Unless you’ve been living under a rock these last few years, you will have noticed that data has emerged as the undisputed king of all things in big business today. According to ‘WIRED: The rise of the CDO’, the appointment of a Chief Data Officer is a transformational change that elevates the importance of data to the top of the organisation; 25% of Fortune 500 companies now employ a CDO (source: IBM). A further 25% plan to have a CDO employed by 2017 (up from just 6% in 2013), a figure that jumps to 50% in heavily regulated industries such as banking and insurance.

Danny ­Gilligan, co-founder of Venture capitalist firm, Reinventure, proclaimed to BRW, “When we look at the disruptive transformation of most industries, data sits at the heart of everything.” 

So data is sexy; the capturing and harnessing of data has never been more exciting. But the question remains as it ever was: so what?

We’re only ever as innovative as what we do with data. After all, data doesn’t unlock insights – people do.

It is an easy trap to fall into these days for brands and businesses. Tempted by the depth of data available to us, we focus the majority of our energy on capture rather than utilisation.

And that’s what keeps me up at night; the fear that our pursuit and celebration of data takes us only part of the way to realizing our full potential as marketers.

Don’t get me wrong, I love data. More, better, mined, refined, fused, and accrued data - bring it on. The importance of data is unequivocal and here to stay, and I’m not disputing that. I’m simply saying that data alone is not the answer. It is the start of the conversation, not the end of it.

Everybody knows that future business success depends on the ability to innovate, and that data will play an integral role in fuelling this innovation. In order to bridge the gap between data and innovation, however, businesses need to foster a culture that recruits and celebrates the skills needed to apply this data; the first hurdle being to recognize that applying data requires a different skill set and resources to collecting it.

For example, in a recent European survey into the future of digital trust, it emerged that 67% of consumers believe organisations benefit the most from the sharing of data.

Translation: Two thirds of consumers haven’t seen any change in their experience that would lead them to believe that data collection can benefit them too. That’s a whole lot of businesses with a whole lot of data they’re not doing enough with.

And what good is having data if you cannot apply it in a meaningful way? You can know all there is to know about your consumer, without ever really understanding them.

To avoid this, marketing teams should always be asking themselves how they can use the data they have to connect with consumers on a deeper, more intuitive level.

For any marketers reading, let’s do a quick sense check of where you stand:

  •         Is your brand behaving like a SOMEONE rather than a something?
  •         Are you talking to customers like they’re a SOMEONE too?
  •         Is your brand anticipating the needs of consumers and truly empathising with them?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of the questions above, chances are your data is not doing its job, and technically neither are you.

As an industry, we cannot afford to lose the human element.

CEO of Carat US, Doug Ray, says, “Behind every data point is a person”, and it takes one to know one. Empathy and a sound human understanding is the difference between being buried in reams of data, or coming out with an actionable insight.

^Back to Top