Big Data, Little Intelligence

Data gathering techniques are getting more and more sophisticated. Databases are growing bigger and bigger. There are new data mining tools, techniques and dashboards everywhere you turn. So why is it that so many marketers fail to have a database marketing strategy in place?

Little Data Business ConceptData gathering techniques are getting more and more sophisticated. Databases are growing bigger and bigger. There are new data mining tools, techniques and dashboards everywhere you turn.

So why is it that so many marketers fail to have a database marketing strategy in place?

Yesterday, I got three pieces of direct mail in my home mailbox from Farmers Insurance:

  • One was addressed to my mother-in-law, and she died many years ago. Considering she never lived at our address, never had her name on our mortgage, never registered a vehicle at our address, you’d think — at a minimum — Farmers might use birthdate as one of their selection variables. If they did, I think they’d consider suppressing a woman who was nearly 100. Oh, and let’s not forget the death Masterfile that’s available.
  • The second piece was addressed to my husband, but they had matched his name to the name of my old consulting business that ceased to exist in 1995.
  • The final letter was addressed to my husband.

Each of the packages came from a different Farmers agent — and despite the notation of “Visit me, I’m local,” none of them were remotely close to us. According to Google maps, they ranged from 50 minutes to 1 hour away, yet another Google search indicated there was a Farmers agent within 15 minutes of my home.

There were multiple phone numbers on the creative: One for the “local” agent and a toll-free one for Farmers (I guess they were concerned that my “local” call might incur long distance charges!).

What was most interesting is that two out of three of these packages did not include a way to respond via email. I could visit a corporate website and get a quote, but considering the time invested in personalizing the letter, providing an image of the Agent, including a detailed map showing the Agent’s location, and two phone numbers, this key response channel was omitted.

Finally, what happened to de-duping? Or assigning agent’s a territory where “most likely” prospects would reside? Or using big data to help agents figure out how and where to fish for leads while maintaining a strict recency flag?

I’m continually puzzled that marketers still fail to connect all the dots given all the tools in their marketing toolbox. Perhaps Farmers field marketing needs to go back to Farmers University for that data course they slept through.

Customer Data Onboarding: Winterberry Group Publishes State of Market

In our data business, data onboarding is probably one of the hottest topics around — up there with cross-device/cross-platform and a continuing discipline for data quality and governance. But how do marketers accomplish onboarding (and why do they need to), and do so in a way that is affordable, accurate, scalable and responsible?

Data DrivenThe holidays are past — but there’s every likelihood consumer brands are dealing with an aftermath of data avalanche from all the points of customer engagement, screens, catalogs and mail, email, social, in-store, and more which just found their way into (or very near) the marketing database. Whew!

One of the hottest tech areas for “whole customer view” is customer data onboarding: “The process of matching (temporarily linking) owned consumer data (PII) with consumers’ corresponding digital attributes (such as cookies, IP addresses, device IDs and other identifiers) to create a cohesive and comprehensive identity for more actionable marketing.”

That’s a definition provided by Winterberry Group in its recent white paper, “The State of Consumer Data Onboarding: Identity Resolution in an Omnichannel Environment,” authored by Bruce Biegel, Alex Sheidler and Gina Maggi. The report is downloadable here (free registration required).

In our data business, data onboarding is probably one of the hottest topics around — up there with cross-device/cross-platform and a continuing discipline for data quality and governance. But how do marketers accomplish onboarding (and why do they need to) – and do so in a way that is affordable, accurate, scalable and responsible?http://www.winterberrygroup.com/our-insights/state-consumer-data-onboarding-identity-resolution-omnichannel-environmentIn speaking with data, marketing and legal minds from nearly 20 companies, Winterberry Group sought to provide a framework for answering this very question — while providing use cases, underlying value and considerations of emerging, maturing and mature marketing organizations in this effort. “As more marketers adopt omnichannel approaches, the U.S. onboarding market has subsequently grown from an estimated $30 million in 2012 to $250 million in 2016 and is forecast to reach $1 billion in 2020,” according to the executive summary from the report.

