Nostalgic for the Future: Data That is ‘Close to You’

Last week, I had a dream — and in it, Karen Carpenter and I were friends. The following night, I had a similar dream — and this time it was Carly Simon. I literally went to bed the next night hoping for a Roberta Flack visitation.

Last week, I had a dream and in it, Karen Carpenter and I were friends. The following night, I had a similar dream and this time it was Carly Simon. I literally went to bed the next night hoping for a Roberta Flack visitation. As a result of these slumbering vocalists and songwriters, I’ve spent a good part of my leisure time over the New Year holiday listening to all their songs on my iPod. It’s yesterday, once more.

Who knows why we dream what we dream?

Sometimes, it just happens that when we’ve experienced enough in life, in play, in work some situations are bound to come around again, next week or decades later. I mean, I owned all that vinyl way back then and now I can stream it all again.

Greatest Hits: Lifecycles of Data-Inspired Marketing

So when Marc Pritchard of Procter & Gamble last week at the Consumer Electronics Show talked about “a world without ads,” I said to myself “oh, I’ve heard this song before.” And he’s right to say it.

In the world of data and direct marketing, a quest for wholly efficient advertising and a mythical 100-percent response rate actually is a 100-year science. Thank you, visionaries, such as Claude Hopkins.

• The 19th Century shopkeeper knew each customer, and conversed regularly. Ideally, each customer’s wants and desires were noted and needs anticipated to the extent that the customer was fulfilled accordingly. (Aaron Montgomery Ward and Richard Warren Sears.)
• Direct marketing originally through print, catalogs and mail, and then broadcast sought to replicate this model remotely. Measurement, attribution and response were put to science. Creativity served the science, or science served the creativity in either direction. Segmentation, analytics and differentiated communication flowed. (David Ogilvy, Stan Rapp and Alvin Eicoff, among others).
• In digital, social and mobile, direct marketing is rejuvenated this time “data-driven marketing.” Some have described this as data-inspired storytelling, or direct marketing on steroids. How responsible data collection can be used to identify prospect needs and wants, and funnel tailored communication through to sale, service and repeat purchase. (Jeff Bezos, among others.)
• And now the product itself can be designed to communicate to the customer smart appliances, smart cars, and the parts and products inside, with sensors and Internet connections and mobile app interfaces all being able to let the user know, it’s time for consideration or some other product lifecycle action.

Post-Advertising: A Reverence for Data

In all these examples, the constant is “I want to know you, so I can serve you the customer” and the facilitator is data. We exist to create and serve a customer. Period. Anything less is not sustainable. Data, in these models, is sought, analyzed and revered. It is also transparent, and its use and application has consumer buy-in. That premise is as true now in the Internet age, as it was in the direct response era before it. We all need to excel in data reverence, first, and then data analysis and application.

Advertising does have a role here, of course. Not every product sells itself and not every product meets customer satisfaction fully. The best advertising, and even the best data behind it, cannot save a bad product. There is always a need for advertising and marketing to inform the consumer, and a brand promise that serves to attract and retain beyond the product.

Every generation has its pop heroes. Tonight, I may just dream of Adele.

Thankful for Being ‘Reasonable’ With Data-Driven Marketing

Marketers were given an early Thanksgiving: a recognition by the Federal Trade Commission that “data” is indeed the fuel of the digital economy, and that most consumers are pragmatic toward how data, and data-driven marketing, finances the online content they rely upon and enjoy.

Marketers were given an early Thanksgiving: a recognition by the Federal Trade Commission that “data” is indeed the fuel of the digital economy, and that most consumers are pragmatic toward how data, and data-driven marketing, finances the online content they rely upon and enjoy.

Some might call such a view logical. Some factual. Some realistic. Let’s call it all of these and “reasonable,” as well.

On Nov. 9, the FTC, in comments to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration regarding the Administration’s approach to consumer privacy said:

“The FTC supports a balanced approach to privacy that weighs the risks of data misuse with the benefits of data to innovation and competition. Striking this balance correctly is essential to protecting consumers and promoting competition and innovation, both within the U.S. and globally.”

The comments articulate how the FTC has pursued enforcement action in its existing privacy enforcement, a bright line of various consumer harms: financial injury, personal injury, reputational injury and unwanted intrusion, the latter incorporating the sanctity of their homes and intimate lives.

