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At DMA 2013: Digital, data drive opportunities in precision marketing

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Chicago—The fast-moving world of digital marketing and Big Data has fundamentally changed corporate cultures, according to digital experts at the closing panel presentation today of the Direct Marketing Association’s annual conference and expo here. Digital and Big Data advances create new marketing opportunities but also challenges in developing compelling, precision messages. “Predictions are that there soon will be 5 billion smartphones in use around the world, and multiple customer touch points will become standard operating procedure,” said Rance Crain, president of Crain Communications Inc., editor-in-chief of BtoB sibling publication Advertising Age and panel moderator. “This new universe takes trust and transparency to a whole new level, but I worry about unforeseen developments that may stymie the grand digital plans of marketers,” Crain said. “For example, does their concentration on data mean that the big creative idea doesn’t count any more?” Panelists concluded that data works best in focusing big ideas toward messages that are more appropriate to discrete segments, leading to greater relevance and faster conversions. “The challenge is one of changing the corporate culture to shift from focusing on that one big idea to using data to make decisions that often contradict what your own expertise is telling you,” said panelist Omar Tawako, CEO of data management company Blue Kai. With this shift in focus, Tawako said, marketers can “customize the big themes with every piece of data they know. That’s an exciting new skill set.” Panelists agreed that data plus digital is creating new opportunities for omnichannel marketing, including the ability to personalize messages both for different channels and various devices. “Mobile has become more important, but it’s not killing desktops and laptops,” said Tim Reis, head-mobile and social solutions Americas at Google Inc. “TV didn’t kill radio but gave it a different role. I still believe in print and TV, and the good news is that all this available data is making it easier for marketers to understand how each element contributes.” While data is driving many marketing decisions today, panelists expressed concern with its accuracy. “First-party data is gold,” Tawako said. “Everyone needs to master the use of their own data first, then use taxonomy to know what they’re missing and fill in the holes with third-party data.” But third-party data has its own holes, Tawako said. “You need to benchmark various data sources against each other, building techniques to live with a noisy data world,” he said. Reis made the case for behavioral data’s role in augmenting other sources of information. “It’s about getting into the slipstream of the actual activities of customers as opposed to just standing outside the data and making a declaration, which inherently will be flawed,” he said. Steven Rosenblatt, CFO at location-based social network Foursquare, said this approach, when done well, can create “something that is magical” for the customer. “Taking the data you know, you can serve up messages that no other medium can execute on,” Rosenblatt said. “It can create a surprise that customers feel is awesome and that they will want to share with others.”
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