Data has become a crucial aspect of marketing.
At The Economist's Marketing Unbound conference last week, executives addressed how important it is to keep data top of mind, but also reminded the audience that while data can inform ideas, it cannot create them.
"Big Data is not a substitute for Big Ideas," Joseph Coughlin, director of MIT AgeLab, said. "Big data is tactical and it offers consumers guidance, but big data doesn’t create a vision that gets the consumer excited and say, 'this brand offers a lifestyle that I want.'"
As marketing becomes more collaborative — smashing silos between different departments and working closely with teams from IT and sales — executives warned that every decision needs to consider the consumer first.
The importance of the customer experience came up several times during the conference, taking center stage in the marketing world amid the surge in ad blocking and the evolution of the consumer shopping journey. As these two trends take hold, and as data becomes more embedded in marketing, building relationships with consumers is crucial for brands to stay relevant.
One way for this to happen is for marketing to become more collaborative. "We see lots of companies start organizing no longer around products or channels but around the customer," Laura Beaudin, partner of Bain & Company, said during a panel at Marketing Unbound. "This is disruptive but beneficial at the same time because it requires companies to be more nimble."
Marketers have finally earned their seat in the C-Suite, so the next step toward innovation is through breaking down barriers between teams, she explained.
She added that a combination of using data and collaboration is key to success in marketing. MIT's Coughlin said that while data could certainly lead to new marketing solutions, if brands want to "excite and delight," they have to know their customers.
Beaudin and Coughlin weren't alone in their thinking.
As valuable as data and analytics can be, "at the end of the day, we need ideas — either for building the product or for building the consumer relationship — that are irresistible," said Michael Fanuele, chief creative officer for General Mills. "How much precision is too much precision when you precisely target people with crap?"