Stop Focusing On Just The Data: 4 Reasons Why Your Marketing Might Be Stalled

Brand Positioning Leadership

We live in a non-stop world of white noise. We spend an average of 5 hours a day watching television, 5 hours a day on a mobile device, we sleep 6.8 hours a day, an hour and 40 minutes per day driving, over an hour eating each day, 30 minutes cleaning up, 40 minutes getting ready and grooming, and just under 9 hours per day working. Do the math. We don’t take a lot of time for quiet reflection and building insights.

With this pace, it’s not surprising that business leaders want just the facts when it comes to making a decision. Cutting to the chase and getting to the data as quickly as possible is all people literally eem to have time for (see above … ). And honestly, I love data. I can log into one of our client’s google analytics and spend hours cutting and slicing the data and be completely happy. At IDdigital, we are constantly hearing from clients wanting access to more data about everything from social media, to SEO, to Pinpoint Display Advertising (PDA).

The problem is, data is the lowest form of information, and by itself, is largely useless. Data is simply individual statements of truth.

The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight. – Carly Fiorina, former executive, president, and chair of Hewlett-Packard Co.

What Fiorina is referring to is the DIKW pyramid, or Wisdom Hierarchy. There are many ways to represent this paradigm, but most take the shape of a pyramid. Below is an example.


Photo credit: i-scoop

The DIKW pyramid above is using the example of a red light and is shown in the color red because your brain process the color red quickly. When that data is combined with other data points, such as movement, car, and approaching objects, we begin to turn individual data points into information. By combining and mixing the data we are presented, we can start to see meaning in the individual facts. We are now developing knowledge. That is when we provide both meaning and context to points of data (I am approaching a red light. Cars coming the other direction have a green light).

Finally, at the pinnacle of knowing, we have gained the wisdom: “Pump your everlovin breaks. You are about to crash.” In many cases, this happens so fast, that we fail to see the individual steps in the journey to wisdom. If you notice, the first three steps are related to understanding what has or is already taking place. Only in the wisdom phase, can we begin to apply the knowledge into future scenarios.

So what the heck does this have to do with marketing?? Well, I’m glad you asked. I think we can identify some of the most common areas that businesses get stuck by applying the DIKW framework.

It Starts With Data Collection

Data is the framework to all our decisions. Think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as an example. The base of his pyramid is physiological well being. Without it, you don’t proceed on to safety and pass go or collect your $200. Without it, you are done.

When you are starving, self-actualization isn’t top of your list. As a marketer, without data, don’t expect to get very far either. If you can’t track it some way, don’t do it. I will often review a client's marketing budget and go through line by line, asking the question, what is the goal of this spend and what is being measured for each activity. Some things are harder to measure than others, but in most cases, with a little ingenuity, you can come up with a way to evaluate impact.

Look Here, Not There

Marketing data can be like close up magic. We do marketing to increase revenue, gain value, and grow our businesses. But, when we focus on the wrong metrics it’s like playing three card monte on the street. While you are watching where the queen went, some marketing agency snuck up behind you and picked your pocket. There’s not really good data and bad data, but there is meaningful data and noise. We all want likes on our Facebook posts and clicks on our ads, but are we really measuring something that results in reaching your growth goals? In this case, you have the data, but by looking at the wrong things you fail to gain helpful information. So what if people are clicking or liking? What we really care about is if they are buying and engaging. Any marketer can show a graph with positive looking data points, but a skilled analyst asks the right questions, combines multiple data points, and paints a holistic picture. Don’t fall into the trap of evaluating your success with vanity metrics.

It’s Time To Experiment

The DIKW framework is cumulative. This is important because to truly benefit from our data we need to behave like scientists. We ran campaign x and y happened. So instead of just moving on to the next campaign, what theories do you have about the campaign you just ran? If I changed the ad creative but left the offer intact … I think if we ran it in this market instead of that market … I think if we aim for a slightly different target persona …

It can be easy to become just a manager of marketing activities. We all have a lot on our plates and theory and testing takes discipline and time. If we do it though, we become much more than a person who completes tasks. We become a student of the market. And the best of us, never stop learning. Don’t just execute. Become a student.

Your Inner Guru

Another pitfall that brands and marketers can fall into is that we don’t stay the course long enough to take our theories that we created in the knowledge stage, apply them, and refine them into truths of our brand. These are the nuggets of wisdom that can only be gained through experience. Additionally, there can be a tendency to withhold our wisdom. Don’t confuse your wisdom by treating it like your secret recipe for success. We paid our dues and earned our stripes the good ol’ fashioned way, through hard work and sweat. If you gained wisdom, shout it from the rooftops, invest in a junior marketer, and freely give it away. You won’t be at the helm forever and your brand needs wise people steering the ship. Pass it along.

At IDdigital, we think of ourselves as co-learners with our clients. The greatest marketing tragedies are not campaigns that fail, it is a campaign that we didn’t learn anything from. From identifying measurements, to gaining insights and testing theories, we exist to help increase our client’s marketing wisdom.

If you are interested in doing a marketing review with one of our team to help evaluate your current efforts, let us know. We are always open to learning about your business. 

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Sherlock Holmes, “A Study in Scarlet” (Arthur Conan Doyle).

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