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Big Data vs. Better Data: Marketing Beyond Hunting & Gathering

  |  October 9, 2013   |  Comments

While it's true that marketers can know, learn and do more with data, just possessing it is not enough.

explosionThanks to data, marketing is changing for the better. Data driven marketing has expanded the opportunity for all marketers (especially cross-channel marketers) to improve results by leveraging "people data."

While it's true that marketers can know, learn and do more with data, just possessing it is not enough. Not all data is good. Not all data is useful. Not all insights drive value. There are a couple of institutional distractions in this new age that have almost become obsessions and these pre-occupations are standing in our way. As an industry, we must address these before we can fully embrace and achieve the new promise.

Our Problematic Focus on Gathering Data

Companies of all sizes share a certain habit of going through the motions when it comes to data. From the mid-size marketer to the major enterprise, many marketers have suited up the department to capture CRM, website analytics, third-party media campaign data, as well as any number of other data layers. They call this amalgamation Big Data. However, it practically stops at the point of capture and is anything but big when it comes to business impact (unless your business likes a big mess). Just because you gather it, doesn't mean that you have figured out its strategic application.

Data Remains in Disconnected Silos

Today, data sits in disconnected silos and it is hard to gain insights across an organization.

As a consumer, have you ever bought a product from a company only to receive a coupon for the same product days later? This is an example of disconnected silos of data.

Have you ever pulled cash out of an ATM where you have banked for years and the ATM machine asks if you would prefer English or Spanish? You would think your own banking institution might know who you are. This is an example of disconnected silos of data.

The online DMP was largely created as a bandaid to pull together one category of data: data that is linked to a cookie. Data management platforms gather all those cookie lists into one repository, but there is an enormous marketplace strain around cookie-based targeting. See Forrester's Wave report about how the current DMPs have not yet fulfilled the promise.

A device or a cookie never bought anything, only people buy things. Installing any of the current crop of DMPs doesn't get you closer to connecting what you know about cookies and devices to what you know about people. No amount of clever sifting and sorting of the cookie lists and device signatures will change that fact. To connect the silos, you need to start with people data and connect from there to other forms of consumer data.

All Data is Not Created Equal

In order to improve, marketers must commit to using better data. A basic premise is that all data is not created equal. We need to move our means beyond demographics, or rote segmentation, to get to people who are or will soon be in the market for our products.

Predicting people's intentions, or propensity modeling, is what takes you from a blind distraction with big data and into smart, better data implementation for targeted reach.

It is therefore crucial to establish a means for understanding your best and most productive audiences and continually test effective combinations for achieving ROI at greater and greater scale.

The bottom line is that the process needs to start at home. Marketers need to focus around ingesting disparate data sets to create insights that lead to actions against the target audience.

Of course, this requires choosing the right vendors, data partners, and suppliers who can assist modeling, implementation, tracking and optimization.

There Is Much More to Discover

It begins with acknowledging that knowing your fixed audience segments and what they look like on paper is not enough. It's not equal to knowing everything you can know about your consumer's universe and maximizing their propensities for your brand, products and services.

It begins with opening up to the possibility that there is more to discover about the audience you feel you already know. It means that there could be even more audiences to discover. This is what leads to target reach and ROI at scale.

Consumers like ad messages when they are "in the moment." If we acknowledge that showing the right ad to the right person at the right time to greater and greater scale is only possible with a better use of data, through propensities, and we develop the right relationships and tools set to pursue this, the opportunity is ours to lose.

The science, capability and tools are available; why wouldn't we take advantage of the insights?

Driving the audience opportunity means first grasping that having a lot of data (even many layers or silos) does not make it "big." You must integrate and apply your data in a big way. Second, it means acknowledging just how possible it is to go big on audience today.

There is no need to limit yourself to what you know right now about your customer or prospect audience.

Better data and better uses of data ultimately unleash the power of discovery and yield big, bigger, the BIGGEST and best market results.

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Dana C. Hayes Jr. is an experienced executive in television, publishing, and digital media focused around advertising, content, and technology.

As Group Vice President of Global Partner Development for Acxiom, Dana leads a new growth strategy focused on building strategic partnerships and distribution relationships to advance data-driven marketing and advertising globally. Given this array of exposures, he has an integrated perspective on how data can be better used within the enterprise and writes from this perspective for the brand's internal media planners or for the ad agency community.

He has held a number of leadership positions around leading the ad sales teams in print, television, and digital. Dana has also been involved in launching digital products, business development, marketing, and ad operations. His portfolio includes both New York and Chicago companies with the following media brands: Travora Media, Tribune Interactive, Turner Broadcasting, The Travel Channel, and Weather.com. During his tenure at Tribune Interactive, Dana led the creation, development, and funding of the Joint Venture quadrantONE.com, a premium national ad platform for online newspaper and television publishers including investors NYT, Gannett, Hearst, and Tribune.

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