If you’re like me, you’ve probably become all-too-weary of hearing the term “Big Data” bandied about. The label itself has not only become tiresome, but in a sense it is no longer accurate. Data is no longer “big”; it just is. Data is much more than a commodity or the latest phenomenon. It’s not merely the fuel but the very engine that drives creativity, innovation and change.
This can be seen at the granular level, such as when customer feedback informs a new product design or marketing campaign; or on a larger scale, say when retailers use loyalty card data to tailor store formats and merchandise to different consumer groups based on their previous purchases. In this way, data can enhance the user experience, which most marketers deem the holy grail of marketing.
If you’re wondering what impact the power of data is having on how brands are communicating with consumers and even changing the role of marketers, a recent survey of leading brands conducted by the CMO Club provides some helpful guidance. The survey revealed that nearly two-thirds of the 600 brands polled have bought or are planning to buy programmatic media directly from demand-side ad buying platforms, without help from their agencies. In other words, marketers believe they now have the necessary data at their fingertips to reach customers most effectively — so you might ask, why not just eliminate the middleman?
Data is not only a potential pathway to insights, it also forces us to rethink the entire structure of the marketing department. Most CMOs have been in the marketing trenches at least 10 to 15 years, and their resistance to change—namely, their reluctance to work more closely with their peers in IT—belies a love/hate relationship with a culture of data dependency that only began to take root three to five years ago. For these marketers, something has to give and they will need to adapt to this new dynamic. Otherwise, they will quickly find themselves left behind.
For any company to effectively leverage data, its entire
internal organization must embrace the new data culture. Companies need to be properly structured to capture, analyze and incorporate data into their marketing, communication and product
At many companies, data remains disconnected from the general organization due to its autonomous nature, as well as to the complexity of understanding how it is captured and what it can do. For many companies, such responsibilities now fall under the purview of the CIO and IT group, in many cases the legacy users of data. Historically, the CIO and the IT department have focused on finance, operations, supply chain, human resources, inventory management and other systems. It has not been a consumer facing resource. However, as the digital age unfolds and an array of sophisticated technologies intersects—including mobility, clouds, social media and big data—the stakes have grown and IT groups have had to adapt.
Just as the Internet and World Wide Web were the centerpieces for marketing and overall business direction in the past two decades, data is the hallmark of the new millennium. Big Data is just a lazy, well-trod label. Marketers need to understand fundamentally what data is, how it can be put into context, how best to analyze it to uncover insights, and the great power this information can wield to transform business.