What Keeps The Chief Marketing Officer Awake At Night? – Part 2

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The Chief Marketing Officer must better understand how information is created, stored, shared and capitalized upon.

There is a strange default position that most businesspeople (mostly marketers) take when they don’t understand why something is happening in the business world. How could Facebook buy Instagram for close to a billion dollars? What was Yahoo thinking when they acquired Tumblr for nearly the same amount? What was the point of Publicis merging with Omnicom? There is a collective scratching of the heads, the shrugging of the shoulders and then, one word tumbles out of someone’s mouth ("data!") and everyone else nods in all-knowing way, when in truth the vast majority of Chief Marketing Officers have little-to-no knowledge of what exactly this all means.

It’s a generalization, but based on what we see in the marketplace, it is true.

In the last post (What Keeps The Chief Marketing Officer Awake At Night? – Part 1), we looked at how the Chief Marketing Officer must regain their status within the c-suite and the overall corporate function. The truth is that the CMO has never had this much access to this much information. So, if the true gold in these multi-million dollar deals that roll into the billions of dollars is about data, then why isn’t the CMO leveraging all of this data in a way that engenders them to become the true gatekeepers of the brand? We used to live in a world (pre-Internet) when brands were starving for more consumer data. Now, we quickly dove into a world where brands are, literally, drowning in the data. I jokingly tell audiences that you can’t throw a marketing professional down a flight of stairs these days without having the words "big data" tumble out of their pockets. It’s as if this part of the business has completely capitalized on the traditional reams of data, and they’re now elevated to the point that they can actually do something more. The vast majority of Chief Marketing Officers extolling the virtues of big data seem to think that it’s just like the data we have known to date… but more of it. That’s not big data… that’s more data. That’s just a lot more of the same data. As these CMOs continue on their verbal admiration of everything that big data will bring to the industry, it becomes abundantly clear that we’ve entered into the realm of marketing jargon bingo.

Why big data doesn’t matter (just yet).

In my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete, I have identified a movement (something that has fundamentally changed business forever that most brands are doing little-to-nothing about) that I dubbed, Sex With Data (chapter 4). The idea is that most brands have a tremendous amount of (what I call) "linear data" (this can anything from traditional advertising metrics to email capture to customer service information). It is the standard – or linear – data that brands collect on a daily basis. The Web has brought forth an entirely new type of data that I have called, "circular data." This circular data is not something that brands can collect and own. It is the information that consumers are willfully creating and sharing online and on social media channels. It is everything from their personal profiles (think about LinkedIn and Facebook) to what they’re thinking (look at blogs, Twitter, Pinterest and beyond). Suddenly, brands can better connect to these individuals through these social channels, and this creates a more holistic connection to "who" their consumers truly are (pushing well beyond the standard demographics and psychographics). Sex with data happens when brands are able to bring together that linear data with the circular data to create something more personalized and valuable to the consumer. Now, before we all start getting hot and bothered about the notion of big data, how many brands have wrapped their heads around the intersection of this linear and circular data as it sits today?

The big joke of big data…

Is this: why worry about big data when the CMO is sucking at small data? It’s not about access to this information or having the technology to slice and dice these two dynamic forms of information. The technology exists, and it’s a fairly cheap process to have what my friend, Avinash Kaushik (Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google and author of Web Analytics – An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0) calls a "data puke." It’s the hard work of turning this data into something actionable. It’s not just mining the data for insights and turning that into some kind of campaign that demonstrates how data will always beat a random creative idea. It’s about understanding the new sensitivity that consumers have not only about their personal information, but what they’re doing online and how it is being monitored. Consumers can easily get creeped out when brands use too much familiarity. And this, is the true challenge of the CMO going forward. Beyond the practical marketing needs of data and analytics, how does a corporate brand deliver such a high level of value ad personalization that the familiarity is warranted? In a world of behavioral tracking, online social networks, and constant digital public displays of attention, brands can easily know that much more about their consumers and have a profoundly powerful direct relationship with them. In this world (which is the here and now), the CMO’s role is less about how the data and analytics influences the creative advertising, and that much more about what these varied data sets look like, the governance of this data, how it is used, who owns it and how is it being optimized against the overall business strategy.

This is the true convergence.

The Chief Marketing Officer of tomorrow will have as much knowledge and experience in understanding data, as they currently do when it comes to running an advertising campaign or putting their brand name on a sports arena. So, while advertising agencies trot out the old slogan that the work is all about the convergence of data and creativity, we are starting to see the nascent stages of that agency marketing rhetoric become the true convergence point for these marketing leaders. It also engenders a marketing model that is more agile, while moving marketers away from quarterly and seasonal campaigns. Agile will best be defined in the marketing department as a place that is in a constant state of testing and learning. Small, incremental tests and iterative adjustments where true lifetime value of a customer meets a mathematically sound cost per acquisition strategy. The data and analytics allows for these types of definitive metrics today.

Maybe some CMOs will see this as panacea. Maybe other CMOs will see this as true performance marketing.     

In the next post (in about two week’s time), we’ll look at how the Chief Marketing Officer must have closer ties to IT and technology. If Gartner is right, and that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO, what does the marketing department of the future look like? How does technology (beyond data and analytics) affect everything from personalization and localization to contextual marketing and automation tools? The next few years are going to get increasingly more technical and technology-driven for the CMO.

And, in case you missed it…

There are five core foundational reasons why the Chief Marketing Officer’s role within the organization is in such a fragile state. Over the next few months, we will deconstruct the following five areas that the Chief Marketing Officer must pay increased attention to, in order to figure out what the next decade of marketing will look like for businesses.

The five areas that Chief Marketing Officers need to pay attention to:

As always, please feel free to add your perspective below…

One comment

  1. Mitch,
    I keep telling people that this divide between the data haves and the data have-nots is growing wider everyday. After 18 years of evangelizing that data is about understanding your customer, and in order to be successful you must be really customer centric, have the corporate processes and tools in place to allow people to act on the data and have the agility to respond at the speed of the customer, it saddens me to see most CMOS play lip service to these basic facts of business today. You can see how I speak about big data in the keynote I did this past spring and in the slideshare on the same page: http://www.bryaneisenberg.com/big-data-keynote/. It is also why my next book, coming real soon is about an organization that has mastered this and how we can learn from them, Amazon.com.

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