Dear CMOs: Let's talk about why data matters

As marketers, we are all masters of data appreciation. And CMOs are among the strongest advocates, with 60% planning to inject greater data-driven insight into their campaigns over the next few years. But it seems recognition of the reasons data matters is less prevalent.

It’s clear that data can make a sizeable difference in areas such as finance. For example, the investment choices of hedge fund managers are made significantly more precise by a data based understanding of company revenue, market conditions, and performance projections.

Yet why exactly should you follow suit and make data a cornerstone of marketing strategy?

In brief, because much like fund managers, it enables you to make better-informed decisions about where to allocate spend and focus activities for maximum engagement, and results. Yet before we can investigate the value of data in detail, it’s important to acknowledge the issues obscuring its benefits, such as dealing with vast data volumes.

Although the big data challenge isn’t a revelation to most of us — marketers want to harness rising data stores but find them difficult to manage — its effect on the way data is perceived might be. We may all agree that data is the new oil, currency, or even sunlight. But the struggle of turning it into useful insight is casting an increasingly long shadow over data’s plus points.

That’s why I’m calling for CMOs to refocus on the advantages data presents.

Firstly, there’s the opportunity it offers to build a comprehensive picture of individuals. By leveraging artificially intelligent (AI) tools capable of instantly collating, merging and filtering multiple data sources, you can gain a 360-degree view of consumers; including their unique interests, preferences, and omni-channel activity. So, not only can data provide the means to define specific attributes and behaviours, but it can also trace complex individual journeys as they move across on and offline touchpoints.

Secondly, we come to the wide range applications for this knowledge. The most obvious use case is campaign targeting: with deep insight into who consumers are, what they like, what they buy and how they interact with brands, you have all the ingredients required to produce personal messages that maximise individual relevance. What’s more, data about the way consumers respond to communications on different channels and devices can help fine-tune delivery. For instance, insight may show certain consumers react positively to mobile ads received as they travel to work, while others prefer desktop ads served in the evening. Using this data, you can make strategic media purchases to ensure messages reach individuals on the medium and at the ideal moment to drive engagement, and returns. And it doesn’t stop there. As more real-time data flows in, messaging can also be continually optimised to keep up with changing consumer needs and tell stories that dynamically link up across channels.

Of course, it’s not all about campaigns; data can enable better business decisions in multiple sectors. In retail, insight about the type of consumers that visit physical stores can guide more effective stock rotation, product displays, or new stores locations. Our own research, for example, has shown visitor demographics for Nike and Adidas vary significantly in the same region; in Singapore most store Adidas visitors are male and within the 18 -25 age bracket, yet Nike visitors are typically female and 26-35 years old.

Online retailers can also use such information to track the impact of their services on the real world; CMOs at Amazon, for instance, could measure reach in different locations and curate target audiences for specific products accordingly, or adjust pricing to align with the needs of each region. The company could apply the same principles to its lending services; gathering information about uptake in certain areas to creative predictive models and estimate demand for home loans. And so could any other finance or insurance business; in addition to measuring competitor movement to identify market gaps their services can plug or pinpointing opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell relevant products.

In fact, data has almost limitless capacity to improve every aspect of business operations, including marketing. Though the task of collecting, assessing and managing data might seem daunting, the benefits it provides are more than worth the effort. Moreover, in our age of increasing digitalisation and interconnectivity, data is something business leaders just can’t afford to ignore — consumers expect brands to deliver instant and accurate tailoring, and to deliver on that expectation, all business leaders must become data scientists to some level.

So, instead of waiting to see how other CMOs navigate the brave new data-powered world, now is your time to follow in the footsteps of fund managers and start harnessing consumer insight to build a strategic game plan that will place you ahead of the pack.