The Digital Day at Marketing Week in Toronto has just wrapped up and I was reading Head of Google Canada's Jonathan Lister's summary of the 5 points that today's marketer's should be preoccupied with, although self serving, they're good ones:
- the web changes so quickly, what has worked in the past may not work in the future
- online and offline ads should complement, 2/3rds of searches are a result of offline media
- effective search strategy to overcome the now 600 million registered domain names is required
- marketing can be a measurable discipline, courtesy companies like Google, data trumps opinion
- don't be afraid to jump on an emerging trend and stake out space in a new area, his bet was mobile and online video, perhaps not surprising given Google's Android and YouTube stake in the areas
Trust me, I have great respect for what Google does, they have the Midas touch in entering new web areas that their many competitors envy.
I do however take two issues with Jonathan's list above:
The first, his points on #1 and #5 about the unpredictability of the web trump his point #4 about data's preeminence over opinion - if you need to take a leap into the unknown or at best the murky future - it's instinct and insight that is going to get you there, not machinations of data.
If you had straightlined any information or data that existed 5 years ago, most would have missed the social networking trend, the trend to video, the move away from blogging to microblogging by healthy margins. The people that truly tapped into these waves were conceptual geniuses not data junkies. Smart moves in mobile will not likely be data-driven but innovation-driven tapping into a Whole New Mind - moving away from the information age to the conceptual age. Data is great for operations and some sober judgment and guidance, but it can hamstrung people away from envisioning a new, enlightened future.
Marketing needs to get rigorous on all fronts, online data measurement is just one of them.
As I stare out at the landscape of CMOs and VPs of marketing, they are under considerable scrutiny and pressure to perform and have absolutely no spare time. And if there was an act of malice I could lay at their feet, it's their complete adherence to data at the upper levels, and the poor ability to adequately equate risk with reward, balance the future with present reality and use smart intuition with data.
If anything, we have created a generation of marketing "scoreboard watchers". Whether it's Nielsen TV data, PMB print data, Google analytics or Radian social media metrics, marketers are drowning in the vomit of their own data. Data without some type of filtered insight is a negative undertow on a brand owner's aptitude to pivot and move quickly. Data without some type of frontline organizational leadership falls on deaf ears. Data without some type of deep seeded connection to the marketplace and empathy for the customer is blind. So unless Google can magically double the time spent in an average marketer's week, data crunching may need to take a justifiable back seat to these other concerns.
Think about it - if you are truly going to build value in any substantive (and hopefully measurable) way, it's likely because you do at most 3 things well, I mean really well, in one given year (a smart colleague once told me this - I thought he was lazy at the time but he has proved to be right).
The successful marketers? I guarantee you at least 2 out of 3 of those things were outcomes from really smart bets not really good actuary work.
Data is great for monitoring and managing day to day operations, unfortunately an over-reliance on it to guide strategy and plan in this fast changing marketplace, is a recipe for small ideas and late to market status.
Hate to rain down on Google's parade, I'm sure they'll do well without my advocacy. But what we need, what we really and truly need in marketing in 2010, more than anything else, is truly enlightened souls and passionate customer advocates to lead the way and less detached and formulaic number crunchers.