Tom Benton is CEO of the Data & Marketing Association (DMA). Since becoming CEO in 2014, Benton has led a three-year transformation and rebranding of the organization (formerly the Direct Marketing Association), with an organizational and resource alignment focused on advocacy, innovation, education, and connections.
The rebranding comes on the eve of DMA’s 100th anniversary.
With an extensive career across a variety of data-driven marketing environments, including time as SVP of marketing analysis for AOL, Benton is steeped in industry knowledge.
He recently participated in our "4 Questions for Marketing Innovators" series.
1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
Two things: one, the rapidly increasing rate at which data isbeing generated, and, two, the rate at which disruptive technological capabilities are being developed that enable marketers to transform data into actionable insight.
With those capabilities come tremendous responsibility that all DMA marketers take very seriously. Marketing, like most things in life, is all about relationships—relationships with a purpose beyond profit. A responsible and successful marketer believes that what he or she brings to market fundamentally improves lives.
This fundamental marketing principle of relationships is not always understood or appreciated by all legislators and regulators—that marketers’ actions are guided by that commitment to a mutually beneficial relationship over time. Many legislators and regulators feel that the use of data and data technology is invasive and should be significantly constrained.
Yet without data-driven insight, value to consumers is diminished. And without data science, innovation is suppressed. I continue to be surprised that many executives, even rising young executives in our industry, either are unaware of or choose to ignore the importance of strong data and marketing advocacy and government relations. Without those relationships, our ability to transform data into actionable customer insight and nurture lasting relationships with our customers is at high risk.
Several DMA members, many from major brands, are working with DMA’s attorneys on Data Standards 2.0, an industrywide initiative to develop the standards that will govern the marketing industry’s accountability in this new era of data-driven marketing. Despite our community’s vigilant self-regulation efforts, our responsible use of data and innovative data technology is at risk. At any moment, with the stroke of a pen, a single state or a federal agency could suppress innovation and eliminate marketers’ ability to responsibly access, exchange, and use data and data technology. DMA is the association that stands between marketers and that real risk.
The role of data in marketing has always been present, but it is more pronounced today. Data and data technology are the strategic center of marketing—identifying needs, informing design, creativity, channels, messaging, and more. These are just a few of the reasons that DMA rebranded.
2. Why is this so important?
Foremost, the data and marketing community’s access to data and innovative data technology increases value to consumers. It makes consumers’ lives more efficient and more convenient. Additionally, the data and marketing community drives our economy by increasing efficiency and adding hundreds of thousands of jobs, as reported in DMA’s "Value of Data 2015" report. The data that fuels marketing enables a free internet with all its resources available to consumers.
3. How can this improve the customer experience?
The responsible use of data enables marketers to deliver higher value and more timely and relevant information to their customers, more seamlessly across their customers’ devices. This empowers their customers to more efficiently and conveniently fulfill their needs and interests.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Today’s successful data-driven marketing and technology not only benefits consumers, it funds more innovation, which, in turn, will benefit consumers in new ways. It’s a virtuous, upward spiral all based on the fact that data-driven marketers continually strive to maximize efficiency and value for their customers and prospects. To fuel this upward spiral, DMA recently launched its Structured Innovation Program, where we bring together the entire marketing ecosystem of marketers, agencies, technology innovators, and data scientists to remove the barriers to innovation.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
It should be no surprise that, for me, it’s all about relationships. Making memories by spending quality time with my wife and two daughters, my friends, and my extended family is what I treasure most.