A Succinct Recognition of Responsible Data Usage

The comments call out the benefits of responsible data flows in our economy (note: footnotes are omitted in excerpts):

“In addition to considering the risks identified above, any approach to privacy must also consider how consumer data fuels innovation and competition. The digital economy has benefited consumers in many ways, saving individuals’ time and money, creating new opportunities, and conferring broad social and environmental benefits. For example, recent innovations have enabled:

  • Better predictions about and planning for severe weather events, including updated flood warnings, real-time evacuation routes, and improved emergency responses and measures, that can allow people to plan for and avoid dangerous conditions.
  • Improved consumer fraud detection in the financial and banking sector, as institutions can obtain insights into consumers’ purchasing and behavior patterns that will allow them to proactively identify and immediately stop fraudulent transactions when they are discovered.
  • Free or substantially discounted services, including free communications technologies (email, VoIP, etc.), inexpensive and widely available financial products, and low-cost entertainment.
  • Safer, more comfortable homes, as IoT [Internet of Things] devices detect flooding in basements, monitor energy use, identify maintenance issues, and remotely control devices, such as lights and ovens.
  • Better health and wellness, as a variety of diagnostics, screening apps and wearables enable richer health inputs, remote diagnosis by medical professionals, and virtual consultations.
  • More convenient shopping, as retail stores track both sales and inventory in real-time via shopping data to optimize product inventory in each store.
  • More relevant online experiences, as retailers provide customized offers and video services recommend new shows.
  • Easier-to-find parking, as cities deploy smart sensors to provide residents with real-time data about available parking spots.
  • Increased connectivity, as consumers can get immediate answers to questions by asking their digital voice assistants and can remotely operate devices, such as lights and door locks, with a voice command or single touch on a phone.

“Privacy standards that give short shrift to the benefits of data-driven practices may negatively affect innovation and competition. Moreover, regulation can unreasonably impede market entry or expansion by existing companies; the benefits of privacy regulation should be weighed against these potential costs to competition.”

While we may believe the FTC is stating the obvious here, such matter-of-factness about marketplace observations cannot be taken for granted. An entirely new Internet regulation and regimen emanating from Europe  with its own U.S. fan base among some academics and privacy fundamentalists would take direct aim at these social and economic outcomes through cumbersome, inflexible, rigid consent schemes. These must be resisted not because privacy protections are not worth pursuing (they are), and not because consent is important (it is) but because, as the FTC comments also show, effective privacy enforcement is already soundly in place in America. And where new regulations are enacted, they ought to be flexible, measured and a balanced approach. “Reasonable” is the concept in play here.

A Risk-Based Approach

Thankfully, “a risk-based approach is in the FTC’s institutional DNA,” the FTC reports. For example, in this important area of consumer control, the commission writes (again, footnotes omitted):

“The FTC has long encouraged a balanced approach to control. Giving consumers the ability to exercise meaningful control over the collection and use of data about them is beneficial in some cases. However, certain controls can be costly to implement and may have unintended consequences. For example, if consumers were opted out of online advertisements by default (with the choice of opting in), the likely result would include the loss of advertising-funded online content.”

This is a pivotal moment. In effect, this is a recognition of two decades of responsible data collection and use at work in the Internet economy, and perhaps another 100 years of similar data use in the offline economy. In both cases, advertisers and marketers have implemented effective self-regulation conduct codes (disclosure, my professional relationships supports such codes), that are backed by enforcement and accountability that can refer companies to government agencies. The FTC actually used the NTIA comments to call out enforcement cases where private firms purportedly failed to follow self-regulatory codes of conduct.

As we debate public policy for privacy and security in the next Congress, and state legislatures, too and among ourselves as citizens and industry participants it’s wise to understand and appreciate what responsible data collection and use has brought forth in our economy, and how reasonable, risk-based approaches to policy making can best serve us all.

While I say “thank you” to the FTC for recognizing this I’m also thankful for an industry of practitioners who recognize and understand how and why data stewardship matters.

Understand and Optimize the Value of (Third-Party) Data for ’Growth’

With DMA’s &Then18 in Las Vegas taking place this past week, I may report that the transformation from “direct marketing” to “data-driven marketing” is complete, and that the disruption of marketing overall, in all its forms, continues to accelerate. Third-party data, for growth, is a marketing trend we’ll discuss here, too.

With DMA’s &Then18 in Las Vegas taking place this past week, I may report that the transformation from “direct marketing” to “data-driven marketing” is complete, and that the disruption of marketing overall, in all its forms, continues to accelerate. Third-party data, for growth, is a marketing trend we’ll discuss here, too.

