Anybody who travelled the hippie trail from India through Thailand and Indonesia, in the days before the internet, would have read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig – it’s just what you did.

The hero of the book, Phaedrus, divides the world into people who are ‘romantic’ thinkers –interested in how things look and ‘classical’ thinkers who are interested in how things work. In essence, those who are inclined or disinclined to maintain their own motorcycles.

For a long time, recruitment marketing and employer branding has been focused on the message; what’s the story we are telling? How are we telling it? And of course, conveying messages with meaning and, more recently, purpose; the ‘Romantic thinking’.

There is no doubt that a huge amount of work goes into our message creation. And our creative thinking has always been underpinned by insight – quantitative and qualitative data that leads us to a message that will resonate with our audience.

However, this work tends to be frontloaded to the creation and activation of the message platform.

But, if you ever tuned an engine or watched somebody do it, you would know that you need to adjust, listen and tweak the set up. And that you keep doing it day by day or race by race.

I have always put myself into the ‘romantic’ camp; I am not an engine tinkerer. But, I am having to reappraise my view.

I have no doubt that deep insight through meaningful campaign metrics is going to transform our ability to communicate purpose to people.

Metrics are a secret passage into the mind of the market, allowing us to fine tune our message, create more engagement and deliver better results. The more we listen, the better we’ll get at responding with small changes that can have a major impact on performance.

Of course, Phaedrus’ ultimate obsession was quality and what defines it. With strong metrics allowing us to listen to, and learn, from our audience, our creative message can evolve and respond in real time. And the quality of our communication will continue to grow.

Meanwhile, the increasing sophistication of metrics and data will allow us to gain greater understanding of our audience, not just their actions. We need to know people as individuals, and drive microinteractions with real emotional resonance, so that classical understanding can drive romantic inspiration.

Executive Vice President, Europe

Gareth Edwards leads the AIA business in the UK, and TMP business in Europe, and is focused on driving the agency’s strategy and creating a business that is driven by creativity, powered by technology and focused on people. Gareth has held a variety of senior roles in the industry and has worked with a wide range of clients in sectors including retail, banking, professional services and central government to help them develop and execute their talent marketing strategies.