Data Saves The CMO

On average, most CMOs hold that job for less than two years. Ever wonder why?  A major contributing factor is the lack of fact-based decision-making.  Organizations of all sizes, all around the world, are coming to realize that without data at the core of their operational decisions, they are left at the hands of intuitive decision-making. Without data, decisions are made based on staff’s personal experiences and are often subject to “in-the-moment” thinking or anecdotal evidence.  While the intuitive approach to decision-making has worked moderately well in the past, without the reliance on data to make smarter, faster and reliable decisions, it is poised to fail going forward.

Research by Gartner projects that by 2017 CMOs will own more tools and have more budget to manage data than CIOs across the board.  The new CMOs will be held to higher standards of delivering revenue and demonstrate ROI for every dollar they invest in creative and media executions. 

That’s why I’m stating now, definitively: Data will save the CMO. 


Today, a single marketing campaign generates more data than a NASA flight to the moon, and if CMOs ignore that data, a savvy competitor will swoop in, collect that data for themselves, and leave CMOs standing with their pants down.  This has happened across the board!  In the world of automotive marketing, conquesting on the most prized/effective competitive keywords is the norm (Mercedes wins).  In the world of consumer packing goods, a savvy yogurt advertiser may target prospects based on witnessing individual calcium seeking behavior online. This behavior is a result of data collected by a non-data savvy competitor.

This is why everyone should be rushing to build up their analytics bench with what I like to call “datasexuals”: stewards of data who eat, breathe, drink, and LIVE data.  Having access to data and leveraging analytic resources for converting data to information should be used to optimize every marketing and advertising decision. 

Particularly within the world of marketing and advertising, I see several significant changes in the near future for the way we plan and buy media and the way we develop creative.  Today most digital advertising is delivered in real time and based on very granular exhibited consumer behavior; though this is still silo by media format, decisions about display advertising are made separate from those concerning online video, social, etc.  Creative is still static and designed in the creative director’s abstract world.  The future looks a lot different. I see data driving real-time decisions across all media channels.  We will see creative being a lot more dynamic and personalized to a specific occasion or based on a certain behavior. 

What three elements do CMOs need NOW to ensure both campaign effectiveness and their own job security?

1.   Comprehensive data collection and a logical and structured data access format – data that’s easy to get and analyze.

2.   Robust and flexible analytical software that spans cool data visualization and “over-my-head” statistical analysis.

3.   Datasexuals!  People trained and eager to analyze the heck out of data.

In today’s world, the first two are easy to come by; however, having the right talent to convert all that data to usual knowledge for a company is scarce.  In a follow-up post, I’ll share with you some tips on how to attract, identify, and retain the top datasexuals out there. Some may already be within your organization. 

In conclusion, data should be the oxygen of any marketing and advertising organization. Manipulating and exploiting data requires software (easy to get) and the right analytics talent (tough to recruit); so fortify your human resource departments and open your purse, because the next generation of data collection, software, and datasexuals will cost you -- but will be well worth it, extending your lifespan as CMO.

4 comments about "Data Saves The CMO".
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  1. Richard Mooney from Essence Digital, August 15, 2012 at 2:48 p.m.

    Good article, very thought provoking, although I'd avoid putting too much emphasis on an agency's Analytics department. I believe that data must transcend everything we do in this industry, which means everyone (from the most senior analyst to the most junior exec) should feel comfortable splicing and dicing data to find a rich vein of insight - including creatives! To add to this article, knowing what question to ask and getting access to the right data set is no longer enough. Successful agencies need to compliment their analytical chops with savvy technologists capable of manipulating the huge volume of impression level data that we now have access to. The traditional, relational database can no longer cope with this volume of data, and so we must turn to technologists to ensure we can continue to help CMOs understand exactly where they should spend their next ad dollar - from a DR and Brand perspective.

  2. Paul Pellman from Adometry, August 15, 2012 at 3:31 p.m.

    Great article, Michael. With all the data that marketers and their agencies are able to collect about their marketing efforts, a concerted effort to normalize and make this data accessible is becoming a requirement. Also means you need to have the right folks on the team and tools within the organization to be able to turn this data into insights and actions (and ultimately, better results).

  3. Perianne Grignon from Xplusone, August 15, 2012 at 5:20 p.m.

    Great article, Michael, and very timely. I completely agree with you that data will save the CMO. Insights and action from data is the key for good decision making and the elements you outline – comprehensive data collection and access, analytical capabilities that provide real and actionable insight, and people who understand how best to put the data to use – are spot on. The CMO can make a giant step by applying data driven thinking beyond media to all customer touch-points. Imagine applying that same real-time decisioning and dynamic creative you describe to not only display, video, social media, and so on but also email campaigns, site customization, call center functions, SMS…

  4. Stephanie Padgett from True Media, August 15, 2012 at 10:43 p.m.

    Sounds a lot like how data changed baseball. Think we should all read MoneyBall and determine what are advertising's "on base percentage" and other key stats which will change the game for brands. Now who will play Michael in the movie?

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