Marketing’s new balance: Customer connection vs. data and performance

Don't let a fixation on data let you lose sight of what's truly important. Columnist Scott Rayden says marketers need to meet the needs of customers and create campaigns that tap into emotions.

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Marketing has evolved a great deal over the past several years. More channels, more devices, new technologies, more data — the list goes on. Marketers have become used to being highly adaptive to keep pace with change.

Most marketers I talk to discuss all the things they do to keep up with the changing landscape and tend to look at themselves as pace-setters in the space. But I think most of them are missing one of the biggest changes in our space: the imperative of marketing to meet the needs and desires of the customer.

In this post, I’ll explore what’s clouded the vision of today’s marketers, how the true mission of marketers has been obscured and what we must do to address it.

Let’s get started.

The rise of data

Data in our space is gold. It’s what allows us to understand KPIs (key performance indicators), hit CPA (cost per acquisition) targets and drive revenue for clients. It allows us to get a better understanding of which channels are working and how customers are engaging and converting.

Marketing organizations now have data analysts spending 100 percent of their time looking at data and determining how best to take advantage of it.

Data, overwhelming as it can be, is a good thing. But its rise has had one critical and unintended side effect: Marketers and brands have become so dependent on driving strategy from data that they have lost sight of what marketing’s mission should be.

The mission

The mission of marketing is to delight the customer, to inspire someone to become emotionally connected to a brand, to motivate and encourage, to evoke feeling.

Let’s go back to the days of “Mad Men” marketing. Let’s take a look at the days on Madison Avenue where some of the greatest advertising of our time took place.

These marketers didn’t have data — not in the sense that we know it today. They put together campaigns based on what they felt and what they thought would inspire and delight the customer.

Those days were gold, and it showed us the value in “feel” marketing and not doing everything based on a data point or dollar sign.

(Now, let me be clear: Marketing needs to drive revenue. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t use data and hit specific acquisition KPIs. I’m all for that. I’m just arguing for more balance. But back to the sermon.)

So where does this problem exist the most? Performance marketers.

Most under-30 marketers I know have grown up in the world of performance marketing. They were trained to use data to fuel campaigns that drove acquisition and revenue for their clients. They tend to focus more on science than art.

When I talk to these marketers about delighting the customer and creating campaigns that tap into emotions, most of the time I get a blank stare. They look at me like I’m crazy.

And it’s true: Creating campaigns that tap into emotions and delight don’t convert immediately.

On the other side of the spectrum are companies like Droga5. Creating an emotional connection, creating a feeling of love, sadness, laughter and so on is what these guys do best.

One of my favorite pieces by Droga5 tells the story of what it takes to make change. It’s an Under Armour piece featuring Steph Curry. They do an incredible job relating how Curry has changed the game of basketball and how people can effect change in general. It’s a touching and inspiring piece that truly gets at the heart of what great marketing is all about.

Performance marketers need to lean in this direction and focus on how to tie this kind of work and acquisition together.

Great marketing is about balance. Data is great, but so is emotional marketing that has the power to form an immeasurable connection.

The consumer is in control

Consumers today have more control than ever. It is no longer about pushing marketing; it’s about the customer pulling on the brand when and where they want.

Customers expect great experiences, and I would argue a great experience can be more valuable than the actual product or service brands sell.

So, should this be as easy as flipping a switch? Of course not; it should be a pervasive attitude that helps shape organizations, hiring values, account structure, capabilities, the sales pitch and more.

And I would posit that the agencies who don’t look at their future through a perspective of balancing the customer connection with data and more immediate performance are losing the long-term forest for the trees.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Scott Rayden
Scott Rayden is the Chief Revenue Officer for 3Q Digital, and is responsible for leading marketing, sales, and the overall revenue growth of 3Q Digital nationwide. Scott spent the past 7.5 years as the Founder and President of iSearch Media, a leading digital marketing agency focused on consumer behavior, search marketing, analytics, and data visualization. iSearch Media was acquired by 3Q Digital in 2014.

Scott brings 14 years of experience in digital marketing, management, M&A, and business development to 3Q Digital. Prior to founding iSearch Media in 2006, Scott worked at Quinstreet and LeadClick Media (acquired by First Advantage for $150MM), two of the largest digital marketing agencies in the country

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