DMA, a division of Association of National Advertisers, now represents mastery in “Data Marketing & Analytics” and the conference curricula certainly emphasized the present and future of data-inspired marketing. No time for tears and nostalgia, we all have work to do. Yes, direct marketing has provided the foundation and discipline for data-driven marketing to flourish — testing, measurement, accountability — but with the speed, sources and size of data, it’s clearly a new day.

Brands (ANA) are now firmly focused on data and measurement (ANA’s ownership of DMA). As one big family, the conference opened with a hefty statement from ANA President & CEO Bob Liodice and DMA Group Executive VP Tom Benton about why all this matters: “Growth.”

If we’re not disrupting, we’re being disrupted — and probably we’re being disrupted, anyway. Growth does not belong to the hesitant. Still, being agile doesn’t mean being foolish, it means being “fuelish” — understanding the data you have and acting on the insights data, the fuel, presents. Perhaps this is good reason why Bonin Bough served as emcee for the conference. His in-your-face energy reflects the energy in Data Marketing & Analytics that must be unleashed for desired business outcomes to be achieved.

It’s not so easy.

Data sits in silos. Enterprises have legacy systems. New marketing technology doesn’t easily interact with these systems, if at all. Data goes stale. Data isn’t trusted. Quality may be elusive. Integration raises conflicts. And well-meaning but ill-advised privacy regimes, as public policy, could tank responsible data flows.

Use Data Wisely, Responsibly and With Confidence

One focus in programming was a needed one: how to make sure brands access and use data with confidence.

Matt Tipperreiter, senior product strategy director at Experian Marketing Services, presented an enterprising perspective on “data4good.” This was not about social good and cause marketing. It was about providing a professional approach to pursue quality, actionability and best for first-party data management, third-party data sourcing, identity profiles and single customer view, campaign and media activation. I’ve included this image that speaks to this helpful construct.

DMA talks third-party data for growth
Photo taken at DMA, a division of ANA &Then 2018 Conference, Experian Marketing Services Talks Data4Good. | Credit: Chet Dalzell by Experian Marketing Services

Another panel included data experts from Alliant, Dun & Bradstreet, FCB Chicago, LiveRamp and Stirista — which examined third-party data, in particular. [Disclosure: I have a client relationship with two of these companies.]

Of late, brands have expressed some concern with their planned use of both online and third-party data. In research from the Duke University Fuqua School of Business, “The CMO Survey,” nearly 12 percent report they are likely to decrease third-party data use in the coming two years — while six in 10 will maintain a steady commitment. If brands and businesses are truly committed to growth — as ANA and DMA maintain — then they must not abandon reliance on third-party data. All the first-party data in the world cannot provide a whole view of the customer — at least one that can enable smarter decisions about audience targeting and understanding.

“The customer must be the central focus — not the data, not the technology,” said Josh Blacksmith, SVP, General Manager — CRM, FCB Chicago. While brands are sacred, the audience is more sacred.

I’ve maintained that without third-party data, customer growth in an efficient manner is much less likely. So it is imperative that data providers tackle brand safety and brand confidence concerns with third-party data for growth — which is most often tackled through data due diligence, testing and proof of concepts, and a commitment to data quality.

‘Data Label’ Me Transparent

Right on cue, another panel explored the new data labeling initiative by ANA (DMA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab, among others. Currently, the marketplace is being asked to provide comment on the proposed label [label sample available at the link] that the working group has put forward. The goal is to increase transparency as to the source of commercially available data, and to give an apples-to-apples view for such data.

Finally, making the greatest business case for data marketing and analytics expertise is showcased in this year’s ANA International ECHO Awards. Congratulations are in order for all this year’s finalists and winners. DMA members have access to a brief synopsis of each winning campaign, but anyone is free to read of them online here.

The next ECHO Awards presentation is slated for the next ANA Data Marketing & Analytics conference, March 2, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. See you there!

Marketing and Beyond: The Evils of Inertia vs. a Bias to Act

Inertia is a terrible thing. In marketing and beyond, inertia breeds complacency. It defeats initiative. And often leaves us stuck in life and work situations that very much prevent progress.

“The chill of inertia, the failure to make an ongoing effort to progress, is the greatest barrier to success and happiness in life.” Yogananda

Inertia is a terrible thing.

In marketing and beyond, inertia breeds complacency. It defeats initiative. And often leaves us stuck in life and work situations that very much prevent progress.

In our free democracy, where we have full opportunity to act with will as citizens, as voters, as employees (and employers), as consumers, as individuals too often we find ourselves victims of inertia; often ,in the form of our own indifference, or bias to do nothing.

