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DMA 2014: Customer Centricity Must Guide Marketing Strategies Across Channels, Presenters Agree

[customers] that [have] two different sets of needs. When they travel on business, maybe they're more likely to travel in first class but when they travel for leisure, they might have a different budget. We have to determine which type of travel it is in each case to personalize effectively," DiTullio said.

In the gas and oil industry, the challenge is different, Francois Orhan, head of global CRM at Shell, explained. "We're trying to sell a product that stinks, a product that pollutes, and a product that's expensive," he said. "But ultimately, it's a product that you need."

In both cases, collecting data and implementing data-driven marketing techniques to architect customer-centric engagements has made a major difference, the panelists agreed.

At Shell, most of the marketing overhaul has been driven by a top-to-bottom approach, Orhan said. He also shared four pieces of advice for marketers implementing new data technology. The first and most important piece of the puzzle, according to Orhan, is a highly knowledgeable group of employees. "You need quality people that know what they're talking about," he said. The second key element is the process, which should ensure a symbiotic relationship between business and IT. "They have to talk together and work together," Orhan urged.

The third and fourth bits of advice that Orhan shared go hand in hand. "You need to have the right organization in place and, finally, you need to make sure everyone in the technology ecosystem has a crystal clear understanding of the ecosystem," he concluded.

Historically, adoption of big data and data-driven marketing solutions has been slow because seeing significant ROI can take a long period of time, but as marketers are increasingly seeing the predictive and prescriptive potential of the technologies, adoption will grow quickly, experts agree. "For a long time, most marketing decisions were based off of intuition. There are a lot of intuitive managers out there and we've been able to understand the 'what' and the 'when,' but by picking the right data out of big data, brands are finally starting to answer the 'why'" DiTullio said.

Among the top brands learning how to "answer the why" are Hearst Magazines and MetLife, recipients of this year's DMA Marketer of the Year award. The two have been working together to develop integrated multichannel marketing campaigns by leveraging their joint data assets and analytics capabilities. Teradata's CMO of marketing applications, Lisa Arthur, also received the Marketer of the Year award for her efforts to drive customer-centric initiatives at Teradata.

At the awards presentation, DMA president Jane Berzan praised the recipients, calling them "marketing pioneers."

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