Marketers struggling more than ever with data explosion, ADMA chief warns

jodie-sangsterMarketers are struggling to cope with the explosion of customer data more than ever with the problem exposing the acute skills shortage in the industry, the chief executive of the Association of Data Driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) has warned.

Jodie Sangster told a conference yesterday that marketers have “gone backwards” in their understanding of the complexities of data, while education courses are are too slow to adapt to the rapid changes in the industry.

She also warned that companies are being too complacent over new data privacy laws – particularly over issues of transparency – and are risking fines of $1.7 million per breach.

In a presentation at the Oracle Marketing Cloud conference in Sydney Sangster said data “drives our thinking and is our biggest opportunity”.

“And currently it is one of our biggest challenges,” she told delegates. “We asked CMO’s how they are coping with the data explosion and they have actually gone backwards. Five years ago about 72 per cent of CMO’s said they were overwhelmed with data and five years later we are at 82 per cent. That’s partly because we are much more aware of what we have got to do but it does show that the problem is getting bigger, rather than going in the other direction.

“Part of the challenge is the big skills gap we have in Australia around data analytics and true data driven marketing. The pool of people is quite small that we can draw from and we are all pinching people from each other’s company. Part of the problem is that education courses are not keeping up. They say they need three years to change a curriculum but three years at the rapid change we are seeing is not going to keep up. It’s a problem.”

She said one of the reasons for ADMA’s recent alliance with the Institute of Analytics Professionals of Australia (IAPA) was to “bridge the gap” between marketing and data analytics.

“What we wanted was to focus on bringing those two sections of the industry together. There is a disconnect between analytics professionals who have an established skill set and marketers, and the two never shall speak,” Sangster said.

Turning to new privacy laws that were introduced in March, Sangster revealed that many companies are too complacent and are treating it as “business as usual”.

“It’s not,” she said. “The reason this new legislation was bought in was because it was felt the law was not equipped to deal with some of the ways we use data. There needs to be boundaries about what we can and can’t do with data. You have to be transparent but transparency is the one thing everyone seems to be getting wrong.

“Previously, as long your privacy policy reflected your practices you were pretty much deemed to have ticked the button. No longer. Any time you are collecting data there is this proactive requirement to go out to consumers and tell them this is what is happening with your data and make sure they are comfortable with that.”

She urged companies not to view the legislation as a legal requirement but to regard it as good business practice. Those businesses that are transparent are the ones who will succeed because they will win the trust of consumers, she said.

Citing an ADMA survey of 1,500 consumers, Sangster said the public are generally happy to share data provided it is used correctly and that companies don’t ask for too much information. They don’t want firms to be “greedy” with the information they want, particularly brands they do not have a relationship with.

The survey also revealed different levels of trust. Government bodies and financial institutions are the most trusted when it comes to sharing data while consumers have the least faith in charities, online retailers, entertainment companies, newspapers and media.

“At this tail end data is often used for straightforward marketing. There has to be a benefit for the customer to feel comfortable about giving their data which is perhaps why there is less trust at the tail end,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sangster urged companies to better measure the success of their content marketing, one of the major growth areas for marketers and where they have made “massive investments”.

“The biggest challenge in content marketing is how we take this massive investment and make it have an impact on the bottom line,” she said. “When we asked how they measure success they are looking at web traffic or social media sharing which is all great but it’s not impacting the revenue and that’s where we need to get to.”

Brand awareness at 73 per cent and engagement with 71 per cent were the two biggest reasons for content marketing, the survey found.

Sangster also addressed the issue of marketing creativity, which she admitted had become “lost” amid the focus on technology and data. While creative campaigns have little impact for firms looking for short term results, it does resonate over the longer term, she said.

“Initially there is no link between creativity and the impact on the bottom line, and clearly that wasn’t a great result,” Sangster said. “If you are trying to have a business effect within six months then creativity is not where you are going to invest your dollars because all you are looking for is this quick reaction. It’s all driven by the offer.

“But after six months there was a massive curve in that the longer you invest in the brand the greater the effect of the marketing. It’s the emotional connection and that is what we are starting to miss in some of the marketing we do. In this automated world we can’t forget the human element, the part that says I really like that brand, I understand it, it resonates. That’s what creativity can do.”

Steve Jones



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