Despite the embryonic promise of big data and data science to deliver a data-driven, customer-centric revolution in marketing, I see little evidence of the omnipotent single customer view data experience developing any time soon. Science is driven by data. Much of what we do in marketing is still driven by wishful thinking.
In fact, the majority of marketers remain only too ready to keep turning a blind eye to the significant data-gaps permeating just about every aspect of their plans, from situation analysis to attribution and every key issue between.
Perhaps this data myopathy could be regarded as a practical response to the increasingly complex nature of the marketing process.
More likely, it signals the fact that our business systems, client relationships and, indeed, us ourselves are simply too slow to take advantage of the benefits of big data. The truth is too many of our decisions remain based on instinctive feelings and an entirely emotional connection to creativity and novelty.
Over the past ten years, we have seen increasing numbers of clients bring processes and people in-house. Eliminating the archaic constructs of external suppliers is seen as the only way to deliver the existential experience customers want.
To deliver uniquely-individuated experiences systematically and consistently and take data-driven marketing to the next level, we need a three-part unified process:
I'm sure that the first two are rather obvious and something that just about everybody reading this article will be involved in by degrees. Point three, however, is the part where I see the greatest difficulty and the least amount of effort expended. Somehow, we need to connect data and content into a single entity through a genuine and infinitely variable content engine. I first suggested merging data, creative and media teams back in the early 90s at Rapp Collins. Every time we got our act together, we were able to shorten lead times, reduce costs and increase ROI.
Many people involved - departments and even group agencies - didn't like being told what to think or being subsumed for the greater good, however. That subjective and emotional attachment to the silo-dominated process is something we must all learn to live without as the internet of things begins to turn up the volume, velocity and variety of data.
With IoT, context, intention and immediacy become the driving forces behind all but a dwindling percentage of our marketing efforts. The data-driven system that constantly reduces thinking and response times to micro-moments of utilitarian perfection will invariably win the majority of acquisition, conversion and retention opportunities.
Such systems will not simply have access to expansive and evolving data - they will be able to respond automatically with the right word, image, video, reference, citation, offer, etc. The entire output will be optimised by logic rather than emotion. Think Amazon, not Apple.
The cold-hearted and infinitely variable micro-marketing machine of the data-driven age will be more like an F1 racing car than the classic Ford Mustang currently driven by brands. In Formula 1, the car remains more influential than the driver. It is a continuous high-rate data system that transmits 1.5 billion samples of data gathered from over 250 sensors per race. Pit crews and remote teams of engineers review the data in real-time.
Collective evaluation is fed back to the driver who makes adjustments via a bewildering range of controls on the steering wheel. Each control can alter critical aspects of the car’s setup in real-time. Sounds like the kind of micro-adjustable relationship with systems and data that could bring new levels of competitiveness and efficiency to anyone’s marketing plans.