Sometimes Data Is Just Data

Mitch JoelPosted by

**So, how is all of that data working out for you?**
There have been two stories in the news that have truly captured my attention (and a lot of thought) over the past few weeks. The first one, is how upset some people were with [Facebook](http://www.facebook.com/mitchjoel “Facebook”)’s ability to choose their best pictures of the year, how it went south and why it led many people to question a brand’s ability to use data to be a better marketer (you can read more about that here: [Facebook Doesn’t Get Small Data Right (And You’re Worried About Big Data?)](http://sixpixels.com/blog/archives/facebook-doesnt-get-small-data-right-and-youre-worried-about-big-data/). Then – only a few weeks later – a news item gets published on [Quartz](http://qz.com “Quartz”)titled, [Facebook data know you better than your own mother](http://qz.com/325129/facebook-data-know-you-better-than-your-own-mother/) that states:
*”a [new study](http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/01/07/1418680112) conducted by researchers at the [University of Cambridge](http://www.cam.ac.uk/) and [Stanford University](http://www.stanford.edu/)… [states that] By harvesting Facebook ‘Likes,’ the researchers’ computer model proved more accurate at divining a person’s self-reported personality traits than their own kith and kin.”*
**Computers understand people better than people.**
Let’s stop right here. Let’s now forget the above two (and highly divergent) issues happening in the same place. Which brands do you know that have used data to deliver the right message to the right people at the right time? Not only that, but which brands have done that coupled with an engine of marketing that has leveraged those results to make their marketing cost less and be more effective? Ultimately, that is the dream and true promise of data, right? The more a brand knows, the more efficient it can be in delivering a message to a consumer and, in effect, this should stop the waste, drive down their cost per acquisition, and create efficiencies against future campaign efforts. How? Because they’re learning and getting better at delivering these messages. OK, so before you go naming brands that have done this, I am not asking for examples at the campaign level, I’m asking about the entire marketing department… meaning, this is now how they operate. Which brands are truly data-driven to excellence?
**Got names?**
This is the true issue of marketing. In the past year, I can’t think of one example where an advertising campaign has succeeded well beyond a brand’s expectations that was driven by data – and this includes winning awards for creativity. It seems to me, that we have a *”tale of two cities.”* Once again. On one hand, brands are celebrating breakthrough creative. On the other hand, we have chief marketing officers who are constantly in the media banging the drum of data – both big and small – as the future (and the present) of their marketing, but their in-market work has no connection to this depth of data. How come we don’t see it? Why don’t we have any clear examples of breakthrough creative and campaigns that have been entirely based off of data, defined by this data, and even optimized by this data? It feels like we are doing a lot of talking, but not a lot of doing. Is split a/b testing the only real application, because that has been happening since long before analytics have been in the picture? This is upsetting. If Facebook knows more about me then my mother, how is it, that a simple task, like finding pictures that I’ve taken over the past year, can create such a mess? I’m not picking on Facebook. I love Facebook. What I am asking, is that we – as a professional group of marketers – finally decide what we really want to have happen here. If we want marketing to propel forward, and to be driven by data – which is what most marketers are saying – why don’t we have any real tangible examples of how this actually works, and what it is doing to drive economic value to the brand?
**Someone must be doing it.**
I get that a lot. Do you think that this is all a mystery? Marketers will tell me that they are doing so much with data… and that it’s all very exciting. They’re leveraging the data, and building all of their campaigns with it. This strategy is the secret sauce, and this is the stuff that they don’t want to talk about. This is their new secret weapon. Do you believe them? How is this industry going to move forward? The data is telling us everything. The data knows more about consumers than we could ever know. Still, we are all sitting in rooms trying to figure out what types of campaigns to run, who the target market is, and what we’re trying to say to them. Are creative briefs created with the data? Is data mostly used to track and optimize after the campaigns and initiatives are created? It feels – and I could be wrong – like marketers are getting this talk about data all wrong.
**Creative Data.**
Data is useless unless we know what to with it (nothing new there). Do the creatives truly understand what data is being collected, how it can be used and what the brand is really trying to do? We romanticize a lot about data. Most marketers will tell you that they are *”data-driven”*… again how? It’s time that we bring these campaigns forward. It’s time that brands step up. It’s time for us to demonstrate, by how much it moved the needle AND how creative it was, in execution. Those two worlds need to live together. What an incredible opportunity this truly is. Data used to be something that marketers (mostly) used after everything was done, to better understand what happened.
**The biggest challenge marketers face today isn’t using the data, it’s in moving to the front of the line.**