The future is automation. The future is blockchain. The future is artificial intelligence. If these statements are true, then there is an important question for us in the marketing industry: with a future orientated to data-driven marketing, do we have data-driven cultures and structures that allow marketing to deliver on its promise?
If we look at one part of organisational change in marketing over the past 20 years, we saw digital marketing firstly as a niche, with practitioners tinkering on the sidelines, waiting for their call-up. As customer behaviour changed with technological advances, digital marketing became a fully-fledged part of marketing. And today, many successful organisations think digital-first, with those bench-warmers now the stars of the marketing field.
It’s all the more critical, then, that the organisational structures and agency relationships by which data-driven marketing is executed, matches this reality.
GDPR can be seen not solely as a compliance exercise, but as an opportunity to optimise marketing.
Take the forthcoming GDPR changes, for instance. These have prompted some organisations like Shell to spend nearly two years re-organising its structure and teams to be ready for what some other organisations are treating as merely a change in how data is captured or processed.
Further, we have recently observed EasyJet and others recruit chief data officers to their boards, replacing the typical marketing director position. GDPR can therefore be seen not solely as a compliance exercise, or fixing the plumbing of data in an organisation, but as an opportunity to optimise marketing and business capabilities, plus the relationship people have with data across entire functions.
We can make a reasoned argument that the globally-interconnected landscape in which marketing operates has changed more from a data perspective in the past 20 years than in the prior 60 years combined. There is a certain Moore’s Law effect to this and marketing needs to continually keep pace. But how?
Without straying into the fiercely controversial territory of management theory, and instead relying on our real-life experiences, we believe it doesn’t start with marketing per se, but with people. And there are four common and rather simple traits we’ve seen in marketing environments that closely match the capacities and possibilities of data with the capabilities and potential of people.
“Machines should only do what humans cannot.”
If as tech billionaire Jack Ma has recently said, “machines should only do what humans cannot,” then the future of data-driven marketing might well be machine-driven marketing, if not for one thing: us.
We believe it’s important that, whether we operate in an agency or client environment, the challenge of harnessing the great power of data to deliver value enhancing marketing is universal and begins with people. And rising up to this challenge isn’t one kick-started by regulatory changes like GDPR, but one that begins within our own walls every day.
It requires time, focus and effort briefly to step back and critically assess how we as human beings can flourish in a data-driven marketing world.