eHarmony CMO: Marketers are getting misled by data attribution

The modern marketer has to learn how to amalgamate both data and creativity, Nicole McInnes says

Nicole McInnes
Nicole McInnes

The marketing industry is “misled by data attribution” and the models that are in place, said eHarmony managing director, Nicole McInnes, who addressed a crowd of marketers at ad:tech Sydney 2017.

“The battlelines have been drawn. There’s data on one side, creativity on the other, and people are really sticking to their sides,” McInnes said in her presentation, ‘Marketing 2.0: How the Old Age of Marketing Could Create a New age of digital’.

“There really is this awful divide in the marketing industry at the moment. The sad thing is that only one side is cool. It is the side that is new, it is intelligent, it’s novel, and, of course, it is the data side.”

While c-level executives are increasingly buying into the marketing concept and recognise the validity of the discipline, particularly in the age of data intelligence, there are a few issues that data attribution brings to the industry, McInnes claimed.

“First of all, there is a real overvalue of short-term tactics based on the fact that this small sliver of data is being represented as a whole picture of data,” she said. “The second thing that’s wrong is that there’s a marketing generation coming through led by data. They are not looking at a bigger picture. They are looking at one dimension of what is coming back from what we do in the marketplace. That is a dangerous place to be.”

The third and most concerning problem is that data attribution doesn’t do what it promises, McInnes said. “It actually does the opposite of what’s on the bottle,” she said, citing research that shows if marketers optimise based on the data from short-term tactics, it will damage long-term growth.

So what can be done? McInnes said marketers can create a four-pronged strategy on dealing with data, which will generate love for the brand.

“I have a lot of data to bathe in and I like to get stuck there. I extract myself out of those dashboards and onto the data, with these four things: Purpose, people, planning and perspective.”

In terms of purpose, marketing is about giving people value. “Putting purpose first has not changed with technology, in any way shape or form. The reason is because people haven’t fundamentally changed,” she continued. “They are doing things that are unimaginable with technology, things we never imagined as marketers, channels we didn’t know existed, but we haven’t evolved in 200,000 years. Our thumbs haven’t changed with texting.”

Brands also need to be fast and easy. “People still believe in brands. They attach status to brands that they love and they still are attracted to brands that mean something to them,” McInnes said. “Again, it is about emotion. . . People need to love and attach themselves emotionally to a brand.”

In terms of planning, while it’s not as much fun as purpose and people, McInnes said it is still pivotal to the overall data strategy. “There are no short cuts. Who doesn’t want to do a quick fix to their marketing plan? Who doesn’t want to look at their dashboard?

“I love going in there and hoping the magical answer will come out, but the quick fix turnaround pales in comparison to generating data for long-term planning.”

McInnes uses a myriad tools in her planning process at eHarmony, starting with a “point of departure and point of arrival”. “I think SWOT is still really valid for situational analysis and finding out where you are right now is always important to make sure your purpose and intent is really clear with consumers and staff.”

At eHarmony, work is afoot to change perceptions about the company. “We have the perception of being the long-term relationship/marriage company, versus a Tinder, which is quite the opposite,” she explained. “What we wanted to do was reframe that as an enabler of happiness and love. So we came up with: We live to connect people in a way that enhances human existence.”

McInnes also suggested marketers need to personify a brand, and understand the competitive map. “It is great to work out where you are now, where there is clear space, where you can go and where you should go.”

While marketing in this day and age is more complex, with a myriad different channels, it comes back to the journey, she explained.

“You still have to move people on a journey. Understanding the touchpoints is great, but also understanding what channels you need to feed into each of those sections of the funnel, is also key,” she said, adding she is then able to quantify the data. It is only then I start to let myself delve into all of the dashboards.

“When you are bathing in data, you can get caught right down in the detail and you need to pull back to see how it is going and to see the trends over time. But as a senior person today, you need to be able to pull back in. You need to be able to understand the detail and you use your helicopter view to know where to zoom into.”

Nevertheless, McInnes said marketers shouldn’t be afraid of what data can offer, as long as they understand the consumer emotion too.

“The modern marketer today has to learn how to amalgamate both data and creativity. We can’t be choosing sides,” she said.

“We don’t have to be data scientists, we don’t have to know how to do data regression, but don’t be afraid of what data can bring you. It is amazing. But don’t reject brand, don’t reject those long-term effects, those emotional effects. We have been so excited about attribution that we have forgotten it is a small part of the picture, and we have to look at the whole picture to actually grow our businesses.”



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