Given that the entirety of the current U.S. data expenditure market is $12.8 billion (according to another new Winterberry Group report, “Outlook for Data-Driven Marketing 2017”), that’s a growing proportion of resources being set aside to stage, merge and derive insights from data for advertising and marketing purposes.

Beyond the white paper, this particular company conference has emerged as one you might consider attending: RampUp Live! 2017 in San Francisco in early March.

The consumer is everywhere — screen, mobile, social, offline — and she expects to be recognized! Doing so is a top business concern, but it must be done sustainably.

The Data-Content Continuum: A Marketing Virtuous Circle

To transform an organization to customer-centricity, to provide prospects and customers with relevant content, and to achieve sustainable marketing ROI all depends on data. We all get that. It may be hard to break down data silos and create a whole customer view — to prompt smarter marketing triggers — but increasingly brands and their agency and ad tech partners are finding better ways to do just that.

Data DrivenTo transform an organization to customer-centricity, to provide prospects and customers with relevant content, and to achieve sustainable marketing ROI all depends on data. We all get that. It may be hard to break down data silos and create a whole customer view — to prompt smarter marketing triggers — but increasingly brands and their agency and ad tech partners are finding better ways to do just that.

We’re data-driven marketers. We develop and depend on data strategies that incorporate data governance and data quality at every information spigot. We strive for analytics to predict behavior, to increase ad (and audience) buy efficiency, and to gain insight in response. We refine continuously. Increasingly, that response isn’t about measuring the impact of this marketing tactic or that ad campaign result, but rather marketing’s overall contribution to enterprise objectives.

Data, check. But what about content?

As channels proliferate, as paths to purchase become increasingly complex — heck consumer wander as they self-select their paths – a tough question remains: Is there enough branded (and non-branded) content available, across channels, to scale 1:1 at a mass level — and still be compelling, relevant and timely?

Well, in a word or two, that’s the very direction brands are going (or trying to).

A recent gathering of Marketing Idea eXchange (MIX, formerly Direct Marketing Idea eXchange) explored the relationship between data and content — led by Velocidi CEO David Dunne and Unified.Agency CEO George Wiedemann.  I share some interesting observation that may inform any data-driven content strategy:

  • Personalization matters — but personas matters more. After all, personalizing irrelevant content is counterproductive, said kindly. Since the funnel can have many points of entry, and many paths to conversion, all the better to have accessible content based on buyer and influencer personas (B-to-B and B-to-C).
  • Big data, small data, which data is most important? The data that provides context. There could be hundreds (even thousands) of data elements across the marketing ecosystem that can be assigned to any one individual. Chances are only a precious few serve to identify context (a locale-based search, for example, a prolonged Web site visit with active engagement there, or transaction history). When trigger-based marketing is based on context, it serves to help define the right types of content to serve the customer’s wants and needs in that moment.For example, luxury spa and personal care products manufacturer used a mix of traditional marketing research (in-store surveys) and market testing to transform its digital presence as a “pampered” customer experience. Innovation resulted: Online beauty consultants on demand, chat features, appointment booking by Web, digital promotions to introduce new services — all working to extend the brand’s exclusivity without sacrificing accessibility to its customers.
  • Can creatives learn to love data — best that they do! “I never met a creative person who did not want their work to resonate [with an intended audience],” Dunne remarked. “Data provides the insight that can unlock their creative capabilities.”
  • How do we create content at scale? As media budgets are optimized, less waste, theoretically at least, frees resources for both persona- and context-driven media buying, and persona- and context-driven content development. Content does not always need to be paid, earned or owned — it can be curated from second- and third-party sources.
  • “Content” also comes in many forms — some of which may or may not be in a marketing budget at all: The call center conversation, the online chat transcript, media placements, analyst reports, social content, customer reviews, direct mail — is all of this being organized smartly around context and personas?

