Confidence in Data Depends on Confidence in Analysis

It’s striking how marketing organizations — specifically, data-driven marketing organizations — seek to overcome challenges in people, platforms, partners and processes through analytics.

Push-me, pull-you. Chicken or egg?

Data or Analytics?

As I continue discussion on the “The Data-Centric Organization 2018” research report (Winterberry Group, in partnership with the Data and Marketing Association and IAB [Interactive Advertising Bureau] Data Center for Excellence, it is striking how marketing organizations — specifically, data-driven marketing organizations — seek to overcome challenges in people, platforms, partners and processes through analytics.

Data and Analytics in marketing
“The Data-Centric Organization 2018” | Credit: The Winterberry Group by The Winterberry Group

Analytics spending may be tiny (just 2 percent of data services budgets, according to another Winterberry Group report, “The State of Data 2017”) but the significance of data analytics cannot be understated. We all want it, need it and compete for it in a tight pool for talent, because smarter data activation — predictive models, marketing attribution, triggers (and more), what we might call data strategies — depends on it.

Ad tech and marketing tech are inviting, but they require professionals with analytics fluency in order to flourish.

The report states, “As reported in 2016, practitioners consider data analytics the most critical skill to support the future of their data-driven marketing efforts; however, emphasis on data management and processing has increased, and technology/IT has declined in priority.”

While it’s popular to think that brands are pulling more and more data skill sets in-house, there is actually good news for at least some third-party agencies, consultants and ad partners in this quest for analytics prowess: “Data users credit their supply chain partners with supporting their efforts to derive value from the use of data,” the report concludes, “ … and are helpful when it comes to optimizing the use of marketing technology, as well.” Thus, success in audience activation depends on these partners.

Nonetheless, deepening analytics bench strength is a near-universal concern, both in-house and among marketing service providers. Until such expertise is attained, marketers will remain only moderately confident in the marketing tech and ad tech in which they invest.

So how do we get to a better place? Analytics consultancies are playing a “foremost role in supporting data activation,” followed by third-party data managers and in-house database managers. Organizations say they are becoming less reliant on brand agencies, media agencies and marketing strategy consultancies in this regard — perhaps indicative of the high regard given to data intelligence and to firms that live and breathe data in their everyday practice.

Can we do it? It’s going to take time — and talent — to get our people and skill sets caught up to our tech. I’m a big believer in STEM and marketing education to help us achieve our data-driven storytelling dreams. But we’re talking thousands of such professionals in need. That may mean not only attracting legions of college students to our field, but also boning up in mass the skills of existing current marketing practitioners — supplemented, perhaps, by artificial intelligence and AI’s own skilled handlers.

For marketing to thrive — it has to be data-driven. We do not have the luxury of choice.