Stop Hiding Behind the Data -- Brandon Fischer

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This article is part of a series inspired by GroupM What’s Next 2013 , an annual event for marketing and media executives taking a forward look at media and advertising, and what brands should be preparing for in order to succeed.

The right conversations about data are not taking place. It seems by just saying the word “data” one expects others to get excited. Rather than just saying the word, it’s time conversations about data start shifting to what a brand can do with data. Specifics become important in this conversation – what data do you have, what are you doing with the data right now, and how can you do more.

Something during the Business of Business Transformation session at GroupM What’s Next last month caught my attention. What could have been another session about data evangelism changed when something the speakers said caught my attention and left me asking, “Are we hiding behind our data?”

“… what they [the managers] will tell you they are doing is playing the percentages. Except, they don’t really know what the percentages are.” - Brian Kenny, Anchor, Analyst, MLB Networks

Kenny asked a simple question – Why do managers bunt? They claim the data suggests they should, but they are really just doing what they think is right. Marketers do this all the time – “I’ve looked into the reports and I think we should…” By citing data, we feel good. We feel validated. But, so far all we’ve done is look at the reports. The data hasn’t informed the decision. We have to do more than look at the reports and suggest a course of action.

"Start basing campaign decisions on data, not our gut,” - Marie Ewald Danzig, Head of Creative and Delivery, Blue State Digital

You have to take full advantage of your data. Data becomes truly valuable when it drives the decision. I love what Danzig is saying because “gut” (or “experience” as most marketers would say) is how many decisions and optimizations are made. She goes so far as to draw a line between the two approaches to decision-making: Data vs Gut. Quite simply Danzig says, “Do this, not that.” It’s not enough to just look at the report and then do what you want. That is the façade of analysis. We as sophisticated marketers can do better than this. We can let the data is guide the decision, rather than relying on our gut.

“This is kind of an obvious thing to do, but really doesn't exist” - Josh Mohrer, General Manager, Uber NYC

How many times have you looked at a simple new invention and thought, “Why didn’t I think of that?” This time, be different. I encourage you to do something that might seem so simple, but is clearly hard for many marketers to do – actually use your data. Using data is so obvious, but many times the data only exists to signal there is an optimization to be made. Exactly what to do is a decision that many will make separate from the data. Why? Go beyond using reports to signal problems and let your data inform which specific optimization to make and by how much. If you take that step, you will find that your data can be a lot more than just a warning system.

We all roll our eyes when someone tells us that data will change our lives. We might even smile and congratulate ourselves, believing that our awesome reports put us ahead of everyone else. But, reporting is not the complete answer. So, I encourage you to take a second and think about how you use your data. Hopefully you are part of the group that already gets it. If you’re not, do the obvious, stop playing the percentages and base your decisions on data.

Brandon Fischer is Director, Predictive Insights at GroupM Next, the innovation division of GroupM that offers thought leadership, industry perspective, operational support and scalable business solutions to GroupM agencies (Maxus,MEC,Mediacom and Mindshare). In this role, Brandon manages a team of analysts whose primary objective is the innovation and development of advanced analytics and analysis for emerging media channels.

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