This summer I’ve seen three instances of inertia local, national and global, each with their own potential for terrible outcomes. All are preventable.

Inertia Hurts My Savings

For three of the past four years, my cooperative has sought to introduce a transfer fee where the seller of an apartment pays a fee to the cooperative as a sort of “kiss” goodbye. The funds generated from the sale are dedicated to a reserve where such proceeds can finance many predictable capital projects over time. Building such a reserve lessens the need for high maintenance increases and/or a series of one-off assessments to fund necessary capital projects. In a buoyant New York real estate market, the fee often can be recouped in the sale price. Having such a reserve in good standing also keeps our building attractive to buyers. These are all wonderful benefits of having a transfer fee in place and why it’s part of a fee structure in many New York co-ops.

Yet getting the necessary two-thirds of our shareholders to pass such a common-sense measure had been trying. Despite pleas and prods from the board, we could never muster enough votes at our annual meeting. It wasn’t that shareholders en masse opposed the proposal a far majority of those who voted did favor it it’s just that we couldn’t get enough favorable ballots to meet the mandatory two-thirds threshold of our governing rules. So this year, we took a “vote over time” approach, where we used the summer months to garner the two-thirds majority. It took one tremendous effort interacting as we could with each shareholder by phone, email and visits and we achieved our goal.

Still, nearly a third of shareholders did nothing, said nothing, and paid no attention … inertia. Even when confronted with a worse outcome, they failed to take notice and act. Thankfully, in this situation, enough neighbors picked up the slack. A potential financial emergency has been averted.

Inertia Hurts Democracy

It’s the day after Labor Day and now we start our march to vital mid-term elections. Left or right or in the middle, the decisions of our elected officials matter during the next two (Representatives), four (Governors) and six (Senators) years. Guess which age cohort of voter could hardly be bothered?

A new survey from NBC/GenForward reveals insights on inertia and ambivalence on a growing and key voter bloc Millennials and there’s a potential high price to pay through inertia.

Yes, that’s 43 percent who are uncertain or will probably not or definitely not vote. I understand why many younger individuals may have less faith in our political institutions than prior generations, but we get exactly what we deserve when we don’t show up to vote. Staying home cedes control to someone else. Is this purposefully not voting to stoke some imagined revolution or is this ambivalence? The effect, in any measure, is inertia and the status quo is hard to change when we keep sending the same people back to high office. Voting is the means to change, if you show up to vote.

We healthfully debate guns, police brutality, immigration, healthcare access and affordability, gender equality, climate change, conflicts of interest and Russian meddling. This voter bloc diverse as it is is the very generation who is empowered to make a difference! Folks, we just need to vote for the change and culture we believe in! There’s a lot more behind these survey results, I fear, that I have room to expand upon in this blog. Suffice it to say inertia, again, hurts all our interests.

Inertia Hurts Advertising

And now to a marketing issue wholly predictable and preventable. Europe has instituted a data freeze called the General Data Protection Regulation. I doubt it’s helpful to the average European and I know it is harmful to American interests. It actually institutes inertia as public policy.

Whole categories of beneficial information use in marketing the use of web-viewing and app-usage data for more relevant messaging, for example have been prohibited subject to opt-in permissions. Let’s revisit my co-op example: how many people opt-in to “anything” when it’s wholly desirable and beneficial for them to do so? Very few. Add a little doubt and fear political scandal, hypothetical evils not based in reality and the opt-ins are even harder to come by.

With a stroke of well-intended but ill-informed law, European Parliament slammed publishers, advertisers and consumers alike all in the name of privacy and they are proud of this accomplishment! Time will tell the true toll. But already, Europeans have less information, less choice, less competition, less revenue and more generic advertising all in the name of chasing ad tech profits as a privacy surrogate. These negative effects may not be immediately apparent to the consumer how do you count a beneficial offer not received? The familiar retort behind this law is “privacy is a fundamental human right.” Well, we can see how well that’s going again, all very predictable and preventable.

Let me be clear: I believe in privacy rights, too most certainly. [Disclosure, I work with a digital advertising privacy program for U.S. consumers, the YourAdChoices program.] But let’s make sure that mere annoyances a pop-up ad, for example don’t get conflated with government surveillance of citizens, or personal information misuse by the private sector where consumer harm is likely where privacy concerns as a society are truly legitimate. There are annoyances, which can be managed by ethics and best practices, and there are scenarios where privacy indeed is at risk. One needs to grade privacy protections accordingly. I’ve long argued U.S.’s current and extensive privacy regimen a thoughtful sectoral approach dutifully enforced, complemented by ethics, self-regulation and business contracts is far superior to Europe’s one-size-fits-all prescriptive approach. In short, Europe has mandated that inertia freeze (or even undo) responsible data use. Thus, in this zeal for consent, the tremendous flow of benefits accrued through responsible data deployment largely ceases.

