The Marketing Future: Data Vs. Creativity

The Marketing Future: Data Vs. Creativity

Technology is the driving force behind changes in our behaviour, consumption and use of brands and services. Will actionable insight provide the competitive advantages marketers are seeking, asks Mark McGuinness.

Published 20th August 2015

Every touchpoint of a consumer’s connected life, whether we are consciously aware or unaware of it, leaves a digital data footprint. Our Internet browsing behaviour, to our purchase intent and sentiment towards brands, whether positive or negative, are all available for scrutiny on the major social networks, in increasingly complex minutia of detail. Data, now also referred to as ‘big data’, is all around us. According to IBM 2.5, a quintillion bytes are generated every day. To provide some context, 90% of the data generated in the world to date has been created in the last two years alone. These data sources include sharing on social media sites, pictures via Instagram, videos, e-commerce and mobile commerce transactions, loyalty card schemes, medical records, tax returns, voice and data calls via our mobile and instant messaging via Apps such as WhatsApp. Other examples include satellite data for Google Earth and Maps, weather information, military intelligence and its use by other heavy industries. Indeed, more of our physical non-digital movements are also being captured by CCTV cameras and now also by low-flying drones. This ‘digitized data’, using triangulation via our mobile phones, GPS for location-based marketing, along with tracking sensors surreptitiously hidden in our vehicles, means we are never really out of the line-of-marketing sight. It’s fair to say George Orwell’s famous novel 1984 and the omnipresent and omnipotent Big Brother government having the capacity to track and scrutnise every detail of your everyday movements is now a reality. But what his novel couldn’t have foreseen is that perhaps it’s not the government that knows more about you: it’s the social networking sites and marketing companies. So what are the marketing challenges? If you surveyed most marketing CMOs, most would agree data is considered the panacea to a brand’s competitive ills and even the key to their survival in this new socially challenging and technology-based ecosystem.

The data scientist

Already, we have seen data, and the complexities it brings in terms of collection, storage, and analytics, giving rise to a new skill set requirement within the marketing and IT departments – the data scientist. While it’s fair to say the data scientist role could be seen as existing at the intersection of or as a hybrid of the marketing and IT functions, in getting both sides to talk the same common language, it probably isn’t as clear cut as that. The clue is in the name ‘Data Scientist’. These individuals are highly educated, highly trained, with a background in mathematics, statistics or at MIT. They are also expensive in terms of salary costs and therefore out of reach of most affiliates and SME gaming operators. An important part of the data scientist’s role is to create predictive data models which capture the underlying patterns of complex customer and organizational systems, and deliver coding solutions to turn those models into working applications to provide business and marketing insight. Or so we are told. It is clear the underlying trend for our society is to create and use more and more data, and, therefore, the long-term question for gaming operators will be whether to hire the data science talent or outsource. While this of course is down to the individual gaming business, I suspect the big operators, including the publicly traded behemoths, will want to rinse every ‘byte’ of data for insight and competitive advantage, thus creating a bigger divide between themselves and the SMEs. 

The rise of marketing engineers

Following hotly on the heels of the data scientist, the new hyperbolic term trending on the worldwide web is marketing engineering. The term, which at the time of writing has yet to enter the Cambridge Dictionary, is believed to have been introduced by Professor Gary Lilien, a renowned Professor of Management Science at the Smeal College of Business at Pennsylvania State University. He is one of the founders of DecisionPro, pioneering a new marketing philosophy that blends concepts and frameworks from economics, finance, information management, with the aim of translating marketing ideas and concepts into specific operational decisions and actions using analytical, quantitative, and computer modelling techniques.

The future of marketing

There is no denying that marketing as a discipline is becoming more data-driven and increasingly automated, and that will impact on decisions and operational efficiencies for any business. As machine based learning, data-based algorithms and artificial intelligence become more commonplace in the marketer’s toolkit, it doesn’t necessarily mean that discovering nuggets of actionable information or insight through the usage of these data-savvy and data-intense technologies will provide the competitive advantage marketers seek. If anything, our understanding of how ‘things’ work has lessened, but our reliance on them has increased. In fact most people now believe Google Now, Siri or Cortana, which have now effectively replaced the old Parish Priest, to be the de facto oracles of knowledge and answers. The reality is that a computer program is only as good as the person that wrote the code and as the person inputting the data and analysing the outputs. As a former scientist myself, and as much as I yearn for a more scientific approach to marketing, data can’t replicate or tell you about human emotions. Can data-driven machines be as creative and inspirational as Leonard Da Vinci or indeed create as an empathic connection as Steve Jobs’ Apple brand? Technology and its applications are about making us mere mortals’ mundane lives and tasks easier. Marketing is the emotive and creative engine that delivers that message, solving your problems. I’ve yet to witness a marketing technology that exhibits or mimics human creativity and passion. I fear the erosion of these values by technology has already happened, and that as our continuing reliance on technology to provide the competitive advantage in marketing will result in more commoditized and vanilla products. This is because they will all end up using the same core datasavvy technologies, resulting in a sterile, monochrome marketing metropolis of disenchanted workers. 

“According to IBM 2.5, a quintillion bytes are generated every day. To provide some context, 90% of the data generated in the world to date has been created in the last two years alone.”

“As machine-based learning, data-based algorithms and artificial intelligence become more commonplace, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these nuggets of actionable information or insight will provide the competitive advantage marketers seek.”

“I’ve yet to witness a marketing technology that exhibits or mimics human creativity and passion.”