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Data, data everywhere,
but not a drop of insight to drink

(With apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

We live in an era of data. This is particularly true in the world of marketing and advertising, where data is the latest big thing. As a marketeer, you can’t attend an event, read a marketing magazine, or open an email without encountering this obsession with data-driven marketing.

As marketers, we have access to more data than ever before, such as website analytics, site referrals, in-site journey behavior, engagement metrics, and abandoned cart rates. Through programmatic advertising, we now have access to thousands of data points on millions of people, albeit anonymized cookie-based data.

Marketers such as myself are flocking to data like prospectors during the California gold rush. We all think “there’s gold in them their hills”, and we have to be the first ones there to take advantage of it.

But is all this data the answer to our marketing prayers?

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m a big fan of data. In fact, I truly believe that data is the lifeblood of a business. Without high-quality, well-integrated, useful, and actionable data, your business will only go one way, and that is backward. The Economist​ ​magazine claimed that data has replaced oil as the world’s most valuable resource.

To understand the situation, let’s take a step back. ​I​n the ​advertising world’s ​dim and distant ​past​​, we would target an audience based on little more than the ​type of media they consumed, ​such as a TV, a particular newspaper or magazine. ​It was targeting based on what ​we were consuming.

We then moved to an era of targeting people based on general demographic data such as age, gender, socio-economic group, where they lived and the like. ​This was targeting based on ​who we were.

Now we ​have entered a new phase, where thousands of digital signals are used for targeting. Those signals might include ​the websites ​we visit, ​the ​videos ​we watch, ​and ​the device​s we use, amongst many others​. This targeting stems from where we are and where we have been.

This programmatic derived data (where we are)​,​ coupled with demographic (what we are) and the ​media data (what we are consuming)​,​ provide​s​ a very powerful tool for targeting audiences.

You might know, for instance, that I visited your site on my Android phone whilst in ​the ​WC2 post code area of London​,​ and viewed a particular pair of shoes. You might ​even know that I ​have ​spent much of the ​the summer obsessively consuming content about the British & Irish Lions ​rugby team, and the Tour de France.

Armed with this information you then decide, or your adtech decides, to target me with particular ads on particular sites.

Like many marketers, you ​might ​think “Great job!”​, because you’re using data signals to target me.

But ​as a consumer I don’t really see it like that. When I​’m targeted in this way I often think why? Why that ad now? Or, even worse, why are you following me around the internet?

In my view ​an important ​element is missing: who I am. ​S​imply targeting ​a customer with a message ​is not the same as engaging with ​me in a way that will change ​my behaviour.

To do ​this you need to know me as a person; know my motivations, attitudes, opinions, values, narratives, norms, and controls. ​Y​ou need to know me from a behavioural science perspective. By understanding these traits, you can then start to craft messages that ​speak to my underlying behavioural make-up and even my​ personality.

This deeper insight will empower you, as a marketer, to tailor ​the ​creative process​ and optimise ad tech with messages that directly resonate with your audience.

It’s my belief that you can come to a profoundly deeper understanding of your audience by adding behavioral science on top of predictive analytics and big data. ​In turn, this will enable brands to better engage with their customers and prospects. ​Big data is important, but it’s​ small actionable insights that are critical.