The Creative Mastermind and the Analytical Subordinate

  |  January 31, 2013   |  Comments

How the one who has turned to data and algorithms and the one who has become CMO see things differently.

After giving a presentation on what it takes to be a great analyst, a young professional came up to me with a very common complaint. An all too common complaint.

Her boss was not receptive.

I had admonished the audience that the value an analyst brings to the table is her opinion. Everybody has an opinion of course, but a good analyst - a great analyst - has an opinion predicated on a huge amount of tiny facts, woven together into a comprehensive hypothesis; a supposition about how the world works; a hunch.

But it's a hunch with a pedigree. It's a hunch based on observation, consideration, and contemplation, ending in a conclusion.

The young analyst needed to understand why her boss was so recalcitrant about her opinions, her ideas for alternative marketing promotions, and different tests they could run.

The top dogs in marketing are often shy of the numbers, and analysts cannot fathom that sort of aversion. After all - they're just numbers. They are facts. They aren't dangerous, or accusatory, or imbued with dire negative emotions. It's all just data. It's reality!

abstract-compositionAnd this is where the one who has turned to data and algorithms - who has taken solace in the fastidiousness of her computations - sees things differently from the one who has become CMO by trusting his gut, and built an empire connecting metaphysically with the ephemeral, the psychological, the Zeitgeist.

This senior marketing executive has survived and succeeded by persuading colleagues that he knows how to persuade customers better than the rest. More often than not, it's true, or he wouldn't have ended up the top dog.

When this guy comes face to face with a young, exuberant (maybe a little overly enthusiastic) digital analyst holding charts and graphs, he immediately feels like he's back in the second grade and is about to be handed a report card.


Yes, the VP with the impressive expense account, the photo of himself with Seth Godin and Lester Wunderman, and the reserved parking space is a little freaked out by the math.

The advice? Go easy on him.

Start with a couple of simple case studies about multivariate testing and hold off for a while on explaining how vector autoregression explicates the network of direct and indirect effects of paid, owned, earned, and shared media inherent in the circular consumer decision process.

And maybe admit that the gut instinct thing that advertising and marketing have been dining out on for the past couple of hundred years is not just luck and that the data, while compelling, is not the end-all and be-all. Give a little. Learn a little. Just don't expect the guy with the world's most impressive collection of advertising awards to suddenly become a convert to behavioral economics, predictive analytics, and attribution modeling. It might take a little longer than you thought.

Abstract Composition and Little Boy images via Shutterstock.



Jim Sterne

Jim Sterne is an international consultant who focuses on measuring the value of the Web as a medium for creating and strengthening customer relationships. Sterne has written eight books on using the Internet for marketing, is the founding president and current chairman of the Digital Analytics Association and produces the eMetrics Summit and the Media Analytics Summit.

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