Magazine article Marketing

Performance Anxiety

Magazine article Marketing

Performance Anxiety

Article excerpt

With so many new channels and tools, marketers should have more opportunities to succeed in their jobs than ever before. But all this data and all these options can be so overwhelming that decision-making and confidence suffer. Nicola Kemp asks how marketers can ensure that their focus on an ever-growing number of metrics and ROI is not at the expense of their creativity and self-esteem, while Phil Rumbol looks at how to sell groundbreaking marketing ideas in the boardroom (page 55).

The three magic words that will make your chief financial officer's heart sing: return on investment. In the era of big data, marketers are armed with an ever-expanding range of data points by which they can improve, or prove, the efficiency of marketing campaigns - or at least select the data they need to retrospectively support their prior business decisions.

With so much data to guide and support every decision, surely marketers have better tools to do a better job, with less need for instinctive guesswork and risk-taking. To put it bluntly, they should be getting it more right, more often than ever; after all, isn't that what all this investment in data harvesting and analysis is for? In theory, yes. But is the growing focus on big data propelling marketing, or becoming a distraction? At a time when corporations can use a proliferating array of software to measure every aspect of their brand and marketing teams, are marketers at risk of feeling unappreciated, frustrated and demeaned?

The problem with some of these new marketing tools is that they can be both dehumanising and pressurising, overriding the invaluable creative instincts of the best marketers and creating false metrics of accountability that play to a short-term, one-dimensional view of marketing investment.

Mark Bagnall, managing director of consumer research agency 2CV, says a relentless focus on measurement can become a distraction if it doesn't align with the broader metrics driving the business. 'If marketers have to retrofit or re-engineer their work to fit with arbitrary metrics, it can be disabling for people who were previously trusted to produce great creative work,' he warns.

According to Bagnall, big data can become a burden if marketers don't know what to do with it. 'The key is not being blindsided into believing it is the answer to everything, or being put off by the vocabulary that has made it all sound very complex. Marketers need to regain confidence in their own expertise.'

While often loath to admit it publicly, many in the industry are suffering from measurement fatigue. Jonathan Trimble, chief executive of ad agency 18 Feet & Rising, says the focus on metrics and ROI is curtailing creativity. 'Data invokes a trigger-response approach to the world - a 'when we do this, that happens - don't do anything else please',' he explains.

The risk for marketers is that an obsession with real-time data can lead to knee-jerk responses. 'The issue is that trends will turn, life changes, so too does the model. Some newer forms of data can get in the way of bettering your ROI by stepping back and applying imagination to the process over a longer game,' adds Trimble.

The Genetically Modified Marketer

However, many in the industry believe a better understanding of, and affinity with, data can help marketers become more confident decision-makers and enhance their contribution at board level. Certainly marketers can empower themselves by getting to grips with technology and processes that were previously the preserve of the chief information officer and chief technology officer. It is no exaggeration to say that for many marketers this involves learning a new language.

Harper Reed, the chief technology officer for Barack Obama's historic US Presidential re-election campaign, says that programmers are the new creatives. 'Technology is an aggressive insider language and my advice to marketers is the same as it would be if you were learning about mechanics: you buy the book about how cars work and you take the time to learn about it. …

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