How many times do we hear that data is going to be at centre of things for marketing planning?
In a variety of ways I have been hearing this for ten years or more. It has never quite happened, though.
Sure, data is undeniably more important than it used to be for agencies. Most have data planning in some format or other. We all accept that knowing things about customers must help communications be a bit closer to the mark. But why is it not truly centre-stage?
There are two main reasons why I believe we are still not quite there.
Firstly, many agencies are not culturally in the right place for data. Creative is king in every respect – that’s what excites most clients isn’t it? The Creative Director will be more important than the most senior data person in an agency and, for the most part, planners and account managers in agencies are attracted to the industry for other reasons than working with client data. That is the culture now as much as it ever was.
Secondly, a lot of people who work in data don’t really understand the first point. That is the environment into which they have to “sell” data. Data must serve the creative product. Unfortunately, many data planners I know complain that their non-data agency colleagues just don’t “get it”.
Who’s fault is that then?
If a salesman was unable to make his customer “get it” when selling a product, then he would starve. High time for data planners to start understanding what will genuinely excite their agency customers and then deliver it.
Will this change ?
There is no choice. It must. Right now. Why? Because the “Digital You” demands it.The Digital You is out there and the rules of engagement are different.
What is the Digital You?
This is the person you create in the data you provide by your digital actions which is now, as a matter of course, collected by companies. Much of it without you even thinking about it as data. Every mobile phone call, where you are located with your mobile, what you search for on the web, what you buy, where you visit, how you visit, what you post or blog or comment on, what you download or upload. I can go on.
Consider the following facts. There is now more data in the World than there is the ability to store it. Data is growing so fast that new words are being invented to describe the scale of it. Facebook alone is reckoned to have 40 billion photographs uploaded. Lots and lots of data. All of it potentially useful for marketing. Much of it being given away freely on the web.
What does this mean?
It means society is changing in its attitudes to data. Particularly the younger generations (and therefore future employees, policy makers and consumers). On the one hand we feel that data privacy is vital, on the other we are simultaneously publishing personal data to anyone who cares to read it on a webpage.
People are using multiple channels to interact with their friends and brands alike. It is common to use several points of contact with a company which consumers merely see as the most convenient at the time. No one method of marketing communication will work. Integrated communications are more than taking one creative idea and shoe-horning it into different channels.
So the agency of the future needs lots of different skills to deal with this. They must recognise the sociological and behavioural changes in the new breed of consumer. And understand the diversity of channels used by the consumer as well as the emerging technologies they will use to access those channels.
And as for data? Well, how else are they going to do it without the understanding the data first? If we practice what we preach and understand our own customers in marketing a bit better, I shouldn’t be at all surprised if we don’t take that bow in the middle of the stage before the decade is out.