Take Command of Marketing Data Governance—Because We Have To

The emergence of “big data” as an enterprise concern for many businesses and organizations is, as with most trends, both an opportunity and a concern. I recently was involved in reviewing new and recent Aberdeen Research on “Big Data”—how it is defined, how it is changing information volume (astounding in quantity), variety (both structured and unstructured, with tremendous pressure to integrate and make sense of it), and velocity (pushing the insight, analytics and business rules that flow from such data to lines of business that can best profit from it).

The emergence of “big data” as an enterprise concern for many businesses and organizations is, as with most trends, both an opportunity and a concern.

I recently was involved in reviewing new and recent Aberdeen Research on “Big Data”—how it is defined, how it is changing information volume (astounding in quantity), variety (both structured and unstructured, with tremendous pressure to integrate and make sense of it), and velocity (pushing the insight, analytics and business rules that flow from such data to lines of business that can best profit from it). An infographic that captures some of this research is now posted at Mason Zimbler, a Harte-Hanks Company, which created the visual presentation.

Alongside this current fascination and business trend, perhaps it’s not surprising that members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, also are posing questions at the marketing business as to how we collect, buy/sell, rent and exchange data about consumers online and offline, and if there is adequate notice and choice in the process. In the rush to capitalize on Big Data, we need to ensure that we’re collecting and using marketing data for marketing purposes only, and doing so in a manner that is respectful of fair information practices principles and ultimately serves the end-customer, be it consumer or business individual or enterprise. [See Rep. Ed Markey, D-MA: http://markey.house.gov/content/letters-major-data-brokers.]

All too often, privacy adherence is considered a legal matter, or an information technology matter—but I maintain that while these two business areas are important in respecting consumer privacy, it is marketers who have the most to gain (and lose) by smart (or insensitive) information practices. Data is our currency, and we must treat data (our customers as data subjects) as our primary asset to protect. Our method of marketing is in the balance. One or two major privacy mishaps can spoil it for everyone.

Of course, marketing data governance is far more than privacy compliance. Data quality, data integrity, data security, data integration, data validation and data flows within an enterprise all, too, are part of marketing data’s customer intelligence equation. It is in this spirit that the Direct Marketing Association recently introduced its newest certification program for professionals: “The Institute for Marketing Data Governance and Certification,” taught by marketing veteran Peg Kuman, who is vice chair at Relevate Group. The three-day course, which has launched on a two-year, multiple-city tour, is indispensable in understanding how multiple channels, multiple data sources and platforms, customer expectations and business objectives combine to command better understanding, tools and processes for data handling for smart integrated marketing. Forthcoming course dates and registrations are available here: http://www.dmaeducation.org/dm-essentials/marketing_data_governance.php

For three days last month in New York, approximately two dozen professionals from large and small enterprises, both commercial and nonprofit, attended the first seminar. I, too, attended. There were representatives from marketing, public relations, analytics, legal, IT and fundraising, representing brands, agencies and service providers. This group was engaged—providing examples, asking questions and reporting experiences as the curriculum moved along. (For those who don’t know Peg—a former client of mine—she is quite the facilitator.)

Alongside a workbook, I took home some great handouts, too:

  • A sample security policy; a sample information security vulnerability assessment;
  • A security due diligence questionnaire;
  • A sample vendor risk management program vendor questionnaire;
  • The latest copy of the DMA Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice (recently updated with new email append guidelines, by the way) and a bevy of news articles that captures the media’s and public policymakers’ current attention on consumer data in America.

The meat of the course tackled, among other topics:

  • Categorizing data and assigning priority and sensitivity (personally identifiable information, sensitive data and other categories);
  • Mapping data flows and interactions with customers; enhancing data with appended information, and ensuring its use for marketing only;
  • Having a data quality strategy as part of a data strategy;
  • Calculating return on data investment;
  • The emergence of digital, mobile and social data platforms, and how these present both structured and unstructured data collection and insight analysis challenges;
  • Assigning data “ownership”;
  • Calculating and assigning risk regarding security;
  • Monitoring security, investigating potential incidents of a breach, and handling a response to a breach were it to occur (using recent breach response examples of LinkedIn and Epsilon); as well as
  • Laws, ethics and best practices for all of these areas.

One of my concerns is the importation of European-style privacy protection in America, and current fascination with such protections by U.S. regulators and elected officials. That is worth another blog post in itself, but I can assure you that we need to educate politicians about the superiority of self and peer regulation where no consumer harm exists.

Thank you, DMA. Marketing data does not harm. It only creates consumer choice, commerce, jobs and (tax) revenue—and pays for the Internet and other media, too—and it is ridiculous to even entertain government-knows-better regulation of such information through a potential omnibus law in America, or other notions such as a government-mandated “privacy by design” requirement in marketing innovations. (On the other hand, I’m more than happy to see laws pass that protect Americans from potential government abuse of private sector marketing data—Big Brother should not be getting access to marketing data for non-marketing purposes, unless there is a demonstrable greater public good, where subpoenas are served and heard.) Privacy by design is smart business, but only when left to the innovators, not the policymakers.

