Commentary

Data, Data Everywhere -- But Where's the Marketing Performance?

The explosion in digital and emerging media channels has brought a huge volume of rich, but complex, data sources. With big data comes the promise of better decision-making information and measurement of marketing performance. A recent study by the Columbia Business School and NYAMA found that 91% of senior corporate marketers believe that successful brands use customer data to drive marketing decisions, improve marketing performance and increase customer acquisition.

More companies than ever are identifying themselves as “data-driven,” but challenges in managing, interpreting and implementing the data continue to mount. The same study reported that “39% of marketing executives confess that they have lots of customer data but don’t know what to do with it.”  Data projects are expensive and time-consuming and, often time, leave marketers without answers to foundational marketing questions, including “How can I use this data to deliver better results and improved ROI?”

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CMOs believe data can enable smart marketing decisions, but many companies only end up with big data headaches. Another survey, by 33Across, found that 70% of U.S. brand marketers and agencies are concerned with making sense of all the data. In fact, it can actually get in the way of improving performance when viewed in the wrong context. So, where does big data really fit into the mix?

Everything online is happening in real time, and big data is the view into this world. It enables marketers to track and measure even the smallest details of digital campaigns and implement adjustments in real-time.What is missing is a bridge between this tactical execution of the business and the strategic decisions the CMO makes. With an unprecedented granular view of digital marketing, the ability for advertisers to optimize digital campaigns in real-time is there, but where is the ability of the CMO to adjust budgets with confidence across all marketing? Where are price, product features and place to go along with promotion? Today, big data is unable to answer these questions.

 As with the advent of customer relationship management in the '90s, technologies are emerging today that promise to collect and organize big digital data, and others to provide reporting and, to some extent, analysis using it. One such function that these technologies perform is what’s called cross-channel attribution.  First , companies collect, process and summarize large amounts of digital data, and organize, when possible, by person. From this, advertisers and agencies are provided detailed historical “path-to-purchase” summaries for online activities. Couple that with real-time bidding systems and ad exchanges and the promise of these technologies to automate the execution and analysis of ad buying for digital channels is coming true.  But, why then are so many marketers still searching for answers?

Marketers are complaining about being “data rich but information poor.” The Holy Grail for the marketing department isn’t automating digital advertising purchases.  In many cases, that function is being performed by an agency.  The marketer is concerned with validating a strategy and linking it back to the execution of the entire media budget (on- and offlline), as well as being able to optimize all the marketing levers at its disposal.  And, in doing so, inform not just where to spend marketing dollars but how much money to spend, when to spend it, who to spend it against.

Companies are now turning to advanced analytical systems whose core offering focuses on optimizing across all the Ps of the marketing mix, not just promotion; that can leverage data about customer behavior, enable plan comparisons, and accurately forecast results. These providers bring big data from the tactical execution of digital campaigns to the strategic decisions the CMO is making.  What the CMO needs is a bridge between the tactical world we can track, the big data world, and the strategic world we model.  As the technology emerges to cross this bridge, critical questions that the marketing department must answer every day will be in reach.

1 comment about "Data, Data Everywhere -- But Where's the Marketing Performance?".
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  1. David Hawthorne from HCI LearningWorks, July 19, 2012 at 12:14 p.m.

    Analysis of 'Big Data,' to be useful, has to have an ACTION research component. What makes's 'Big Data' big, is its 'recency' not 'saliency' not is sheer volume. A lot of crap is still a pile ..." (Well you get my drift.) If you use 'Big Data' to 'think something, ' than DO SOMETHING and see if, and what, effect it has. Place your bets, than see which interpretation scores best, and repeat, until you start to see a pattern emerge that looks like "actions A,' have better results than 'action B' over time X, and then keep challenging the data as your modify your actions. Stop looking for answers and keep asking questions.

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