Data can power the central nervous system of marketing
If 2010 was the year that all marketers, across disciplines, discovered or rediscovered the importance of data, then 2011 looks like the year it will really be harnessed in a coordinated way to drive marketing results. Yet, database marketing isn't new and marketers know that it's important. So what's "discovered" here? What's "discovered" is that all kinds of data matter, and that it can be used in a coordinated way.
In the 1950s, brand marketers focused on interests, attitudes and demographics to get to desirable audiences via mass media. Starting in the 1970s and 1980s, direct marketers used this same information in combination with transaction and buying behavior information to target mail and telemarketing efforts. Then in the 1990s and 2000s, time-of-day, channel preferences and online behavior all emerged as e-mail and display advertising gained prominence.
Stated bluntly, that's a lot of data feeding a lot of channels. Most marketers and consumers would agree that it is not being used in a very coordinated manner. The good news is that the core capabilities are there for marketers now; they're just being used in a disparate fashion. What's needed is a "marketing central nervous system" to process all that incoming data, integrate it efficiently, generate intelligent responses and send the signals back out to the points of customer contact.
It's very similar to our bodies' central nervous system — we take in data from our five senses, our brain processes the information in a coherent way and then distributes instructions for our physical and mental reactions.
Here's the better news: The marketing database holds the key to unlocking the marketing central nervous system. It is the logical place for information to be integrated, analyzed and activated so that the right actions can be taken for branding, direct marketing, online targeting and customer service. Best of all, it does not require a brand new "building project" to activate it across channels. There are companies doing it successfully today. They have put the marketing central nervous system in place for multidimensional insight and truly personal engagement. Winterberry Group, in a survey to marketing decision makers, recently asked what areas are currently driving increased investment. One of the top responses was: "Better general understanding of the needs of multichannel integration."
In 2011, data will be coordinated and productively used to power companies' new marketing central nervous systems.
David Danziger is director of data and targeting products at Acxiom. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.