When the SAS Institute was founded more than 40 years ago, analytics was a somewhat esoteric discipline familiar only to statisticians and academics and artificial intelligence (AI) was science fiction. SAS’s software was promoted based on features and functions; people outside of its realm weren’t aware of it.

How times have changed!

photo jennifer chase
Jennifer Chase, senior vice president and head of marketing at SAS

Now analytics and AI are top-of-mind for virtually every business, and the market is crammed with companies offering products and services. In the face of that, SAS decided to up its marketing game, appealing not only to people’s logic but to customers’ emotional side in a quest to raise awareness and to ensure people understand analytics.

“I think analytics is just hot and interesting, and there’s a lot of a lot of vendors in that space, both some legacy incumbents and some new startups. Everybody’s claiming to do analytics,” said Jennifer Chase, senior vice-president and head of marketing at SAS. “And so we felt, this is what we do; we’re both the founder and the future of this space. And so it was our time to tell our own story.”

Curiosity

Enter the new tagline: “Curiosity”.

Chase explained that brand research revealed three things: That SAS did not have the brand recognition it needed; a key decision driver for customers is their perception of a company’s ability to innovate; and that it needed to appeal to both the emotional and logical side of customers. The third finding was the most difficult to absorb for a company whose products are founded in the academic world and based on logic.

Chase turned to B2C (business to consumer) marketing, which is very good at appealing to emotion, for inspiration.

“That’s where curiosity came to play,” she said. “It’s a brand value for us. It’s a culture. We know that curiosity drives innovation. And innovation might look different in the future, but it’s always going to be fueled by curiosity. And so for us, it felt like it was so authentic to who we are. It has staying power. And it allowed us to connect on a much more emotional level.”

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The target for the campaign is still the data scientist, but the data scientist as an individual, so Chase’s research examined what makes them tick.

“That’s where we realized that we’ve got the shared value of curiosity,” she said. “Because your data scientist has this relentless pursuit to make things better to make progress. And so do we.”

The advertising portion of the campaign launched on March 31 in 20 countries and 12 languages, and SAS is now layering additional content to demonstrate how data analytics can help solve problems in key industries, targeting banking, government, manufacturing, retail, and healthcare to begin with. The company has launched a web page illustrating some of the ways curiosity can help uncover answers in data.

Beyond curiosity

Along with curiosity, however, people need one more thing: data literacy. The amount of misinformation being circulated, either deliberately or by those who don’t know better, makes it critical for people to learn to make sense of what they see, and to avoid being deceived by misused data.

“I think that ability to ask ‘what if’ and ‘why’ is it so important,” Chase said. “One of the things that we’re launching at SAS Global Forum is some data literacy training, because I think we recognize not everybody is going to be a data scientist, but really, everybody needs to be data literate, moving forward. And I think being data literate, it very much requires some curiosity, and not just to accept the information that’s in front of you, but to challenge it and ask questions.”

Aimed at children and adults alike, the new program is available online, free, and will be combined this summer with a tool for use in the classroom called DataFly.

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