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Digital Disruption/ Strategic Planning

Make Data A Disruptor

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by Jeff Pundyk
Vice President, Content Marketing and Strategy
The Economist Group

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Article Highlights:

  • Fed by the rise of multimedia, social, and mobile, the amount of data available is driving the next marketing disruption.
  • The more customers feel engaged with an authentic voice, the more they want to hear from that voice.
  • To put Big Data in service of a truly integrated customer experience requires a truly integrated organization.

Digital is the center of gravity for marketing and customer engagement. Compelling digital content can fuel an increasingly social and mobile world, and is pushing companies away from product-centered marketing toward more innovative approaches. But building relevance and trust in the digital space requires
developing new capabilities, partnerships, and a different mindset. Jeff Pundyk, founder of Rebound Media, will be using this space to explore the impact of this change across the enterprise and to offer guidance on how to lead the transformation.

Way, way back in 1994, I was editor-in-chief of a B2B technology Web site. In those early days of digital publishing, I spent half of my time trying to figure out what a Web site was and the other half running around the country trying to explain it to everybody else, principally to potential advertisers and their agencies.

These presentations usually had two gee-whiz moments. The first came from the simple novelty of the thing: “Look, you can see the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in one click and check on the availability of washing machines in MIT dorms in another!” The second came when we showed the data behind those clicks. “On the Web,” we said, “we have metrics that show us exactly how your ads are doing.”

(As it turned out, those metrics pushed prices downward, forced publishers to optimize for page views rather than user experience, and prolonged the slow, painful search for a digital revenue model. But that’s a story for another day.)

Fast forward to 2012. The digital story is still about data, and then some. Today, fed by the rise of multimedia, social, and mobile, the amount of data available is driving the next marketing disruption. For marketers, it goes beyond simple metrics that look back at what has occurred. Rather, data can be forward-looking. Algorithms can convert data to target the right person at the right time in the right place, match segments with interests, compile content, and distribute it through the appropriate channel.

“The use of big data is becoming a key way for leading companies to outperform their peers,” said Michael Chui and a group of co-authors in a recent McKinsey Global Institute report. “In a big data world, a competitor that fails to sufficiently develop its capabilities will be left behind.”

In perhaps the most public example of how data can separate winners from losers, the Obama campaign famously outperformed the Romney campaign in using analytics to understand, segment, and target its constituents.

But do not be fooled by all of this talk of data. Analytics and automation do not replace marketers. In fact, the complexity of information, the proliferation of sources of information, and the speed with which people need it explained actually raises the bar. Sitting between the data and the customer, the marketer must focus even more on contextualizing the user experience by developing a credible voice. The more customers feel engaged with an authentic voice, the more they want to hear from that voice.

This voice should be consistent and credible and constant. But that’s just the ante. In an always-connected and exceedingly mobile world, product, sales, marketing, and customer service all become a single channel to the customer. Here, engagement goes well beyond messaging; customer experience is the voice. We’re all marketers now.

And this raises significant questions about how businesses organize to meet what is clearly a multidisciplinary challenge. It’s not hard to see that the relationship between customer and brand has changed. It is more difficult for companies to respond to the organizational questions that should come with the change. Sure, companies have access to unprecedented amounts of data, but to put it in service of a truly integrated customer experience requires a truly integrated organization.
    
Maybe the place to start is with the data itself. Developing the model to capture and manage customer data and designing measures of engagement should be cross-functional tasks. Getting it right requires a unified approach. Those who can use the problem of managing the explosion of data to force organizational change will be rewarded with deeper, more profitable customer relationships.

How is the growth of data affecting your organization? Who are your chief data collaborators, and who should be? Let me know your thoughts, here or on Twitter, @jpundyk.

About Jeff Pundyk

Jeff Pundyk is vice president, content marketing and strategy, at The Economist Group. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jpundyk.

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