In short, I’m hopeful, stateside, that we shun this European import. Transparency, choice, security and sensitive data we have effective, existing means in the United States to deliver toward these laudable aims. We have other ways to assert such privacy protections, yet we still allow beneficial information flows and innovation to continue.

So, will this be a summer and fall where we let inertia win? Or will we have a bias to act, to keep all-too-predictable sorry outcomes from happening?

10 Tips Judging Marketing Awards Allow Me to Teach Brands

I’m judging marketing awards during the dog days of August, with steaming heat in New York City. It’s been a challenge this week choosing which campaigns will win recognition on Oct. 7 in Las Vegas. Earning my vote takes some doing. Here’s how marketers did it.

I’m judging marketing awards during the dog days of August, with steaming heat in New York City. There’s no better time than now to gather 100 or more data-driven marketing storytellers, strategists and creatives to judge this year’s Data and Marketing Association’s International ECHO Awards. (DMA is now a division of Association of National Advertisers).

It’s been a challenge this week choosing which campaigns will win recognition on Oct. 7 in Las Vegas. Earning my vote takes some doing.

Why?

1. Measurement Matters. Great creativity abounds. Yet, what matters to most CMOs is defining what business objective is achieved or surpassed through any campaign. If strategy and creative are stellar, but results toward an objective are nebulous or not addressed at all, then I’m going to discount the campaign’s overall score.
2. Talking to the Category Matters. Many award shows allow an entry to be submitted in more than one category. In that regard, ECHOs are no different. But just don’t check a box when entering. Instead, tailor the single entry campaign description to address in a meaningful way all the categories that are checked. For example, if “customer acquisition” is one of the checked categories speak to customer acquisition in the strategy and results. Show how the creative makes it easy for the customer to engage.
3. Creative Matters All of the Creative. I love a good video that summarizes a campaign entry it’s helpful for the judges in a pinch. But don’t solely rely on the video as a surrogate for showing all of a campaign’s creative elements. Judges don’t want to read or hear about a direct mail piece they want to see the actual direct mail piece (or PDF). Likewise, the mobile app, the landing page, the display ads and so on. Don’t leave a judge guessing which components worked and which may not have.
4. Set a Stage for Strategy. Open with a pain point, an opportunity statement, or some salient market research. Provide the context for the entry with a candid discussion you’ll get rewarded for brutal honesty. If a prior campaign flunked and this marked a turnaround, then say so. We’ve all been there. On the other hand, if a new campaign establishes a new control, hallelujah!
5. Let’s Get Technical. And Let Me Hear Your Data Talk. ECHOs are all about data-inspired creative and accountability. Tell me the customer and prospect data integration story the tech platforms, the analytics, and the personalization techniques. I get high when the love for strategy shows in the data discussion and how that strategy shapes creative and gets validated in results.
6. Make America Great Again … No, Not That One. Courageous clients and out-of-the-box thinking seem to co-thrive in many, many places around the globe. Because I don’t know who will be named ECHO winners this year I can only say from prior years that some innovative strategies are in play … petroleum made from beer:

Empowered sick kids:

https://youtu.be/DbRS9NxgWBU

And an 800 number answered by a nation’s citizens:

There are many well-executed U.S.-based campaigns with solid results but that extra magical mojo still seems to be shaken, not stirred in cocktails elsewhere. Bring it back home. Be a risk-taker. Let’s get the U.S. Navy more cryptologists.
7. What Was the Budget (Range)? Judges scratch their heads when key elements used to determine return on (marketing) investment are absent, or when no ROI or cost data are shared at all. No one expects proprietary information to be disclosed but there are ways to convey cost or ROI data (cost per acquisition, cost per conversion, cost improvement) in ways that are indexed or objective specific. Judges love understanding if and when campaigns truly break even.
8. Proofread and Check Your Math. I’m one of those people who shudders when The New York Times or New Yorker has a spelling or usage error. (You’d think I’d live my own life mistake-free, well hardly.) I can’t be the only stickler left on this planet, am I? In the rush to get entries in the door ahead of deadlines, errors do get through sometimes slight, but sometimes it’s more substantial “engagement” math off by a power of ten! No wonder the return on investment was so good … or was it?
9. Camaraderie and Conversation Among Peers Are Really Cool. When you judge Round 1 (online and alone), you get to see clever campaigns and a store of ideas to apply in your own marketing. When you are lucky to be chosen to judge Round 2 (face-to-face in New York), wow! You still cast your votes alone but only after a lively discussion, debate and worldwide reality check. It’s an 8-hour day (or three in a row), but with plenty of meal-time and after-hour networking, too. It’s a true marketing exchange and the points of view are well-articulated. Discussions open eyes and minds.
10. Awards Matter, as Do the Entries. There will be Gold, Silver, Bronze and Finalist ECHOs named plus a Diamond ECHO for top campaign overall. Still, there was at least one great idea in nearly every individual entry I saw.

