Remember the so-called “Information Age”? Once a catch all for all things technological, over time the term came to refer to the transition to a society in which individuals had access to a wealth of information to aid in decision-making – a global democratization of knowledge. From a marketing perspective, the Information Age also came to represent a fundamental shift for data-driven CMOs away from simple push tactics to a dynamic, real-time ebb and flow of information between brands and customers.
With this transition has come all sorts of complexity. An argument can be made that demands on marketers have never been higher; yet, in some respects the evolution towards data-driven marketing has simplified or even solved some of the profession’s biggest pain points, such as:
- Gaining an ability to track performance at a granular level
- Understanding consumer behaviors within the marketing funnel
- Gleaning insights about how marketing impacts consumers’ inclination to make a purchase decision
Moving from Information to Insights
In a previous interview with CMO.com, I was asked what I now know that I wish I had known earlier in my marketing career. My response?
“Today’s marketing leaders are a combination of creative, technologist, analyst and strategist. Success in modern marketing is predicated on being agile, having great vision and being able to effectively manage change across the organization. To be clear, the advice would not be to blindly chase shiny new objects. Rather, it would be to proactively set aside the time and resources to foresee, evaluate and test opportunities on the horizon.”
So how do marketers manage change across their organizations? It starts identifying where marketing can offer unique value by transforming raw information into insights.
“Big data really isn't the end unto itself. It’s actually big insights from big data. It’s throwing away 99.999% of that data to find things that are actionable.”
The comment above was made previously by Bob Borchers, Chief Marketing Officer for Dolby Laboratories, at a Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference. It should go without saying...but to reiterate; data isn't the same as knowledge. Data without context is no more useful than knowing your current driving speed without understanding which direction the car is headed.
Another way to think about this is to consider the difference between building a data-driven marketing culture and a truly data-driven organization. We’re already witnessing this maturation happening within organizations that were early adopters of “big data”. Led by marketers who invested in foundational elements – attribution measurement and analytics, cross-channel allocation and alignment, etc. – these organizations are now taking the next step to integrate marketing with other disciplines, such as finance. In doing so, discussions about marketing performance start to sound less like functional assessments of campaign efficacy and more like part of a strategic, holistic business plan. Now impression and click-stream data can be discussed through the lens of media costs (online and offline) and supplier value, linked directly to sales.
Using a data-driven attribution measurement solution offers additional clarity by showing exactly how individual channels, publishers and creatives contributed to revenues. By looking beyond simple metrics and getting a more complete view of performance across channels, marketers suddenly have a sense for how to proactively manage towards overarching business objective (e.g. top-line growth) while also maintaining a sense for costs and ROI.
So is this still the Information Age or something else? What’s clear is that simply gathering and organizing information is no longer the endgame, it’s only the beginning.