Big Data’s Great, But Don’t Let It Make You Lazy!

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In this guest column piece, LIDA’s creative director, Rich Donovan (pictured below), admits he’s a fan of data but he’s not getting carried away by it like everybody else…  

You know that feeling you get when a mate meets someone new and thinks they’re the most amazing thing in the universe? All they ever talk about is their new love and how everything they do is brilliant.

You know that feeling? Well, I feel a little bit like that when I hear people talking about big data and martech.

Rich Donovan[1]

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “he’s a creative, he’s just jealous of data” and you’d be right – at least in part. I have sat in the odd client meeting feeling like Woody when Buzz Lightyear first shows up, but that’s not quite it.

The thing is, and I’m in confessional mood so I’m going to go with it, I think data and technology are amazing. Who doesn’t? Like everyone else on the planet my world has been changed by it, I can access the sum of human knowledge with just a few touches of my finger. Even now, as I tap away on my keyboard I’m happily listening to a playlist algorithmically shaped to my individual taste (soul, funk and rare groove in case you were wondering).

At work I’m mesmerized watching our analysts play with data; teasing out truths about how we really are, or what we really do, or don’t do. I love it when a new truth is discovered, and an assumption we’d all happily carried around for years is swept away. It’s so, well, creative.

No, my queasy feeling isn’t jealousy, it’s fear. The fear that we’re expecting too much – like that love-sick-friend we’re heading for disaster, because nothing, not even big data, is big enough to solve all our problems on its own.

My fear is that having invested millions of dollars on these extraordinary systems, we’re going to be incredibly disappointed when we don’t achieve marketing nivarna simply by switching them on. I’m worried that too much has been promised too soon, and that when we hit the first wave of patchy results people will stop returning data and tech’s calls and an amazing opportunity will be missed.

So if you, or perhaps a friend of yours, is becoming a bit love-sick and getting just a little bit carried away, here are a few cold-shower truths that will help make your relationship with data long and fruitful, rather than intense, but ultimately disappointing.

  1. Data can’t do it all alone

Better targeting and iteration will improve the performance of your digital marketing, but simply knowing the right time and place isn’t enough. If you think all your eDMs and banners have to do is turn up at the right place, you’re making a big mistake. How they look, the way they speak, the way they engage is still critical. In other words, you may know where the singles bar is, but it doesn’t mean you can turn up in an old bathrobe and your underwear and still score. Trust me on that one.

  1. You’re not the only one

Chances are, every one of your competitors is no more than 12 months ahead or behind your company’s data and MarTech implementation. As customers, we’ve all given our email address to more than one supermarket, car maker or bank, so your company’s engagement program, or customer journey won’t be the only one I’m on – what will make yours prove more effective?

In this competitive world, every company needs to keep evolving. Big data may help you catch up, maintain an advantage, or get ahead, but for how long? Already, companies are looking ahead. According to Gartner, 50% of Australian consumer product investments will be redirected to innovations related to CX in 2017. You can bet your bottom dollar there’ll be something else after that. Data may be this year’s must have, but it isn’t the end of the game.

  1. Iterate. Iterate. Iterate. Detonate.

MarTech can be a wonderfully efficient way of optimising a program, but the world and your market keep changing too.  From time to time you need to start again, look at new data, form a new strategy and create something new. Iterations will only show you how to climb the same mountain quicker, you’ll never climb a new mountain.

  1. Remember the customer

In the midst of all this data it can be hard to remember that those numbers are people. Data can improve the odds, but its only part of the story. Even when your targeting is perfect, you’re still fighting for peoples’ attention, people with families, jobs, spare rooms to paint, dinners to cook, cat videos to watch.

The technology revolution that has given brands big data has given your customers a personal entertainment system in the palm of their hand. In other words, this isn’t the time for brands to get lazy!

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