The hype surrounding big data has been based not only on consumer insights, including their complete profile and persona, but also around their purchasing behaviors. Understanding where advertising dollars are allocated, and where the corresponding influence and conversion are realized is all part of the “big data” story. I recently enjoyed Advertising Analytics 2.0 in the March 2013 Harvard Business Review, describing the work of Office of Creative Research in assessing their client’s advertising investment, media relationships and conversion impact.
What I love about this article is the integrated media viewpoint, which is one that I hold dear within my own work in defining when the customer experience actually begins. Various, fragmented marketing touch points may culminate in brand definition, but the real challenge is to create audience interest and urgency – necessary elements to drive a point of conversion – you know, the famous “call to action.” The addition of Social Media Marketing broadens the advertiser’s multi-dimensional message matrix of push and pull content into the so-called conversations, or brand engagement rather than interruption advertising.
I think it is somewhat optimistic to assume an altruistic level of data integration as described in this article for many companies. However, the exciting aspects of being able to review cuts of past behaviors while commanding data to map out potential scenarios of a possible consumer behavior becomes closer to reality every day. One has to question whether we’ll see an age where global companies become so much more powerful for having access to that data, or whether they’ll lose focus on the core requirements of customer satisfaction. Or when science become so important that they forget that there is still a part of marketing and advertising that is an art.
Another outstanding point the article raises is the attribution of advertising spend to each channel and inherent overlap across channels. This results in many different marketing teams taking credit for conversion when, in fact, they’re really talking about the same pool of income as if it was unique. Reports from one group can, indeed, appear unrealistically robust unless the customer experience is truly mapped to identify which advertising influences are impactful, yielding converts, and which go unheeded by audiences.
While these analytics hold true for most industries and business models, I wonder about universal applicability across all industries and business models. There are always niche markets where distribution channels may fall outside the big data analysis, primarily because the dollar volume doesn’t merit the investment or scrutiny. Especially those industries with intermediary salespeople like professional services, insurance, and investments.
The article also talks about the new mobility of marketing allocation. While I agree that the “run-and-done” days are behind us, there is a certain amount of time necessary to create brand resonance that does vary by media. And, while that resonance can occur faster in one media channel than another, the slower path may ultimately be the one producing greater audience conversion and customer loyalty. It stands to reason that a more easily swayed audience – like the hyper-changing Twitter media channel – may be more apt to change in keeping with the nature of the media itself.
As data becomes more critical to the return on investment (ROI) of advertising spend and resource allocation (which continues towards interactive media), I’m ever thankful for my CPA background and the advantages of having both the creative and analytics entwined throughout my education and work experience. Now, more than ever, these skills have become critical components of marketing, customer research, customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and product lifecycle. It truly is a balance of art and science. What’s more, there are finally tools available to realize the full potential for analysis and decision-making. Gone are the days of creating spreadsheets and aligning ad spend to impression data.
There are always variables that will sway the outcome of conversion – whether quality of creative, core resonance of message, better product among competitors, service execution or even environmental considerations such as Hurricane Sandy and climate change. As a result, industries and companies are constantly reinventing themselves to keep pace with obstacles and the buyer. Our mandate, as executives and leaders, is to keep one step ahead of the trends and issues. Ultimately, the investment in data measurement is yet another differentiator that goes a giant step beyond the “gut” of the Mad Men generation.