RAPP’s Zihla Salinas on Driving Customer Experience Through Data



Zihla Salinas  is the Chief Marketing Officer at RAPP, a customer experience agency driven by data, inspired by culture and enabled by technology. At RAPP she is responsible for the development of the RAPP brand and as well as new client relationships across the RAPP U.S. Offices. The Makegood recently spoke with Zihla about her position.

The Makegood: Your core offering is customer experience that is driven by data and enabled by technology. How do you find unique consumer insights and what tools do you use to determine the right time and place for the experience?

Our key to insight generation has always been rooted in data.  The exciting thing about today’s digital and social landscape is that the quantity and types of data that we are mining has evolved to what the market is calling “big data,” but to us it has always been just data.

We’ve been in the big data business longer than most, since 1965, but our tools have evolved with the media landscape.  We have a multi-tool platform called Strata that we use to mine structured and unstructured data sets for actionable marketing intelligence.  We have a dedicated cultural intelligence discipline called Cultura that provides a lens on culture at large to fuel our insights.  And other tools that enable data-intelligent targeting – Behavioral CRM, Digital Attribution Analysis and Dynamo, a new joint venture between RAPP and Annalect – are powering our right-place, right-time messaging strategies.

The Makegood: RAPP’s clients include Google, Nestle, Disney, and Mattel. Can you give an example of a project that you are especially proud of?

We just launched the global website for Max Steel, which is a new franchise from our friends at Mattel.  The site launched globally in more than 20 markets and languages, and it combines the best in kids’ entertainment with data-driven meta-game design.  You can see it at

The Makegood: You have a vast experience discovering trending opportunities. What are the top trends that will change the way we communicate and how do you keep yourself up to date?

The biggest change we’ve seen is an increased emphasis on the customer experience.  In 2012, three out of every four organizations told Forrester Research that their goal was to “differentiate on the basis of customer experience.” But in real life, most brands were ranked as “OK” or “poor” in Forrester’s 2012 customer experience index.  Only 3% were ranked as “excellent”—punctuating a sharp decline that started in 2007 and is now at an all-time low.  Brands are now recognizing the need to extend their focus beyond cross-medium advertising, digital included, and take a hard look at the experiences they’re delivering to customers.  At the same time, customers are demanding more than just good products and good advertising. They’re seeking multidimensional value in the form of dynamic, technology-enabled, and culturally relevant experiences.

Of course, this requires marketers to keep a finger on the pulse of culture so we can create experiences that are relevant.  I mentioned our cultural intelligence discipline, Cultura. RAPP also has an in-house group called Sparks & Honey, which is our data-driven advertising newsroom that we use to synchronize brands with culture. Through a combination of live data streams, proprietary algorithms and advanced analytics, we identify emerging trends before they explode. It’s taking real-time marketing to a whole new level.

The Makegood: How did you know that you have the ‘knack’ for defining and articulating brand strategies with new touch points that push the boundaries and chart new brand territory, and how can people learn it?

It’s simple — voraciously consume data and culture and believe that almost anything is possible today through technology.  Get active in the social conversations around new technology and its impact on the customer experience.  Become a student of culture.  You have a knack for it if you have creativity and a mental curiosity and desire to learn.

The Makegood: You have an outstanding expertise in building strategies in the digital landscape.  How do you do that and what’s next in digital?

I always go back to the three pillars – data, culture and technology.  Good digital strategy should be intuitive and logical.  Much like traditional brand planning, you need to glean insight into motivation based on consumer behavior.  Then design experiences that coincide with, rather than disrupt, these natural behavior patterns.  If you think about it, that’s why social media has become ingrained in our culture so quickly – it is simply technology facilitating a natural human behavior.

As far as trends in digital go, I think that we are going to see a rise in the adoption of behavior-based personalization that is driven by data.  Most marketers are just scratching the surface when it comes to leveraging data to enhance digital experiences. This level of personalization, in addition to yielding greater levels of insight, is the end-goal of a solid big data strategy.  We are exploring these types of data-intelligent, omni-channel personalized experiences now for some of our clients and are seeing some strong performance indicators thus far.  I am excited to see where this takes us!

The Makegood: Thanks, Zihla.