Collectively, I also saw something else, which too often gets overlooked and underappreciated. Advertising and today, that also means the data that fuels it may seem to serve brands. And it does. But this week while judging marketing awards I saw a lot more. Advertising (and data) also creates customers. It creates commerce. It moves markets. It creates and serves audiences. It informs. It finances. It employs. It empowers. It inspires. Advertising is essential, yet we cannot take any of it for granted. Awards call attention to great work, by great people, achieving spectacular returns and those extend way beyond the brand. It’s good to be a judge.

You’re Spending Too Much: Cast a Smaller Net for Bigger Returns With Personalized Marketing

Marketers have been spreading their net much too wide. Data analytics plays a critical role in achieving personalized marketing. Here’s what too-wide a marketing net looks like, and this is how to make it smaller, easier to control, mend and redeploy.

Marketers have been spreading their nets much too wide. Data analytics plays a critical role in achieving personalized marketing. Here’s what too-wide a marketing net looks like, and how to fine-tune it given the importance of an efficient approach to marketing to all businesses across the economy.

Failure to understand, utilize, review and update best practices around your personalized marketing model through data analytics can lead to issues ranging from excessive spending to a lack of interested potential customers. Companies have to be careful, deliberate and aware as they consistently fine tune their strategies for raising awareness of their brands and offerings in today’s diverse, digitally driven market.

In essence, organizations need to move away from a large marketing net that is likely full of holes to a smaller one that is easier to control, mend and redeploy.

What Does Casting Too Wide of a Marketing Net Look Like?

One of the clearest and most direct ways companies can determine if their marketing spend is in or out of line with best practices is through comparisons with best-in-class organizations. The percentage of the overall budget tied to marketing can change greatly between certain industries, and even different elements of the retail world, but a review of the strategies used by leaders within your specific vertical can provide a strong, easily understood starting point.

It’s also important to remember that marketing theories and processes regularly evolve and change, especially with so many digital methods for analysis, outreach and engagement now available. Some small, tech-savvy firms and niche e-commerce players outperform leaders in their industries in terms of return on investment and market penetration, despite smaller budgets. That happens thanks to an increased focus on using the most effective information, systems and avenues to connect with high-value customers.

A too-large marketing net can also stem from a failure to use market segmentation. A lack of specialization and personalization, especially for campaigns that target large groups of people or geographic regions, simply isn’t acceptable when so many potential competitors regularly use and benefit from such tactics.

A data-driven approach to marketing is now possible for businesses large and small, but many companies avoid it due to perceived cost issues and only focus on that element when designing marketing efforts. A method that only concentrates on budgets is ultimately short sighted. It keeps costs lower in the short term; however, it also excludes the very positive developments that come with increased understanding of your true customer base and marketing to them effectively across many channels, which provides a particularly valuable revenue stream for a variety of organizations.

Enterprises must understand the value data provides and invest in market segmentation efforts that help define potential audiences and allow businesses to market to them effectively.

Casting a Smaller Net for Stronger Results

Personalization and developing a deep, regularly updated understanding of potential customers through effective use of data are critical for modern marketing success. Businesses need to have a strong grasp of what appeals to large swaths of their customer base, with similar information about smaller groups and individuals. This data-driven approach ultimately provides the information companies need to stage effective multichannel marketing campaigns that make the most of each platform used for outreach and target specific consumer sentiments and desires.

Perhaps most importantly, this strategy allows businesses to target especially high-value customers repeatedly in ways that remain relevant to the shopper through personalized appeals and outreach. Making sure marketing messaging stays relevant over time, especially in the context of engaging frequent shoppers and top spenders, is just as important as engaging new customers. Using data as the crux of such efforts gives companies valuable, accurate analysis that can inform marketing campaigns and make messaging delivered many years into a customer-business relationship just as relevant as the first piece of outreach.

