Where Did All The Marketers Go?

patrickhounsellData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is by Patrick Hounsell, executive vice president and chief digital officer at Merkle.

I was at an industry conference recently. It was another in a long line of events where one smart industry leader after another took the stage to describe the huge opportunity for companies to leverage the increasingly available data about their customers to create lasting competitive advantage. You all have been in the same conference, listening to the same speaker, debating that same issue and secretly wondering if your phone battery was going to last the hour.

It wasn’t until I heard a truly entertaining talk given by a CMO of a large consumer packaged-goods company that something occurred to me. There was something missing at this data-driven marketing conference: Nobody was talking about marketing. It was another insular industry conversation focused on the pipes and the plumbing.

Where did all the marketers go?

Isn’t that what we are doing this for? Data-driven thinking is supposed to make the marketing better. It’s about using data to better understand, target and engage current and potential customers. But by streamlining metrics, taking advantage of segmentation, delivering clear messaging and thinking big, marketers can put the marketing back into their data-driven marketing playbooks.

Simplify Metrics

My favorite adage in the digital world: The great thing about digital media is that you can measure everything, and the worst thing about digital media is that you can measure everything.

Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean you should. The first step in bringing marketing back to data-driven marketing is to make sure every program has a single, simple metric. Advertisers want agencies to drive sales and brand equity, but it can’t be done with a single program. Pick one for each campaign. Complexity isn’t always sexy.

Build And Use Segmentation

Marketing is about communicating a value proposition with the purpose of promoting or selling a product or service. We know enough about behavioral science today to know that people make decisions for different reasons. We also know that while people talk about product attributes, they truly make decisions on the basis of personal values.

Use science and data to understand these motivations and turn those learnings into actionable segments. If you don’t have an enterprisewide segmentation approach, how can you possibly be doing marketing? So the second step in bringing marketing back to digital marketing is to make sure that every plan and program starts with a clear explanation of the targeted consumer and some compelling insight.

Achieve Message Clarity

In a world where you can’t out-shout competitors anymore and it’s more challenging to be noticed, advertisers need to make every interaction with potential consumers count. When it comes to response, a clearly delivered communication beats a “clever” concept. Every marketing communication should be measured against its ability to convey the single selfish benefit it provides to consumers.

The opportunity in a data-driven era is that the more automated the media, the easier it is to test these concepts. Programmatic media professionals and companies should be leading the industry here, maniacally focused on the content of what they deliver, and not just their ability to deliver to the targeted audience.

Think Big

Every marketer needs to have the courage to think about big, ambitious ideas. This is almost counterintuitive in the world of data-driven marketing. It requires the ability to use data for insights vs. justification. When using data for justification, you end up with a series of small bets. But the opportunity is here.

Automation in the marketing space should enable advertisers to execute on their biggest ideas by giving them the ability to create, personalize and customize unlimited content that can effectively be shared across multiple devices and platforms. Imagine what Don Draper could do with this tool set. Marketers should look at upcoming campaigns and ask themselves if they’re big enough.

Like everyone else in this industry, I’m constantly excited and challenged by the pace of change and innovation in digital marketing and media. But we can’t forget that marketing is about communicating a compelling message about a product or service to the right audience.

The advent of data-driven marketing and automation in the media buying industry should be a major strategic advantage. But too often the dialogue is centered around how it works. It’s time to put the pipes in the background and start talking about consumers and big ideas that will captivate their imagination and propel brands forward.

Follow Merkle (@merkleCRM) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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