Data forces marketers to say goodbye to the past

If you’re wondering what impact the power of Big Data is having on how brands are communicating with consumers and even changing the role of marketers, look no further than a recent survey of leading brands conducted by the CMO Club.

The survey found that nearly two-thirds of the 600 brands polled have bought or are planning to buy programmatic media directly from demand-side ad buying platforms, without help from their agencies. In other words, marketers believe they now have the necessary data at their fingertips to reach customers most effectively —so why not just cut out the middleman?

But back to the point, we’ve become so giddy throwing around the term “Big Data” that we’ve lost sight of what it really means.

Data is much more than a commodity. It’s not merely the fuel, but is the very engine that drives creativity, innovation and change. This can be seen at the granular level, such as when customer feedback informs a new product design or marketing campaign. It can be seen on a larger scale, say when retailers use loyalty card data to tailor store formats and merchandise to different consumer groups based on their previous purchases. In this way, data can enhance the user experience, which is often deemed the holy grail of marketing.

Data is not only a potential pathway to insight, it is also forcing us to rethink the entire structure of the marketing department.

Most CMOs have been in the marketing trenches at least 10 to 15 years, and their resistance to change—namely, their reluctance to work more closely with their peers in IT—belies a love/hate relationship with a culture of data dependency that only began to take root three to five years ago. For these marketers, something has to give. Otherwise, they will be left behind.

For any company to effectively leverage data, its entire internal organization must embrace the new data culture. Companies need to be properly structured to capture, analyze and incorporate data into their marketing, communication and product development.

At many companies, data remains disconnected from the general organization due to its autonomous nature, as well as to the complexity of understanding how it is captured and what it can do. For many companies, such responsibilities now fall under the purview of the CIO and IT group—i.e., the legacy users of data.

Historically, the CIO and the IT department have focused on finance, operations, supply chain, human resources, inventory management and other systems. It has not been a consumer facing resource. However, as the digital age unfolds and an array of sophisticated technologies intersects—including mobility, clouds, social media and big data—the stakes have grown and IT groups have had to adapt. So shouldn’t CMOs and marketing folks do the same?

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