Shifting to smaller, more targeted efforts isn’t only about attention and communication on the individual level, either. Organizations with a brick-and-mortar retail footprint can go beyond marketing efforts that target their entire customer base to focus more keenly on smaller areas, including the catchments around individual stores. One discount general merchandise retailer shifted from a national advertising strategy to one tailored to each store’s individual customer base. By identifying relevant demographics and the impact they have on purchasing at each location, the retailer can now focus more on areas with a higher proportion of potential frequent shoppers to derive the most value from their marketing spend.

Of course, simply having relevant and accurate data on hand isn’t enough to craft a smaller net that is more effective at targeting specific customers. Businesses also need efficient processes for analysis and developing relevant understanding of those results across an organization. Companies need to have the tools and knowledge on hand to readily leverage data to define, segment and evaluate customers. They must also have the capacity to make these findings quickly and accurately. The rapidly changing nature of consumer preferences in the modern economy means too long of a delay when gathering and analyzing can cause significant problems in terms of relevance and the overall value of related marketing spend.

Ultimately, creating and defining your smaller, more effective net stems from a desire to maximize ROI and get the most value possible from every marketing dollar. That means an emphasis on ensuring campaigns reach their intended targets, drive sales and have clear messages and missions. By avoiding waste and minimizing redundancy in a marketing budget through the context provided by a data-driven approach, alongside the many advantages provided by the results of successful, personalized and targeted campaigns across many channels, business quickly realize benefits from this more streamlined strategy.

Starting to Make More Effective Marketing Changes

One of the greatest challenges of making a major business process change, such as a data-based strategy for marketing, is generating awareness and acceptance. Luckily, many companies already recognize the need to better understand customers in more granular detail, quantify their value and more effectively and appropriately target them. Companies that don’t change their approach will only continue to fall behind both industry leaders and smaller players that recognize the value of data in a marketing context and use it to effectively reach out to their customers.

By Association: Brands, Data and Marketing Finally Have Come Together

Call it marketing data’s destiny. On July 1, if membership approves, the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) will be owned and operated by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). Perhaps a merger more than 100 years in the making.

Call it “marketing data’s destiny.”

On July 1, if membership approves, the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) will be owned and operated by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

The former first began in 1917 — the latter in 1910. Perhaps this moment is destiny 100-plus years in the making.

In 1915, William Wrigley sent chewing gum to every household listed in every phone book in America — more than 1 million at the time. That was “direct marketing.”

What David Ogilvy Knew, We All Must Know Now

One of the greatest advertising practitioners of all time – David Ogilvy – knew that “direct response” advertisers — no matter what the medium — knew which ads worked, and which didn’t, because of their discipline to measure. Direct marketing was Ogilvy’s “secret weapon.”

Google did not invent analytics — direct marketers were always data-driven, and have been testing and analyzing and measuring every piece of advertising real estate under the sun. Google helped to introduce analytics to digital-first marketers.

Early on, direct marketers recognized Amazon as what it truly is — front end to back end: “direct marketing on steroids.”

DMA knows data. Its conferences, content, professional development — and advocacy and representation — have always advanced the discipline of data-driven marketing, in quality and quantity. Accountability, efficiency, return on investment, testing and audience measurement — these attributes, for perhaps decades too long — were relegated “second-class” citizenship by Madison Avenue, general advertising and the worship of creativity.

Oh, how times have changed.

Data Streams — What Direct Response Started, Digital Exploded

Even before the Internet was invented, smart brands — leading brands — started to recognize the power of data in their advertising and marketing. While some had dabbled in direct mail, most pursued sales promotion techniques that mimic but do not fully commit to direct marketing measurement. It was the advent of database marketing — fueled by loyalty programs, 800 numbers and credit cards — that gave many “big” advertisers their first taste of audience engagement.

Brand champions were curious, and many were hooked. Nothing helps a brand more than customer interaction. Data sets the stage for such interaction through relevance — and interactions enable behavioral and contextual insights for future messaging and content.

Digital marketing — and mobile since — have exploded the availability of data.  So all-told, brands must be data-centric today, because that’s how customers are found, sustained, served and replicated. In fact, data-centricity and customer-centricity are nearly indistinguishable.

ANA and DMA coming together — it’s as if brands understand (or know they need to understand) that data champions the consumer and serves the brand promise. Data serves to prove the effectiveness of all the advertising, marketing and engagement brought forth.

ANA has been acquiring organizations — Word of Mouth Marketing Association, Brand Activation Association, Business Marketing Association and now the Data and Marketing Association. There certainly may be more to this most recent transaction than my humble point of view here today.

