Why data is giving marketers monogamy en masse

Jason Hill

Jason has more than two decades of agency, consulting and client experience. As national head of planning for OgilvyOne, he is focused on building strong relationships and strategic insightfulness; as a client, he developed a broad range of commercial marketing skills. Jason's passion for results-driven creative thinking sees him working across digital and data solutions, leading large CRM and loyalty based projects for clients including American Express and IBM.

According to IBM’s recently published CMO study , the number of marketing directors concerned about data complexity is up from 71 per cent in 2011 to 82 per cent.

On face value, these figures indicate we’re a profession under pressure.

Certainly, the world of marketing has shifted forever. Not just because the bulk of marketing budgets now sits online, but also because of the pressure this now places on marketing directors to make sense of the wealth of data available to them. With every dollar spent digitally being more transparent and therefore accountable, there is an internal demand around the boardroom table for marketers to demonstrate the return on investment.

More than accountability, though, digitally created data enables us to be more creative and to build genuinely consistent customer experiences more than ever before. In my view, that’s not just clever, it’s sexy as well.

Marketing finally coming of age

For years, direct marketers have talked about creating one-to-one customer experiences. While their intentions were honourable, the delivery was invariably poor.

Digital has enabled genuinely low-cost and personalised content and campaign delivery, something that was often infeasible with expensive digital printing. While marketers could talk about variations, the reality for most was an unpalatable and impossibly large financial commitment.

It’s one of the reasons why many cite UK retailer Tesco’s successful loyalty program as their stated ambition, without always acknowledging or recognising the sizeable investment in pure segmented offline communications required to achieve it.

The emergence of customer engagement platforms that provide a multi-channel distribution capability finally mean marketers can maintain a consistent conversation across a variety of channels. For many businesses beset by disparate databases and disconnected channel strategies, this remains a distant reality. But it is at least achievable once brands have understood and accepted the necessary investment.

Real-time learning is now a reality

In the past, a commitment to test and learn was a badge of honour; a willingness to inevitably forego sales to gain useful behavioural insights. The trouble was it typically took four to six months to learn and then enact those learnings. The timeframe was simply too long.

Worse still, it invariably meant companies were limited to learning just a few things each year – assuming the test had been set-up correctly. The idea of fail-fast, fail often was a total anathema.

Digital has clearly transformed this reality. As modern marketers, we can test everything from subject lines to copy blocks and imagery, incentives and pricing. We can test timing, frequency and channel combinations. And we can do all of this quickly and in unison.

With the multitude of distribution and analytics tools available, there’s no reason why brands can’t squeeze every scintilla of value from every customer interaction. The only limitation is our collective ability to consider alternative realities to test, or our ability to construct the optimum test structure.

All this means our creative teams can spend more time developing ideas and perfecting them, making the small, interactive tweaks that can make significant differences, rather than trying to have the perfect answer straight out of the box.

Reading data body language

Similarly, both agencies and clients have historically built large data practices, invariably driving decision making through sophisticated propensity modelling. The problem with propensity, however, is that it shows a potential to do something, habitually based on the observed behaviours of others. Let’s be honest: Often it’s little more than an informed guess.

As consumers, the most compelling communications are those that directly resonate with our own actions. These are the ones that reflect our current observable behaviours. The more we can reflect a customer’s own actions – their data body language – and reflect it in the delivery and content of our communications, the more successful those communications will be. This is reality that holds true across media, be it display, onsite or EDM content.

By using broadcast tools aligned to a customer engagement platform, we can also align and control that message over multiple channels, creating a far richer customer experience.

Humanising the capability

Marketing is undoubtedly changing. Relying on a big idea or cracking a TV ad is no longer enough. Customers expect us to know them intimately as individuals.

Data - its collection, interpretation and application - is at the vanguard of that change. But knowing what to say and when to say it is only part of the answer. Knowing how to say it, how to make it resonate and engage and how to humanise those insights, remains firmly a creative capability.

If they’re to actively engage customers, modern marketers not only need to be digitally orientated, they also need to be comfortable reading data and working in an IT environment. Those who embrace these multiple streams will be invaluable to their organisations.

And they’ll be able to drive sexy creative thinking.

Tags: data-driven marketing, marketing strategy

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