Post the merger of 2 major publishing empires, Springer Nature is now a significant force in scientific, scholarly, professional and educational publishing. The new management team was seeking to reshape the business.
At the centre of publishing science research, and particularly in Open Research, there is a core decision to be made by scientists. Essentially each scientist asks themselves “in which journal should I publish my research findings?”
The outcome of these series of singular decisions defines the entire effectiveness of Springer’s marketing effort.
Existing research findings
Using standard market research practices, Springer had determined that there are two major selection drivers for scientists: relevance and reputation.
Through a variety of well-structured and expertly executed surveys and techniques, Springer had tried to probe into a deeper level the way scientists evaluate choice. Due to the complexity of the choice framework however, they only created a map of the IQ-based self-narrative scientists use to retrospectively justify their choices, rather than the deeper mechanics of how those high value choices are made in the first place.
We embarked on a discovery project to map out one of the selection drivers: reputation.
During the exploration phase, we used specialised interview techniques to reveal the actual decision-making process that scientists go through. This identified a process that is not intellectual or dispassionate, but one that is related to the deep-seated beliefs, values and motivations that lie at the heart of why each scientist decided to dedicate their life to science.
Each decision to publish is in essence a miniature replay of the initial decision to commit their life to scientific endeavour.
Selecting an engagement framework
We researched and developed a framework through which we could reproduce this mental context in an online experience – “Unsung Heroes”. This framework was chosen as it allows scientists to explore their personalities and beliefs and how these relate to the unsung historic heroes in science, people to who scientists relate to strongly.
This allowed our audiences to explore characters like Charles Drew the African American who fought racial prejudice to perform the revolutionary research that allowed blood transfusion to be available for everybody. Through his commitment, millions of lives have been saved, yet during his working life hospital treatment was often refused to African Americans.
We used the Unsung Heroes experience to run a series of small scale online surveys to allow us to conduct a full quantitative analysis of how Springer’s audiences organised ideas and the different value levels they placed on them.
Between each survey round we analysed the sensitivity and accuracy of the questions, then by making small amends released a new survey of far higher capability. This approach allowed us to generate highly accurate information from each scientist that completed the quiz.
Scalable Consumer Psychology in action
In the final phase, we engaged with larger and larger volumes of scientists. To do this we created a fun 60 second digital experience which used the relationships we had learned from surveys to allow the audiences to explore themselves in relationship to the Unsung Heroes.
This experience saw completion rates rising to 86%. Although promoted through Springer Nature channels from social media to web-banners, nearly 20% of the completed profiles came from link sharing. Social listening revealed that the experience had generated a large number of positive sentiment, multi-chain, multi-person conversations within the social space.
By the end of the activity over 5000 scientists had engaged with the brand deeply, aligning themselves with the BioMed Central brand through an Unsung Hero of Science.
Audience insight and personalisation
The project would have stood up as a successful marketing campaign on its own. However its true value came from the audience insight that it generated.
Every audience organises ideas into 3-5 top level categories, and within each audience there are segments whose decision making is primarily influenced by ideas in one of these categories.
This project allowed these ‘organisations of ideas’ to be mapped in detail into thematic groupings. We then analysed the proportions of the audiences who were primarily influenced by each of the distinct thematic groups.
In short, finding the right messages to send to the right customer.
Results: Brand engagement and insight
Immediate benefit was realised in the generation of positive brand relationships and social sharing of voice around Springer’s flagship brand.
Further ongoing value was recognised in the discovery and potential of the high engagement communications framework, Unsung Heroes, that could both be used to influence customer behaviour and to gather ongoing insight.
Results: Organisational transformation
We combined the data from this project with pre-existing segmentation information and studied the relationship between customer value and psychological drivers.
This meant that Springer could now describe the differences between known segments and how they relate to customer value – a key indicator for data-driven organisational change.
The big new idea, the catalyst for ongoing change, came from the derivation, from new data, of a detailed and actionable psychological model of customers influences that could be employed across all marketing channels.
Working with Richard and the team at CrowdCat was an enlightening experience. The ability to gain such a deep understanding of our audience of scientists stretches far beyond anything we had previously achieved and we are transforming our business as a result of this knowledge.
Springer and CrowdCat are now working in partnership on a long-term personalisation and transformation programme.