But I’d rather believe that data-driven marketing, finally, has received an accolade from brands 100 years due. Congratulations are in order.

 

Digital Data Under the Tuscan Sun

I’m fortunate to be taking a holiday this year, currently in the Italian countryside. As carefree as a bike ride among Tuscan sunflowers — there’s a specter threatening to haunt us from Europe, as Interactive Advertising Bureau CEO Randall Rothenberg reported recently in Business Insider.

I’m fortunate to be taking a holiday this year, currently in the Italian countryside.

As carefree as a bike ride among Tuscan sunflowers — there’s a specter threatening to haunt us from Europe, as Interactive Advertising Bureau CEO Randall Rothenberg reported recently in Business Insider: “Buried in pages of amendments to the European Union’s latest privacy proposal, the ePrivacy Regulation, members of the European Parliament recently recommended language that would strip European publishers of the right to monetize their content through advertising, eviscerating the basic business model that has supported journalism for more than 200 years. The new directive would require publishers to grant everyone access to their digital sites, even to users who block their ads, effectively creating a shoplifting entitlement for consumers of news, social media, email services, or entertainment.”

Juxtapose this nightmare scenario with what consumers are coming to expect from their online experiences — greater context and more relevant experiences — and you can see the “Great Disconnect” between digital data, consumer experience and at least some European policymakers. Says Flashtalking CEO John Nardone recently on another topic in Marketing Land: “Advertising that is not data-inspired, data-enabled, personally relevant and relevant across time and context is increasingly advertising wasted.” Another study by the Digital Advertising Alliance (disclosure, a client, but also not a lobbying organization) says that U.S. consumers, at least, place a $1,197 dividend on the free content they consume on desktop and mobile environments.

Yes, the American marketplace is not Europe, but we should be very concerned about western democracies — among anyone — taking a position that effectively de-finances journalism, diminishes and disempowers a consumer marketplace, gives a free pass to ad blockers (normalizing the thieving of content, in effect encouraging it), and other behaviors that are anti-commerce. How much are Europeans willing to sacrifice in the name of privacy? Their own economic well-being to start — publishers, advertisers and, yes, consumers.

In that Europe demands that other countries meet its privacy expectations in order to allow data flows on European Union citizens outside European borders, you can see the intended, amplified effects that the EU is seeking to set in motion. One target may well be USA and ad tech companies.

I’ve long said we can’t take Information out of the Information Economy and still have the efficiency, productivity and consumer discovery made possible by data-driven marketing. Let’s hope reason prevails both in Brussels — and under the Tuscan sun.

Now Underway: The Reinvention of Direct Marketing

Last month, I had the opportunity to participate as a “Round 3” judge in the 2016 International ECHO Awards competition — and while we’ll find out the results of this effort on October 16 in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but be impressed with what’s going on across the world of data-driven marketing.

Direct MarketingI had the opportunity last month to participate as a Round 3 judge in the 2016 International ECHO Awards competition — and while we’ll find out the results of this effort on Oct. 16 in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but be impressed with what’s going on across the world of data-driven marketing.

Direct marketing currently is being reinvented:

1. Customer relationship management is morphing toward customer-managed relationships
2. Branded direct is enriched by storytelling across the customer journey with rich experiential content — some of it provided by consumers
3. Analytics are moving beyond targeting and segmentation — toward attribution and media optimization
4. Online marketing is getting smarter (kind of) by offline marketing: there’s an R bias in some digital RFM [recency-frequency-monetary] models that marketers are trying to correct

Most transactions are still offline, so as much as marketers can map the entire customer journey, we’re still handicapped when we don’t get the full prospect and customer picture — both offline and online. This is a commonly reported problem shared by marketers.

With privacy regimens, there may never be a day when personally identifiable information is rented and exchanged with online data as it is offline — and I, for one, lament this built-in block of useful intelligence that would otherwise be applied in service to the consumer. There certainly are work arounds by getting opt-ins inside digital “walled gardens,” by using anonymized data for probabilistic prospect and customer identification, and by applying more powerful computing and analyses — all within responsible data collection frameworks. Still, how quickly can we modify existing data flows — or freshly build new ones — that bring all the data points together in ways that replicate the robust models and data appends that exist in the offline world? Let’s say this nirvana is still under construction with AdTech and MarTech improving all the time — in privacy respectful ways.

Come Oct. 16, I’m sure we’ll see a fantastic array of data-driven marketing being celebrated as the reinvention continues.