Creative thinking that delivers results

25 Nov

Are marketers becoming too reliant on data?

Category: Digital marketing
digital marketing, marketing automation, big data

One of the most powerful developments in marketing in the past five years has been the growth of marketing analytics as a decision making tool and one that can help personalize communications with clients. The use of data to make more objective business decisions has been applauded many marketing naysayers who expect more from us than just pretty creative and gut decisions. But is this evolution truly all it’s cracked up to be?

Learnings from the 2016 Presidential Election

It’s hard to believe that a presidential election can have much of an impact on how we view the future of marketing. I thought the same until I came across an interesting article in Marketing Magazine titled The Marketing Lesson from the US Election: Data is Stupid.

In a nutshell, the article outlines the very systematic, data-driven campaign Hilary Clinton and her campaign team developed. From day one, their reliance on objective decision-making driven by data analysis was substantive - algorithms guided most strategic decisions, including what to say, where, when and to whom.

On the other hand, the article explains that the Trump campaign viewed big data as ‘overrated’. Instead, they used a grassroots approach that played to the emotions of their constituents, touching the core of the concerns many Americans had at this time (i.e. jobs, the economy, immigration, etc.).  

Trump tugged on the heartstrings of voters. Of likely greater significance was that he was able to get voters that hadn’t voted in the last two to three elections to once again vote. How? Because he was able to make an emotional connection and plea with these voters that motivated them to take action!

What marketers can learn

If there is one lesson we as marketers can take from this very real example of marketing at its best, it’s that an overreliance on data can often result in a very different outcome than what’s expected. Whether it’s the decision to vote or to purchase a given brand or product, it’s imperative that we understand that this decision is rarely strictly a rational one.

Indeed, the decision to buy is often steeped in a myriad of emotional and psychological factors, many of which are not based on logic and thus are often difficult to predict. Connecting with your voters and customers requires reaching them as much on a subjective level as it does on an objective one.

In fact, oftentimes consumers make completely subjective decisions that are difficult to appreciate without a strong understanding of the emotional state that is motivating them to act in that way. That is why voter and consumer sentiment have always been important to political parties and marketers alike – it helps to outline their feelings and motivations so we can act accordingly with our campaigns.

It’s all about a balance

In the end, to say data analytics can stand on its own as a predictor of consumer behaviour is as silly as saying the same about the value of relying solely on consumer sentiment. In an ideal world, marketers should recognize the combined importance of both data and buyer behaviour in helping to develop more successful marketing campaigns and programs.

In many ways, this is a very intuitive approach. By using customer data along with psychographic information, marketers can develop a more comprehensive view of their target customers and thus be better able to tailor content, messages and offers that will actually resonate with them. The challenge for us is to have the time and resources to come up with such a detailed view of our customers.

It will take more of both these elements to be successful nowadays. One may question whether companies will be willing to allocate the additional money needed to make this a reality, or will they simply defer to the omnipotence of the big data trend and wish for the best. One can only hope that smarter, more innovative minds will prevail!

Contact us if you’d like help making sense of how big data and emotional sentiment can be combined to make more successful marketing campaigns.