I’ve been immersed in ROI data since 2006. Back then the term "big data" hadn’t yet been coined, instead I dealt with big excel files (joy!). Fast−forward 10 years and BI tools visualise in real−time, machine learning optimises in nanoseconds and the industry spends up to 40% of their budgets on Martech. You’d think by now I’d be completely enamoured with data, yet instead, I find myself at odds with it as the backbone of marketing strategy.
Some might say it is my age, in fact I met someone only last week who made it very clear how much 20−somethings know (as opposed to anyone much older I assume). But, I believe the fault lies with my over−active gut, not my age. That round, albeit middle−aged, muscle destroyed by oversized babies, gut.
We are, of course, a lot closer with our tracking ability now, but our models are still inherently flawed with attribution standards across channels that work very differently, and you find yourself having the same discussions about certain digital channels now that we used to have about offline. View−through conversion anyone?
There isn’t any inherent issue with all of this, that is if you know we are still dealing with only part of the picture. But, we seem to be raising a marketing generation to “let the data lead you”, “test and learn” and “never trust what you think without statistical significance”. My concern is better worded by Simon Sinek:
"Pure pragmatism cannot imagine a bold future. Pure idealism cannot get anything done. It is the delicate blend of both that drives innovation."
I’ve always known that consumers choose with emotions and justify after the fact with rational reasons, but with recent research we now know that we are only aware of about 10% of our brain's processes, the rest is all happening subconsciously in autopilot mode. This has massive implications for how we interact with consumers as they don’t act logically, yet it also affects how we approach marketing.
If we don’t train our brains through experience and practice we will be forever enslaved to instant pragmatism. This threatens innovation, creativity, bravery and slows down our ability to take action. My fear is much growth is being sacrificed via "analysis paralysis". We need to develop our guts.
Of course I am not promoting throwing data out or ignorantly flying in the face of it based on gut−feel alone. In fact, I have been making many an analyst miserable on a quest to build the perfect dashboard, while dreaming about a machine optimising all of my spend into the perfect mix of scale and efficiency.
But, in our fear of marketing over−investment, the industry seems to have forgotten what connects brands and humans on a deeper level. Yes, I know the price lever will work instantly, and I know chasing them around the interwebs will remind them my brand exists, but if I don’t know who my brand is and why a customer would connect with it on a subconscious level, then no matter how efficient I get my digital funnel, the wastage and downward pressure on any sustainable growth will be immense.
In the end, if I have to choose between growing and knowing, I will choose growing every time. I’d truly love both, but that just ain’t the world we are living in ... yet. So for now, don’t die waiting to know, add some guts to your marketing stack, trust 'em, risk it and grow.
By eHarmony marketing director, Nicole McInnes
A version of this article first appeared in The Annual 2016 as part of The PhotoEssay series. The theme this year, was broad. Simply: 'discuss'. AdNews editor Rosie Baker asked marketers to write about 'elephant in the room' topics. The taboo subjects that are a concern, and get talked around - but never fully addressed. What in their businesses are the friction points, the bones of contention - where do they see the industry going to hell in a hand basket.
The photoshoot aimed to capture the heated conversation and boisterous discussion of topics that only emerge in the aftermath of a dinner party. The equivalents of politics, religion and sex in marketing and advertising. These will be the topics that dominate the agenda in 2017. Download the digital version of the magazine for $4.49 to see the whole series.
For more see:
A Marketer's Lens: Print is a key force in our marketing mix, by Domain's top marketer Melina Cruickshank
A Marketer's Lens: Don't grumble over challenges, by Fox Sports head of marketing, brand & social, Chris Gross
A Marketer's Lens: We need a better way of nurturing and celebrating big ideas, by Diageo marketing and innovation director, Adam Ballesty
A Marketer's Lens: Short-termism is bad for our businesses, by ANZ general marketing manager, Louise Eyres | 2 February 2017 0 Com