And perhaps the largest observation of all: Marketing is less and less campaign-based — it is more and more continuous. The relationship between data and content is a continuum — always improving each other. Marketing budgets need to reflect dialogue, not spray and pray. We used to jump on the bandwagon. It’s now time to jump in the circle.

5 Things ’60 Minutes’ (Intentionally) Didn’t Tell Americans About Data Brokers

Kids, “60 Minutes” is no longer U.S. broadcast journalism at its former best—it’s pseudo-infotainment. Frankly, correspondent Steve Kroft and company had their own point of view that they wanted to report to whip up hysteria, and it wasn’t part of any of the data-driven advertising ecosystem that anyone of us practitioners recognize. Here’s what I know—that I want every consumer to know—and what CBS and “60 Minutes” should have told its viewers:

Kids, “60 Minutes” is no longer U.S. broadcast journalism at its former best—it’s pseudo-infotainment.

The Direct Marketing Association, my editor at Target Marketing, our friends at Direct Marketing News and The Magill Report were spot on with their responses.

Frankly, correspondent Steve Kroft and company had their own point of view that they wanted to report to whip up hysteria, and it wasn’t part of any of the data-driven advertising ecosystem that anyone of us practitioners recognize. Bryan Kennedy of Epsilon did yeoman’s work: Self-regulation exists because all marketers know that data is the currency of our livelihood, and consumer trust underpins us all.

Here’s what I know—that I want every consumer to know—and what CBS and “60 Minutes” should have told its viewers:

1. You Can Opt Out
For decades, Americans have had numerous free ways to “opt-out” of the data-sharing-for-marketing-use marketplace—and millions upon millions of Americans have taken advantage of these free industry-offered programs:

  • DMAChoice, offered by DMA, allows industry-wide opt-out of prospect direct mail, email, do-not-call (for selected states) and unaddressed mail delivery.
  • Nearly all consumer brands also offer their own preference centers and in-house suppression lists on their Web sites and Privacy Policies—both for do-not-send and for do-not-share, bridging multiple channels. Many business brands also do the same.
  • More recently, the Digital Advertising Alliance and its Consumer Choice Page provides an industry-wide opt-out mechanism for targeted display ads online that are served (in a de-identified basis, by the way) based on browsing behavior. Consumers can harden their choices against cookie removal once each opt-out choice is made.
  • A similar opt-out mechanism for mobile interest-based advertising from DAA is now in the works.

2. Marketing Data Is Used for Marketing Only
Every code of conduct and every ethics guideline in our business states this clearly. Furthermore, firewalls exist between marketing data (our business’s data sources) and individual referential data (information used for private investigation, employment, credit, insurance eligibility). If “60 Minutes”—or a consumer, or anyone else for that matter—has evidence that a marketer or service provider is sharing, renting or selling marketing data for non-marketing uses, the DMA’s Committee on Ethical Business Practice would want to be first to know—so as to investigate and bring any organization into compliance. Hypotheticals and inferences are not reality, despite the innuendoes used by Kroft.

3. Sensitive Data Are Already Regulated
Areas of sensitivity that most consumers care about—personally identifiable data related to their children, financial data, health information, credit data and a few other categories—are already regulated under federal law. Marketers must adhere to these laws and regulations.

4. Fraud Is Not Marketing
Another sensitive area—where and when marketing data is breached with a likelihood for fraud—you’ll find that most marketing organizations indeed want one national standard (not 50 plus one) for how consumers are notified and what protections they are afforded. Fraud prevention—as well as data governance and data stewardship—is a heightened priority for all businesses and organizations that rely on consumer information.

5. Data Benefits Customers
Data used for marketing purposes should be a government concern: not on how to stop it—but how to promote it, both domestically and globally, to benefit consumers and the economy. On the whole, consumers demand relevance. They demand recognition. They crave personalization. And every day—millions of times a day—they vote with their wallets: They shop, they donate, they subscribe, they raise their hands, all based on their participation in commerce. Marketing data also enables competition and the innovation and variety of choices consumers enjoy. As DMA has ably documented, marketing data exchange generates sales, jobs and tax revenue—and, might I add, satisfied consumers. Yes, we need consumer protection from fraud, bad players and unfair and deceptive practices—but “our data-driven economy” is a hugely wonderful default.

