Three spaceships zoom by overhead. A cyborg blasts a hole through the wall. Out of the cloud of smoke walks Arnold Schwarzenegger, sunglasses on, shotgun in hand. “I’ll be back,” he declares, “to customize my marketing message through automated data analytics.”
With the rise of big data in the news, bloggers and tech journalists are quick to warn us of the RISE OF THE MACHINES as well. And they’re not completely wrong. Tracking, processing, and acting upon data-mined consumer information is becoming more prevalent and more automated. A rugby team in England uses jersey sensors to monitor its players’ stress levels and prevent injuries. Walmart’s data processors oversee product shipments to avoid empty shelves. In Japan, robots are better at being a human than I am. But this increase in automation and dependence on data isn’t the harbinger of some robotic apocalypse where Blade Runner becomes reality and C3PO has a pet Canadian he walks on a leash. It’s a chance to step back and approach marketing from an entirely new angle.
Nevertheless, people love talking about data-driven marketing in terms of data OR intuition, technology OR humanity as if they are arch-nemeses. They argue that marketers will lose that essential touch of individuality and integrity the more heavily they rely on big data to inform their campaigns and bring in the big bucks. But does the use of data really have to come at the cost of marketing’s human core? Are we going to say ‘Hasta la vista, baby’ to free thinking and learn to love the big data machine?
Not quite. We can’t just ignore technology and we can’t just ignore instinct. Data doesn’t come at the expense of a marketer’s intuition; it informs it. Even with servers and servers of data, you still need someone to read it and mold it into a great campaign. Data’s not the enemy; it’s the new context that allows us to think more deeply about the customer, her interests, and her engagement. And that’s pretty great.
So don’t be afraid of big data. It’s not going to walk you like a dog. Instead, let it inform you, take it to heart, and then address your customers with a greater hybrid understanding.
When you do that, it won’t just be Arnold coming back, it’ll be your customers too.