Let’s Stop Focusing on Data and Get Back to the Message

on September 24, 2015

In her first post, Mary Beth Sousa, senior engagement manager at Theorem, explains why she has a more balanced view of the relationship between traditional and technical marketing than many others do.

Here’s my problem with big data: it’s a term that probably last made sense around the year 2000.

The reality is that for many of the brands trying to navigate the challenging minefield of so-called business intelligence—for help in the area of digital outreach—it would be more useful if the term were megadata.

Mega—in the sense of enormous scale. And that scale is going to get only bigger for sure. But concentration on the size and volume of data is to miss the wood for the trees. When working with brands, we find that the best path lies in concentration on the actual message. That was as true for marketing in the 1920s as it will be in the 2020s.

Forget the data context—just for a second: you still need to be clear on what the key elements of your message will be. You’ll still want to work out whether you’ll convey the message in an informational way as, say, a brand introduction or whether you’ll spotlight brand recognition. But it’ll be done in exactly the same way it’s been done in radio and print for decades.

By the same token, you still need to concentrate on working outward from whom you’re actually targeting with the message. The good news is that in today’s digital environment, smart deployment of business intelligence and data will help make the delivery of that message easier.

 A partnership between the established and the new?

One of the challenges is that many brands are hobbled from doing this efficiently—not so much by volume of data but by poor internal organization. You have incredible data resources, but perhaps you just don’t see that yet, because the resources are spread out across multiple silos, not collated and identified as the important assets they are.

This is why my team and I like to talk to brands not about big data (a euphemism for “We can’t cope!”) but about useful data, whereby we shape data into coherent, useful views of customers and opportunities. And this is where the contribution of the technical marketer comes in, because technical marketers can do this kind of work effectively. They know how to forge databases and feeds that the other kinds of marketing experts can use to shape that primary message.

The thinking here is simple. Stop being overwhelmed by data, and focus instead on making data into a tool, an asset whose sole purpose is to help you get the message out.

Some things change. That’s inevitable. But some things stay the same in our business. And some things, like the fixation on big data, have probably overstayed their welcome.

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Kara DegeorgisLet’s Stop Focusing on Data and Get Back to the Message