Big Data Killed the Marketing Star

Rehab is a good idea

Digital marketing can only be as effective as the data that powers it, and yet there’s still so much confusion about how to make the most of the data marketers work so hard to collect.

This obstacle has been a theme in our series of chats with Oracle Marketing Cloud’s Kevin Akeroyd about how digital marketers can keep moving forward even as new technologies come and go. Today we asked Akeroyd to address some deeper questions about data that have been bubbling just beneath the surface of our previous conversations.

Bryan Bartlett, Adweek BrandShare: Let’s jump right into it. Do you think it’s still possible to compete in today’s marketing world if you haven’t mastered big data?

Kevin Akeroyd, Oracle Marketing Cloud: That really depends on what you mean by “mastered big data …”

BB: I’m thinking of brands that can gather an enormous amount of data and then bring in analysts—and a terrifying amount of computing power—to reveal critical patterns and insights about consumers.

KA: I’m probably not supposed to say this, but the truth is that big data, by itself, really can’t solve a marketer’s problems. In fact, it’s likely to lead to more problems. It’s not about “big” data. It’s about the “right” data, activated the right way, in the right channels, at the right time.

BB: That sounds like marketing blasphemy.

KA: I know, and I’m not denying that having the right data is absolutely critical for success. What I am saying is that not all data is good, or relevant, data. And you don’t necessarily need all of the data in the universe to inform the best cross-channel outcomes.

BB: So basically more isn’t necessarily better?

KA: Right. It’s not about more but about focusing on just the right amount and type of data and making that data actionable in the right channels at the right time. I know that’s a lot easier said than done, but when you look at truly successful brands, you see that they’re using smart data application rather than simply piling up as much data as possible.

BB: You’ve spoken before about the need to balance the art of marketing with the science. Does the data that goes into a campaign affect that balance?

KA: Absolutely. If you’re putting too much emphasis on the “big data” science part of marketing, you risk crowding out the “creative side,” the art. Marketers should be hiring and utilizing analysts, but as importantly, they should have to be what the best ones have always been: Great brand and customer experience champions.

BB: Okay, but how do you actually shake your big data habit? Do they have rehab for that?

KA: Rehab is a good idea. In the meantime, remember that you can’t truly make sense of your data or its usefulness if that data is spread across different marketing platforms. Effective use of data across multiple channels begins with centralizing all of your key data sets. And it’s also important to focus on identity. If you don’t nail a common identity across the discreet data sets, you’re still not there.

BB: What about offline data? Or new data sources, like wearables?

KA: It is all relevant and in order to deliver value, it needs to be associated and organized in a way that enables meaningful actions. Geo data. Weather data. Beacon data. Wearables. IoT.  But again, it’s activation that’s the key. Amassing that enormous amount of relevant data from one channel that isn’t speaking to your other channels is more likely to drive headaches than conversions. I know that keeping a platform up-to-date with all these new technologies can sound daunting, but if your platform is an adaptable, open framework, new technologies won’t pose a threat to centralization.

BB: That makes sense. But how do you know what data to use to inform the various given scenarios?

KA: Good question. The aim should be to adapt marketing activities to real-time customer behaviors and then to adjust the customer experience in real time. And you can do that if you can connect specific interactions to individual customers. Rather than letting all the data from the different channels overwhelm you, you’re zooming in on the data that you actually need by connecting behaviors from online and offline channels to a single person.

BB: Can you give an example of what that might look like in practice?

KA: Well, a simple example might be adjusting a display campaign based on a user’s offline purchase in a retail store. Because it’s now possible to connect online and offline behaviors, a centralized data platform that can react in real time and stop targeting an individual with display ads after he or she purchases an item in a store. That saves a brand money and leads to a better customer experience. Alternatively, a consumer who puts an item in a shopping cart but doesn’t make a purchase might receive offline coupons for the given product.

BB: So, just to be sum up here: You’re saying marketers don’t need to have panic attacks about whether they have as much data as their competitors?

KA: Right. Marketers need plenty of data, but it really comes down to how you use it and your ability to activate the right data at the right time for the right individual. Delivering value to customers happens by having the right information about their preferences and stated interests and being able to reach them effectively throughout the process.

Check out the entire Icons of Marketing series