Data Scientist: Christopher Penn, Marketing Analyst, SHIFT Communications

In the right-brain/left brain miasma of digital marketing, employers lament the scarcity of marketing-tech amphibians.  But lifelong techie Penn thinks non-techies can be just as adaptable as he’s been. The secret, he says, is to forget about all the clouds and platforms.

“If you already know how to get a nice crust on a steak, do you need to understand the science behind your broiler?” Penn asks. “What we have going on in marketing is a lot of people who don’t know how to cook but are buying all of these fancy appliances.”

Penn’s case in point for focusing on the steak rather than the broiler: A U.K. client called Slimming World asked SHIFT to find out if it would be worth its while to enter the U.S. market. Using data from the USDA, Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Penn cross-referenced obesity rates with demographic factors such as income and distance to stores, and came up with an answer of “yes,” and then suggested branding strategies.

Of course, Penn does know how marketing tech works, and he’s made it easier  for account people at SHIFT to get cooking with it through a marketing technology team that tests and perfects martech initiatives. “We got going on marketing automation in my first three months here and now we’re going into big data and machine learning,” he says.

His adaptability isn’t surprising considering that Penn is a black belt in Togakure-ryu, an ancient Japanese martial art that uses tools such as sticks, swords, and spears. “Or whatever’s handy,” Penn says. “You kind of have to win the battle or your opponent will shoot you with his bow and arrow. It’s like that with tech tools in business today.”

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