Higher-Level Thinking

In the rush to get things done, we frequently lose sight of the higher-level thinking required when making marketing and media decisions.  Digital media have created opportunities that were unimaginable in the not-so-distant past.  With opportunities, come responsibilities.

As marketing and media professionals, we need to know more and do more with our time and resources.  Analyses are now the bailiwick of several disciplines: marketing and media research, ad ops, Web analytics and data science.  And, with the opportunity afforded us with the wealth of data now generated by digital technology, more is available to the marketing mix modeling discipline than ever before.

In all the talk of managing big data, one rarely hears about the skills needed to determine the quality of data necessary for the decision-making at hand, necessary to interpret what the data really mean and integrate findings into the larger business strategy and purpose. Integrating findings refers to using media and marketing research and data to enrich strategy.  It also means using the tools wisely enough to find the new business possibilities that emerge from the findings.

I ask that you consider the art of the science: a higher level of thinking.  The art of the science is the capacity to creatively solve a business problem using a multidisciplinary approach.  This approach spans current silos and historical antecedents.  The art of the science requires rapidly assimilating changing conditions and experimenting with new techniques.  The art of the science requires a healthy degree of skepticism, but not so much that it deters innovation.

A column about higher-level thinking in today’s fragmented marketing ecosystem would be incomplete without advocating for more listening to the consumer. 

We must talk with and listen to the consumer.  In an age of constant real-time data streams, the value of understanding the consumer must still be at the heart of integrating and interpreting data.  Assigning important meaning to what may be random, unmotivated behavior is one of the dangers  in the practice of separating analytics from other kinds of research, particularly from talking to consumers.

To save time and money, we must deploy a variety of methods for listening and talking to consumers.  Sometimes we need to listen in order to determine what to ask and how to frame questions. For certain business solutions, good old-fashioned focus groups may still be the way to get the color and flavor needed to frame the questions to consumers.  For other solutions, it is likely necessary to move more quickly with a bigger sweep of voices, which means using other kinds of analyses.  

One example of a recent challenge we began unraveling here at the IAB was learning more about consumer perceptions and usage drivers for premium branded sites and other sites within a genre.  Through conversations with our HearWatchSay community, we succeeded in learning what questions to ask.  We’ve generated some exciting new hypotheses.  Future steps include using a variety of research techniques to artfully, and with solid science, answer the question of what the differentiators are for premium branded online content and other content.  The IAB will be reaching out to our members to participate in this journey of higher-level thinking.

As I said, with opportunities, comes responsibility.  And higher-level thinking typically comes with the reward of higher profits.

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