Which begs the question: Where is the harm, “60 Minutes”?

Marketing Data: Do I Own My Own Name?

I’ve always been uncomfortable with the position taken by some privacy advocates that each of us owns our own information—and thus has some form of property rights derived from this information—and that marketers shouldn’t have use of that information without first having permission and providing compensation

I’ve always been uncomfortable with the position taken by some privacy advocates that each of us owns our own information—and thus has some form of property rights derived from this information—and that marketers shouldn’t have use of that information without first having permission and providing compensation. To this, I say—hey OK, but let’s be pragmatic.

Certainly, if I’m a celebrity, where my name and likeness has commercial value, perhaps as an endorsement, such an “ownership” rationale is a valid one.

But in the exchange of customer data for marketing purposes, this argument lacks merit, in my opinion. The value of my name on a mailing list, for example—mail, email, telephone, otherwise—has nothing to do with “my” name being on the list or, for that matter, “your” name being on that same list. (Even when we are both see ourselves as celebrities.)

Rather, the value of both our names being on the same list is by knowing the shared attribute that placed us both there—alongside the thousands of others on that list. In the world of response lists, it’s the sweat equity of the business where you and I both chose to become a customer that deserves the compensation in any data transaction, as it alone built the list by building a business where you and I both chose to become customers.

Yes, that marketer must provide notice, choice, security, sensitivity, marketing data for marketing use only, and perform other ethical obligations that are part of the self-regulatory process that have governed this business for nearly 50 years—recognizing that customer data is our most important asset, and that consumer trust and acceptance serves as the foundation of the data-driven marketing field. Privacy policies, preference centers, in-house suppressions and DMAchoice collectively serve the consumer empowerment process by enabling transparency and control in this data exchange.

In the world of compiled lists, where third parties assemble observed data for marketing purposes, again there is the sweat equity of the entities assembling and analyzing that data to “create” or “discover” the shared attributes of that data. Knowing these attributes is where the combined data derive their value. Marketers deploy activity based on these attributes to generate commerce. While the relationship between individuals and these third parties may be indirect, we still have the same ethical codes and opt-out tools governing the process. Recently, in the case of Acxiom, we’ve seen such a data compiler working to establish a direct relationship with consumers, providing individuals with the ability to inspect the data the company holds and to suggest corrections—as if the firm were a (highly regulated) credit bureau. (It is not.)

The fact that my name—Chet Dalzell—is on both response and compiled lists, to me, doesn’t entitle me to anything except to expect and demand that these movers of data act as responsible stewards of this information using well established ethics and self-regulatory methods. (Granted, in the US, there are legal requirements that must be met in such sensitive areas as credit, personal finance, health and children’s data.)

This flow of data, as the Direct Marketing Association most recently reaffirmed, generates huge social and economic value—and, in my view, my own participation as a customer in the marketplace is my agreement to allow such data exchange to happen. In fact, were it not for such flows, I might never have been provided an opportunity to become a customer in the first place. Benefits to consumers accumulate, while harm is nowhere part of the marketing ecosystem—other than to protect from identity theft and fraud. I find it fascinating some would-be regulators fail to grasp this truth.

That’s why inflexible government regulations—and opt-in-only regimes—and technology strictures that interfere with my interaction with brands are so troublesome. Such restrictions may claim to be about privacy; more often than not, they’re really motivated by political grand-standing, anti-competitive business models, and the forced building of new data siloes that do nothing to advance consumer protection—and potentially ruin data-driven marketing.

Yes, I own my name—and by choosing to be a customer of your brand, so do you own your customer list. Of course, I am the ultimate regulator in this process. For whim or reason, I can choose to take my business elsewhere.

Now, what about my Twitter, Facebook, Google and Yahoo! profiles?

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.