Data-driven marketing in context – taking a step back to jump

So, here we are: the age of data-driven marketing. The predictions on the growth of the digital – data – ‘universe’ are outdated by the time they appear. And as if it isn’t enough we get overwhelmed by the next waves of even more data brought upon us by, for instance, the use of the Internet of Things (with a focus on ‘use’).

True: it’s amazing to see the exponential growth in the volume of data out there, everywhere. Big data as in all that data still draws a lot of attention even if it is just that: all that – ever more – data.

While organisations that are a bit further in the ‘data maturity’ models look how they can put the right data that matters at work for the business, the customer, innovation and creativity speak less about the ‘big’ dimension, others are still overwhelmed by the sheer volumes.

That’s not a criticism. While we’re eager to tell you about how data can be used for so many great reasons, the matter of the fact is that 1) data for many still feels overwhelming, 2) the growth and role of data IS impressive and 3) the focus on the variety and volumes of data can lead to data obsession, fear and wrong perceptions.

Being driven – the obsessions that matter

It’s our task to point at the virtues of data-driven marketing but also to be open and transparent about the many aspects surrounding it.

Big data, fast data, smart data, data analytics, actionable data, fluid data: regardless of the terms we use and even if the outcomes and smart/creative use matter most, they all contain the term data. And data isn’t something to mess with (it’s great to play with but that’s a different story).

Taking a step back, there are several things to consider when we talk about data-driven marketing. The first is that data-driven marketing isn’t probably the best term ever invented. But then again: is there such a thing as a perfect term?

The ‘driven’ feels a bit like ‘forced’ or ‘controlled’ to some. It makes many marketers feel uncomfortable, especially the more creative ones. Rest assured: data is not going to take over jour job. Well on the contrary. The proof of the pudding: the marriage of creativity, data, the customer, relevance and innovative engagement is what Wunderman stands for. It’s why all our teams (data, creative and all the others) work so closely together.

Customer-driven, people-driven, relevance-driven, goal-driven and driven to come with great actionable ideas, marketing and customer experiences: that’s our obsession. Data is the amazing glue enabling it.

Data is not a thing – breathing life into data

Secondly, there’s the ‘data’ of data-driven marketing. The reasons it’s nothing to mess with are numerous:

An open, transparent and human mission

Just as there’s an exponential growth of all that data, there’s an exponential attention for every data-related and the Math Men as they’re called.

This sharp increase of focus on data we see all around us (in media, infographics, predictions, big debates) has numerous causes itself and is food for another blog post. Yet, we feel it’s important to keep in mind that for many businesses and for many consumers (with clear geographic and demographic differences across the globe/EMEA) and even government officials it comes across as a scary cold thing. That fear, and in some cases misunderstandings, needs to be addressed and taken into account as, even if data is simply a must in marketing, data alone doesn’t cut it. Moreover, some debates just need and deserve to be held.

The speed of business

There is a big difference in the de facto ways companies say or think they use data-driven marketing.

It’s here where a data maturity model comes in again. For some business, data-driven simply means ‘we need to measure and use data’, for others it goes much further with data taking centre stage in the customer engagement and creative dimension. Businesses move at different speeds as do consumers. Moreover, consumer move at faster speeds than many businesses. So, we see it as our task to help them bring from one stage to the next by making sure they have the essence right and at the same time put the purpose, people and transparency in the data (gathering) processes and data-steered activities. And of course to make sure the speed at which customers move don’t make the business lag behind more than many already do.

Data: art, science and…management

Data is not just about numbers, connecting information, analysing it, gaining insights and acting upon in it an integrated way.

While we stress the creative and engagement/actionability part, data is also science and art as such. It’s easy to get numbers and data but making sure they are gathered, analysed, combined and used right is another ball game. We can’t be blind about that and just as it’s important to show the business and customer benefits of data-driven marketing it’s important to mention these aspects. Think privacy and cultural differences in that regard. Think respect and trust. But also think the technological and management aspects. Data management is essential as is understanding data and using it properly. An example: if you get the wrong data in – even if it’s just a small subset or attribute – you take the wrong actions or get the wrong output, whatever form it takes.

Next steps – the rationale

Why does all this matter? Why even a post taking a quick look at the ‘driven’ and ‘data’ of data-driven marketing.

Well, it’s part…data (all the noise out there about the growth, virtues and dangers regarding data) and part gut feeling. Knowing this blog will talk about evolutions, practices and more in areas such as marketing ROI (measurement and ROI = data), real-time engagement in situations where the lines between online and offline blur (yep, data again), the role of information in customer interactions/service and data-driven marketing in many use cases and applications, it seemed like the…relevant thing to do.

Putting data-driven in context, starting with this post and to be continued in next ones. In order to avoid data obsessions and to dispel some myths regarding the importance and risks of data in marketing. In order to have an open debate. To avoid that data and all terms mentioned in this post become simply a “thing”. To stress the living aspect of data that is turned into human action and value.

Even if we love and embrace data and support associations explaining data-driven marketing, it’s not our job to sell it.

Our job is to sell relevance, customer value and great marketing: people-driven marketing. Data plays a key role in it. Expect more posts taking a step back and putting some evolutions and facts in context. They’ll help explain what you need to jump and succeed.