Which brings me to close—and if you’re still reading this, I congratulate myself for not chasing you away. Big Data (which can incorporate far more than marketing data) goes hand-in-hand with marketing data governance. Whether a Big Data user or not, we all use marketing data everyday as our currency. Protect it. Respect it. Serve it. Govern it. So we can use it.

5 Pillars of the Mobile Marketing Industry

All emerging industries reach a point where their ecosystem’s members find common and fundamental concepts that help them organize their thoughts and actions in order to ensure the long-term growth and success of their businesses. For mobile marketing, those fundamentals have emerged and can be boiled down to five verbs: promote, measure, educate, guide and protect.

All emerging industries reach a point where their ecosystem’s members find common and fundamental concepts that help them organize their thoughts and actions in order to ensure the long-term growth and success of their businesses. For mobile marketing, those fundamentals have emerged and can be boiled down to five verbs: promote, measure, educate, guide and protect.

In September, the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) refined its messaging along these five pillars to improve its ability to efficiently communicate with the market and to forge forward with its mission to help foster a growing and sustainable mobile marketing industry. The following list highlights the measurable objectives of each of these pillars:

  • Promote. Promote mobile marketing best practices, standards, thought-leadership and industry leaders (e.g., brands, agencies, media companies, application providers, etc.) to foster innovation and industry development.
  • Educate. Provide structured, evidence-based curriculum to educate brands, agencies and consumers about the full scale and scope of mobile marketing practices to highlight their advantages and benefits and to ensure that all players can develop a common understanding of each other’s goals and motivations so that they may efficiently and effectively co-create value between them for their mutual benefit.
  • Measure. As we enter into the “digital age,” where all engagements, moods, preferences, interests and intentions can be digitally imprinted, the key to successful mutual value creation between marketers and consumers will be achieved through the teasing out of insights and knowledge from the vast amounts of data that’s being managed by consumers and marketers alike. In today’s digital world, consumers have as much information as marketers; both need to measure their activities (e.g., total spend in industry, effectiveness of one medium versus another to accomplish one’s goals) to ensure they’re optimizing their time, energy and money.
  • Guide. We all need guidance. By continuing to amass thought-leadership, best practices and self-regulatory codes of conduct, mobile marketers can continue to foster and grow the industry.
  • Protect. Protect consumers and your businesses. All mobile marketers need to pay special attention to the needs of each constituent in the marketplace, and ensure an even playing field for all to help maximize public and industry confidence in mobile marketing, lower barriers to entry and minimize noneconomic costs of doing business.

More than words
These five pillars aren’t just shibboleths. They’re designed to provide the mobile marketing industry with actionable concepts that are key for maintaining growth.

Here’s a real-world example: A recent MMA survey of U.S. advertisers and ad agencies shows strong confidence in mobile marketing’s reach and effectiveness — so much so that they plan to increase their spending 124 percent to more than $5.4 billion by the end of 2011. This projected increase reflects advertiser and agency plans to shift their budgets out of media such as print and outdoor and into the mobile channel.

The “measure” pillar plays a key role by providing the confidence that in turn enables this kind of growth. It’s easier for brands and agencies to justify those dramatic increases and strategy shifts when they have access to independent, primary analytics showing consumer interest in and adoption of mobile services.

But measurement is possible only when everyone is using the same baselines and definitions. The MMA recently worked with the Interactive Advertising Bureau to define what constitutes a mobile ad impression.

Another example of measurement is via independent research. An April 2010 survey conducted by the MMA and one of its official research partners, Luth Research, found that nearly one in four U.S. adult consumers uses mobile location services. Nearly half of those who noticed any ads while using location-based services took at least some action, indicating that consumers respond well to ads through location-based services. That’s the kind of actionable intelligence that brands and agencies need to make the most of the mobile opportunity.

The “promote” pillar plays an equally important role in helping drive industry growth. Case studies, for example, explain how and why certain campaigns are highly successful. This information gives brands and agencies the actionable insights necessary to develop and execute their own strategies, and it complements “measure” by providing additional confidence that the mobile channel will put their marketing budget to highly effective use.

Effectiveness depends partly on the actions of the industry as a whole. That’s where the “educate” pillar comes in. The MMA’s certification program is designed to educate marketing professionals about how to use the mobile channel effectively and appropriately.

That process starts with protecting the consumer experience and the efficiency of the market’s systems so that all players can grow their businesses in a sustainable fashion. Industry-standard guidelines such as the MMA’s “U.S. Consumer Best Practices” and “Code of Conduct for Mobile Marketing” are part of the “guide” pillar, which enables the self-regulation that helps grow the mobile opportunity.

The MMA’s role as guide includes providing a framework so that the mobile industry can create these kinds of documents, which ensure that brands, agencies, developers, carriers and other ecosystem members are all on the same page — and moving forward.

Promote, measure, educate, guide and protect. Five verbs that provide focus and momentum to the ongoing development of a burgeoning industry. Everyone can contribute, you just have to find the area that excites you the most, jump in and get engaged.