DMA 2013: Integrating Marketing and Technology

CHICAGO—The data revolution is depositing reams of information into the hands of marketers, but it can be hard to "untangle the giant hairball of data," as Teradata's CMO Lisa Arthur put it at the annual DMA conference today.

Marketers are rightly aware of the pitfalls and flaws of large-scale analytics. Keynote speaker Nate Silver, election predictor and author of The Signal and the Noise, offered a cutting example. "Look back to when the global financial system was melting down," he said. Data-driven financial models had "a few flawed assumptions [that] fooled investors into buying mortgage-backed securities that were extremely risky." Garbage in, garbage out.

Yet during a panel here this morning, Publishers Clearing House's Sal Tripi, responding to skepticism voiced about the returns big data can offer, countered that using big data can yield little increases in direct mail and online that matter. "It's two to three CPMs at a time," he estimated. "It doesn't take a lot of big data to give a five percent to ten percent lift in revenue. It's about using big data to tailor that content, to make it a more enjoyable experience, increase retention, and keep [people] on site longer."

The convergence and collaboration between CMOs and CIOS was also a hot topic during Tuesday's and today's panel keynotes. BlueKai CEO Omar Tawakol noted that a CMO's technology budget is "the fastest growing budget in the enterprise," and says he now encounters more CMTOs, chief marketing technology officers.

Engineer-turned-marketer Loni Stark, Adobe's director of product and industry marketing, tied her experience as an engineer back to CRM goals, such as using customer feedback to improve a product. As an engineer, "I liked things that had long-term sustainable value," Stark said. "My approach to marketing and teams is similar. Listening to what customers really want, using marketing to harness that data, those conversations, and using [the data and conversations] to influence the development of the product."

Speaking to the head-butting that often occurs between marketing and IT, she encouraged people to change their mindset. "It's not like one's a problem and one's a solution. Make it so both are aiming for the same goals. Stand back a second and understand where the other person is coming from."

For marketers who have been used to being storytellers and guardians of the brand, embracing data over gut instinct can be hard. "Our biggest challenge is changing the marketer from thinking about one creative idea versus letting the data drive execution," Tawakol explained.

Those waiting to ramp up their data initiatives hoping for increased clarity as the industry matures should forget about it, according to Tawakol. The next frontier is mobile, which will then turn into wearable computing. "There will be this edgy period for channels where we don't know that well what's going on," he stated."Fragmentation is getting worse, not better."

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