Using data to inform marketing decision has become essential to most companies -- but trouble comes when marketers mistake the algorithm for the person.
Humans, after all, make decisions with their heart as well as their intellect. Great marketer know data can't always predict wants, needs and intent, which is why they work hard to build an emotional bond with consumers. Some call it magic.
Marketing that ignores the magic and relies too much on math and science will not work, according to a report released Tuesday from Bain & Company.
The report, "Math, the Magic and the Customer," provides examples of how companies like Wegmans and Hilton face the dilemma of how to balance math, science, and creativity in marketing.
While successful marketers must tell compelling stories about their brands, they cannot rely too much on the data, math and science when targeting consumers.
Those that will succeed take the perspective of consumers. Instead of relying on what happened last year, they run sophisticated tests to determine what will become the most effective in the future. They also do not put measurement of return on investments at the top of their agenda, because they still allow instinct to initially guide their efforts.
In a survey of marketers at 436 companies in the U.S. and Canada, Bain compared leaders, those who increased sales and market share, to the laggards who lost sales. The leaders were three times as likely to use data in their decisions. And they were twice as likely to own their own creative capabilities.
Leaders also have one view of the customer and keep that information in a Master Data Management system. Some 50% are more likely to have the correct tools. They are two-times more likely to own the creative ideas that drive the campaign and targeting. They are three-times more likely to user data to make decisions, and are two and a half times faster at making decisions. They also are three times likely to test and learn.
While no one company has created a complete MDM system, per Bain, some are getting closer. The study points to Hilton Hotels' use of data. Suppose a guest stays at a Hilton in Houston on business, then browses the Hilton Web site to explore a week-long vacation stay at a Hilton in Paris. When he calls central reservations with questions, the call center representative will thank him for the recent stay and recognize that he was reviewing Paris hotels on the Web site.
Hilton’s automated system connects the guest stay history, Web browsing and call data, third-party information that the guest splits spending between Hilton and Starwood, and projected occupancy data for Paris properties. Data management allows Hilton to improve its cross-selling, balance occupancy across properties, and makes the process faster and more convenient for the guest.