Data: THE digital marketing challenge, and how to tackle it

7.5 hours in conversation with 25 senior marketers to answer one question: how do you get from data to insight to action?


They say content is the coin that buys attention. Insight means you spend it wisely. We spent 7.5 hours in conversation with 25 senior marketing professionals to answer one question: how do you get from data to insight to action? Here are three ways businesses are moving from step one to step two. By Adam Burns.

If the problem with regulators is they are neither cutting edge nor consistent, the problem with customers is they are both, one or the other, neither, and often at the same time. They are digital and analogue; they only want to be contacted once a month and they want to be the first to know.

“Brand ambassadors have a bigger impact than a billboard.”

Data doesn’t tell you this. Insight does. As Kendra Rudder, VP of Media Strategies with Scripps Networks Interactive, put it: “data might tell you something about your network performance, but insight will tell you what you to do from a creative perspective.”

How do you get from data to insight? Here are three ways marketers are solving the problem.

1. Think big

Steven Bushong is SVP Marketing Operations for Disney ABC Television Group. He says content is pricey and, let’s be honest, he would know. “Our challenge is to use digital data to spot patterns then feed people the content that is right for them. Making content is expensive – so you need to build your personalised offerings off standardised ‘pieces’.” How does Steven make the most of his data? It is, he says, all about business outcomes. “We need to step back and ask: what is the business problem we are trying to solve?” Sheila Howell, VP of Marketing with Cheryl’s, a Division of 1800 Flowers, agrees: “You need to start with the big questions about what you’re doing as a business. That’s when data becomes actionable.”

Action: Step back and look at the big picture.

Killer quote: “Asking the right questions is key to getting insight, as opposed to just data. If you’re not hypothesis-driven, you’re unguided.” – Andy Blackburn, VP Strategic Marketing, Cisco

2. Think value

People buy from people and places they trust, so creating value in and for the lifetime of your customer relationship is vital. Getting people to understand that is the biggest challenge, says Gerardo Garcia, Global Director, Platforms for Coca-Cola. He believes that fans and consumers are having ever more control on perception of the brand and quality of engagement with the brand. “We need to start thinking about ROR, return on relationship, and not just ROI.” Asked how you measure it, Gerardo shared two examples: 1) Lady Gaga’s former manager, Troy Carter, and his approach to fans, and 2) the casino industry. “If you want to be talking about big data and CRM, you need to be talking to them.”

Action: Ask – how does this deepen our relationship with the customer?

Killer quote: “Brand ambassadors can have a bigger business impact than a billboard.” – Gerardo Garcia, Global Director, Platforms, Coca-Cola

3. Think small

This is not a contradiction to step one. Once you’ve nailed your big picture, value from data isn’t its size, but the small questions you ask of it. Gerardo Garcia again: “There is a lot of energy behind technology to make sense out of big data. My interest lies in the contextual data. What I’m after, and what I keep asking my teams to help me do, is to ensure that we’re asking the right questions.” Andy Griffiths, who runs IT Business Intelligence for GE Capital, has a great example. Amongst other things, Andy and his team are involved with the collection of monies owed. “We are essentially doing something people don’t want to happen,” he says. “So we want to make it as unobtrusive and effective as possible.” His most valuable small question: “when do we get the best results out of making that phone call?”

Action: Work out the questions that get to the heart of your business success.

Killer quote: “When are they engaging, when do they have time to consider? And are you continuing to be relevant?” – Tiffany Karem, Marketing Director, Bacardi

To find out more about getting from data to insight to action – with case studies from more senior marketing professionals – download our ebook here.