This year's Marketing Association’s ‘Smarter Data’ event was an exploration of the various permutations of data and how these developments are shaping the digital world that we exist in.
The speakers were as diverse as the topics that they presented on and the conference went beyond just talking about data marketing: from numerical storytelling through to the legal considerations related to ‘cloud’ data, semantic search technologies and even a splash of population dynamics - it was all there.
The speakers had no shortage of interesting insights to share and there was even an on-stage debate on whether the data-driven marketing paradigm is a clever use of technology or just a creepy invasion of our privacy. Be warned, this event review will mention the word ‘data’ quite a lot!
Duncan Stuart – Storytelling with numbers
As the inaugural speaker, Stuart’s task was not only to deliver his highly entertaining presentation but to also get the crowd warmed up for what was to be a highly information-filled day. He excelled at both tasks, and what else would you expect from a marketing researcher who originally started out as an aspiring Hollywood scriptwriter? The gist of the speech was very much on moving beyond our ‘Age of the Flat Spreadsheet’ into the three-dimensional age of storytelling with data and approaching analytics creatively.
You would think that referencing a long-forgotten ‘spy-fi’ TV series from the 1960’s would have nothing to do with adapting your marketing department to the demands of the Big Data revolution. Yet Stuart used the motley crew of UK’s Department S - consisting of a secret agent, novelist and a programmer - as a model for the marketing team of the future, which will need a diverse mix of ‘soft’ skills and ‘hard’ skills in order to craft analytical stories that have an impact on the bottom line. Just don’t go asking your copywriter to grow an afro like Jason King’s, it may not go down well with the Gen Y crowd…
Hywel Evans – Increasing loyalty with better data
After the action-thriller-cum-fireworks-display that was Stuart’s presentation, Evans had to maintain the audience’s interest and this he did by presenting to them the modern-day, ‘big data’ vision of loyalty marketing. Evans also had some interesting case studies to discuss relating to the use of various forms of consumer data in building consumer loyalty.
He talked about the need to augment the traditional loyalty marketing model by incorporating ‘richer’ consumer insights into the analyses of loyalty programmes and going beyond simply analysing transactions. Companies as diverse as Yahoo! and Nestle have used this enhanced methodology to increase sales, a process that Evans referred to as ‘connecting the data dots’.
“Loyalty provides an ideal way of collecting, connecting and communicating” and by bringing together and making smart use of the rich and diverse data that is available, brands can deliver more valuable and relevant offers while enhancing their goodwill with customers.
Katrina Crooks – the cloud and the law
Crooks was the self-proclaimed “lawyer in the room”. While this opening statement may not exactly be a party-starter, the rest of her speech certainly presented relevant and interesting information on the legal aspects of managing data online. Increasingly more information is being stored in the cloud and the legal ramifications of this are not readily apparent, which may become a serious issue for marketers should something go wrong. Headline-grabbing stories about such faux-pas situations abound and Crooks pointed out the pitfalls that need to be avoided.
So, how do you ensure that your ‘data cloud’ doesn’t turn into a dark one? As an organisation, it is important to understand the terms that govern you cloud contracts and ensure that you know how your customers’ data is being looked after. Following industry best-practice, such as the NZ Cloud Computing Code of Practice and complying with legislation requirements are absolute musts. Having a lawyer handy who can provide guidance on these complex matters also doesn’t hurt.
Carmen Vicelich – protecting your data assets
As a follow on from Crooks' presentation, Vicelich gave a primer on the new Data Warranty Register that is being rolled out by the Marketing Association after 18 months of painstaking work. The DWR allows companies to self-regulate the management of their consumer data, thereby preventing the implementation of similarly stringent measures by the New Zealand government as those currently being proposed by the European Union. Make sure that you talk to the Marketing Association about getting listed on the register to ensure that your data is ‘future-proof’!
Summer Collins – test, test, test...
Collins shared a personal account of Telecom’s rollercoaster ride towards adopting a data-driven marketing approach. She discussed how the company deployed a below-the-line campaign management system, which is helping the telecommunications giant come closer to achieving its lofty goal of “delivering a full lifecycle of relevant, targeted and profitable campaigns across multiple channels”.
What Telecom realised, however, is that “it’s not a piece of ‘tech’ that is going to get you to the customer focused piece” but “a combination of technology, data, change and the right partners”. This ‘secret sauce’ is “a combination of art and science” and can only be achieved through constant experimentation. “Test, test, test” is the mantra that Collins left the audience to meditate on.
Sean Wilson – peek-a-boo, where are you?
‘How you gather, manage and use information will determine whether you win or lose’ is the Bill Gates quote that Wilson used to open up his presentation on the topic of information governance. Wilson echoed the sentiment expressed by the other speakers in that we are drowning in data and he went even further by adding that “instead of it being an asset, it’s becoming a liability… It’s got cost, it’s hard to find and it’s difficult to manage..”. Based on his conversations with companies globally, “everyone’s got the same problem: people simply no longer find what they’re looking for”.
The answer? Semantic search technology, which aids with information retrieval and discovery by trying to understand the searcher’s intent as well as the context of a particular search. Wilson’s company – Syl Semantics – is the only organisation in New Zealand that provides a platform which allows for this technology to be implemented at an enterprise level and it has performed a number of information retrieval miracles for large private and public companies. Search engine marketers, hold on to your PageRank as SEO may become a whole different ball game in the next few years and Wilson’s team is driving the charge...
Stay tuned for a review of the remaining speakers’ presentations tomorrow, including the discussion panel’s verdict on whether all of this data ‘trickery’ is clever or creepy.
Dennis Kibirev is the chief content curator @protodigi, a blog that explores the topics of marketing and technology (MarTec), technopreneurship, digital creativity and social media