Q&A: Arthur Sweetser, CMO of 89 Degrees

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Q&A: Arthur Sweetser, CMO of 89 Degrees
Q&A: Arthur Sweetser, CMO of 89 Degrees

Arthur Sweetser, the CMO of 89 Degrees, an integrated marketing agency with a focus on data and analytics, discusses the definition of cloud marketing and why he thinks data collection is more important than good creative. Prior to 89 Degrees, Sweetser was the CMO of eDialog.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): 89 Degrees is a huge proponent of cloud marketing. Can you define cloud marketing? What are the benefits for marketers?

Arthur Sweetser (89 Degrees): Cloud-based marketing is an outsourced multiplatform integrated solution. [As opposed to] using servers at Amazon for cheap processing, cloud marketing is a fully-secured, integrated database hosted platform that marketers can use on an on-demand basis. It's Web-based and the key benefits are speed-to-market. There are cost savings because it's more efficient to host and manage data. It gives you the responsiveness and ability to access what you need when you need it. The Merkles and Epsilons have designed a whole database for you, procured the servers, they host the servers, get software licenses from Unica. But at this rate you'd be in $3 or $4 or $5 million at year one of a three-year plan.

DMN: How has the integration of digital media improved data collection, and how has that as a result improved marketing?

Sweetser: Digital allows you to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time because you get a better conversion rate. The worst thing is going to your inbox and there's nothing there. But you don't like spam either. Relevancy rules. People almost expect personalization or preference information as a service. You should know where I vacation and that I like my room non-smoking. We can capture all this information, but marketers have to deliver on it. It's an exciting opportunity to capture information but it's also an obligation to customize and personalize from it. Don't sell me dog food when I don't own a dog.

DMN: Will privacy legislation disrupt digital data collection? How will that change how marketers do their jobs?

Sweetser: I think it will have to be more visible than less. As a marketer I wonder about cookies. You didn't give me permission, I didn't ask, and I know where you went. I had a retailer once asking for more information. He yelled at me. They have thousands of people clicking on his emails and I shouldn't be asking him to do the listening, I should be going in and doing it for him. He was right. Yes, there are areas that will change and maybe for the good. 89 Degrees also handles creative for clients. If you had to choose one, what is ultimately more important to great marketing, creative or analytics?

DMN: Would you say it's more important to have excellent data analytics or excellent creative?

Sweetser: Analytics. I love my creative director, but rule No. 1 is the right audience and then rule No. 2 is the right time and rule No. 3 is great creative. If you want to perform, you segment and then you test and measure. You'll never beat campaign performance with creative over segmentation.

No more than 25% of digital marketers do segmentation. It's work. No one is really mining data and looking for opportunities. Should we play around with the frequencies? The problem is email is still the darling of the industry according to the Direct Marketing Association. Email makes so much money for so little. Why do all the extra work when you'll still meet your numbers? At some point, consumers will get tired of [all these] emails. I unsubscribed to my daily Groupon. Something may be a hell of a deal but once you've gone through 40 or 50 of them you get tired.

DMN: It seems like most marketers are using social media to listen to customers and to build brand. Will social media ever affect commerce directly?

Sweetser: You have to go where people are. If you're not there you're dying. The music industry and Apple figured out you could sell a song for 99 cents online and turn it into a billion-dollar industry.

To me, Facebook is another format in which you have to engage. Don't just go in hawking and advertising. It's just like any other sales process. It's a natural extension of digital marketing. I'd rather spend money there than digital media, which is untargeted. Also, it's freakin' free. You've got to love that as a marketer. I worked with a swimsuit company. We were looking for the next cover girl to be featured in an ad. We got 80,000 emails. We value one email at $20. That's a $1.6 million campaign that we spent maybe $10,000 making.

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