancing the role of marketing at RCI to build brand equity. “The insights we glean from the data now help drive overall business strategy. We’re providing key indicators of where the revenue opportunities are. This has been huge for marketing at RCI over the past five years, because we’re helping set the direction for the company and helping other organizational areas.”

From art to science

To sustain an analytical marketing approach, Brojan says that marketers need to be more like scientists than artists – which has changed how his organization thinks about hiring new marketers. “We now look for scientific and analytical skills and pick and choose where we put creatives,” he says, while noting that finding and evaluating people with these skillsets can be difficult. One way RCI has evolved its interview process along these lines is to rely more on panel interviews, where they present candidates with complex business scenarios and then ask them to explain what they would do and why.

Customer experience trumps all

In terms of what’s next for the analytical marketing organization, Brojan says that the focus will be on becoming even more predictive to anticipate what consumer wants before they even know – to recommend and predict more than react. “It’s about continuing to personalize the customer experience,” he says. “Everyone’s come a long way on focusing on the customer experience yet there is still work to be done. The effort to personalize is never complete.”

What to read next

What does it take to really put the customer at the center of your business strategy? This Harvard Business Review summary: Leading Marketing Excellence with Analytics offers insights from top leaders about building your business around your customers.


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Change management advice for the analytical marketing leader

  • Set expectations properly. When doing something that’s transformative, it’s not going to be perfect. You’re looking for progress, not perfection. Make progress in your marketing data infrastructure and that will translate to results. Things are going to go haywire, you have to prepare for that.
  • Get the right people in the right positions. Hire in as much relevant experience as you can and integrate them with the folks that understand the business really well.
  • Evaluate technology vendors.  And – even more importantly – the people within those vendors very carefully, and make sure they’re right for you. They MUST understand your business.
  • Measure change. Think through how you’re going to measure impact of the internal change up front and prepare for that measurement to take place so you’re able to report what you’ve accomplished.
  • Prepare for pushback. There is significant operational change that comes with a progressive marketing data practice. Elements like the amount of campaign metadata required generated some operational challenges initially but it was critical so campaigns could be tracked properly. Once we were all able to show the return on marketing investment (ROMI), it became the new norm.
  • Measure the impact on the customer experience. Use that to help justify the investment.

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