Let’s talk about data that makes Marketing sense

Let’s talk about data that makes Marketing sense

IT, Finance and Business Intelligence are no longer the only users of large streams of data: Marketing departments are starting to leverage ‘big’ data more and more, often to drive creative outputs.

AGILEci recently worked with a team of Marketing & Creativity postgraduate students at ESCP Business School1 to evaluate this trend and the relevance in achieving tangible results for marketers. We uncovered some very interesting insights, but before I plunge into the highlights, we have to put big data into the marketing context first by looking at what marketers are focused on and/or concerned about.

From discussions and research, we pinpointed two key areas of focus. The first, behavioural change for consumers, is externally driven and the other, organizational expectations of marketers, is internally driven.

Behaviour change of consumers:

  • Technology advances are driving new decision-making capabilities and paths to purchase; specifically, digital and social channels creating large new streams of data to evaluate -and tools to evaluate large streams of data becoming cheaper and more sophisticated.
  • There is a bifurcation of needs (low priced value) and wants (enjoyable experiences, such as omni-channel engagement, design-led aesthetics or gamification) that creates a morass in the middle where value and experiences are significantly weaker.
  • The economic crisis is permanently changing the expectations of people, as they to start to live within their means and focus on tangible reward for their loyalty. The economic crisis has also engendered a deterioration of trust between business and consumers, making engagement more challenging when your brand is not fully authentic.

Organisational expectations of Marketers:

  • A technologically adept innovator who stays ahead of the competition and is able to predict the future needs and wants of consumers.
  • Strategic and emotional leadership across the organisation to ensure all employees are brand advocates and engage customers appropriately across all touch-points.
  • Increasingly competitive and fragmented marketplaces have created a need for almost real-time quantifiable evidence of all marketing activities: From traditional performance metrics such as ROI, new customers, average transaction value, total sales, customer value etc… to new social metrics such as page hits, likes, views, pins, followers and so on.

Marketers need to wear multiple hats to fulfil their role in the modern technologically driven world: they need to be financial stewards, employee motivators, conversant with social media, creative innovators and predictors of the unpredictable. I think this establishes that marketers need to walk on water, and yet, there are still other significant skill gaps that must be overcome, mainly to do with marketers themselves and their fear of data.

Research has highlighted that marketers rely heavily on their previous experience and intuition when making judgments and as few as 11% depend on data for customer-related decisions 2. Another study3 notes that although marketing leaders are aware of the importance of measuring return on investment (ROI),they find it hard to capture and measure all pertinent data. Marketers struggle to quantify and communicate results to top management, and therefore are perceived to lack accountability.

How can we help marketers to be more at ease with data?

If data is intimidating then there is a need for academics, agency suppliers and media to engage marketers in an ongoing conversation using marketing language, to make the subject more approachable. Marketers understand that the more they know about their customer segments that they are engaging with and the results of their marketing activity, the more successful they will be in their roles. To fully harness creativity in today’s marketing environment requires the use of objective data points to qualify any subjectivity.

The ESCP Business School Creativity Marketing students came up with a core idea of ‘Let’s talk about data that makes marketing sense,’ to encourage marketers to help themselves understand and take advantage of the power of data in marketing.

Help can come from data scientists that deliver easily digestible insights and talk the language of marketers. Such people are likely to become critical players in the future of marketing. Alternatively, emerging tools that enable marketers to work with insight, rather than data, will take away the fear factor and allow marketers to deliver creative marketing. These tools will reduce the total reliance on IT, Finance and Business Intelligence and empower marketers to comfortably drive the sharing of relevant and actionable insights across the organization, resulting in enhanced business performance.

Marketers that embrace data and/or data insights will be seen as leading customer advocates and ‘in tune’ with organisational needs.


  1. Sincere thanks to the following ESCP Business School MSc Marketing and Creativity students that helped to write this blog post: Gianni Cara, Madison Li, Tina Stangnes, Aurélie Suyker, Oana Toma & Amanda Ullman-Hammer.
  2. Spenner, Patrick, and Anna Bird. “Marketers Flunk the Big Data Test.” Harvard Business Review. HBR Blog Network, 16 Aug. 2012.
  3. Sexton, Don. The 2012BRITE/NYAMA Marketing in Transition Study; “Marketing ROI in the Era of Big Data”. Rep. Columbia Business School, 2012.


02 November 2012
Excellent article – as marketeers we need not just to move with the times but to be ahead of the curve. As markets become more global, trend become faster to rise and mature, and companies are focused on maximum return on resources potentially deployed across previously unfamiliar niches and geographies, a grasp on data and the insight it brings and advantage it gives cannot be understated!
Arlyn said…
02 November 2012
Well said Darren.
02 November 2012
Interesting insights for marketeers. As measuring effectiveness of activities becomes more important so does the reliance on data and insights for competitive advantage
02 November 2012
I think that many key marketing opportunities are being lost through “big data” mostly because individual analysts are not able to digest what the data means. Being able to understand the data requires another layer of software and analytical costs which most small – medium size companies are not prepared to/cannot afford to pay for until they can determine the ROI. However much like social media ROI, it is the opportunity cost of not doing it, rather than ROI which poses a greater threat to effective marketing. The big data opportunities also lie mostly in developed markets as many emerging markets have limited online and credit card purchases. So, for global companies, focusing on “big data” to drive marketing campaigns runs the risk of losing out on the majority of the emerging middle class customers.
02 November 2012
@JodiI agree that analysts are missing out on key insights that marketers need, to perform their roles. To ensure the ‘big data’ hype doesn’t overwhelm the message, I think that all companies that create data should be in a position to use their data asset for better marketing. New tools have emerged that don’t need software and analytical costs are decreasing significantly. Emerging economies are equally generating masses of data through mobile and social media – cards are not the only data creator. Data should benefit the marketer, the organisation and society when used in a proficient and transparent manner. I hope that ‘big data’ benefits the world across all layers of society, but maybe that’s another topic!
07 November 2012
Great, concise summary of how technology is changing the nature of data collection and use. The next step will be to get marketers to begin thinking about how technology opens up new channels to use those data insights, such as content distribution through API-driven partner integrations.