Thursday, March 14, 2013

From Zero to Hero: Data Driven Marketing in the Era of the Chief Executive Customer

There is tremendous enthusiasm in the marketing and technology circles alike about harnessing Big Data to enable “Smarter” marketing. Who can deny that digital and social media marketing have enabled brands to have easy access to data and dashboards to track and understand the customer as an individual versus a segment? Or that analytics can improve marketing ROI through better decision making and an effective system of engagement wherein a brand knows what to offer, to whom and when. The business case for Smarter marketing is intuitive in the era of the Chief Executive Customer: A customer who is more demanding, more connected, more aware and has no boundaries.

Despite the public bandwagon around Big Data, the reality of how organizations in general and CMOs in particular are using (or rather not using) data is quite different. If you engage in deeper conversations with CMOs around the world and in India, you discover a real anxiety about being unprepared for data explosion.  In fact, this is one of the major findings of the 2011 IBM Global CMO Study where we interviewed over 1700 CMOs globally and 99 in India. 

This problem is only going to intensify with the exponential increase in the number of touch points with consumers in recent years. A recent article in Forbes pointed out that  consumers that used to be anonymous are now becoming highly detailed individual business targets and this transformation is largely due to new big data streams in everyday life that have given marketers the ability to monitor and target individual consumers by their preferences and behavior.
But help is on its way. Marketers now have the ability to harness big data using intuitive and readily available analytical and enterprise marketing management tools.  These tools can not only track consumer behavior across online and offline channels but use the insight to predict future behavior and recommend “next best actions”. In addition, data storage costs have plummeted, so data that used to be purged is now being stored cost effectively allowing organizations to use historical data to predict future trends and stay competitive. As more and more data is generated (which it undoubtedly will), these technologies can scale to manage the variety, velocity and veracity of data, thanks to new computing models like Cloud. The bottom line is, technology has come a long way since the early days of painful and expensive CRM implementations that companies were “stuck with” for decades.  Of course, upgrading your CRM systems is one option. In fact, many CMOs I speak to believe that this is the magic wand to addressing data explosion. But I believe that traditional CRM solutions were not designed to incorporate digital and social interactions. Nor were they engineered with mobile interfaces in mind.

To battle the deluge of Big Data, today’s CMO has to increasingly liaise with the CIO to forge a shared agenda in the area of “front office transformation”.  I distinguish the latter from just marketing automation because this journey is not just about the marketing department becoming more effective. It’s about the C-Suite aligning and putting the customer at the center of the organization, with marketing designing and IT enabling the system of engagement that creates value at every touchpoint.

This notion excites me professionally as a CMO and personally as a consumer. As such, I think it is time to come together for a cause that demands collective thinking and action towards advancing and protecting Data Driven Marketing & Advertising in our country. Under the aegis of the DMAi, a convention will be hosted this June to collectively tackle the challenge that big data presents to us. I am glad to be involved and honored to assume the role of Chairperson for the DMAi 2013 Convention and have pulled in some of the most progressive Indian CMOs to convene an advisory board for the DMAi 2013 Convention.

It’s time to convert the enthusiasm and anxiety around BIG DATA into action. Our western counterparts are well ahead of us in this regard and many are reaping benefits that we will hear about at the convention. The time is NOW for marketers, agencies, and marketing service providers to come together, learn and engage to create data driven marketing and advertising strategies for every brand in India. We may be coming from behind, but in a country that invented the ZERO we can become heroes in our organizations and our industries!

This is an article I wrote for the DMAi Thought Leadership Series that I am sharing with my network.


  1. Thanks Virginia for this well written perspective.

    We marketers have been trying "listen" to the customer/prospect voices via CRM/eCRM/Social CRM, using Unified marketing tools like Marketo and BI from SEO - SEM tools. Now the BIG DATA enables us to motivate and reward the appropriate stakeholders. Thank you for being the evangelist for the cause.

  2. Very noble cause and a structured approach. I congratulate you for this initiative representing the true spirit of IBM of being a forward thinker. A few comments about your endeavor to educate Indian Inc (CMOs and leaders of Indian business) about the advantages and immense benefits of marketing automation system :
    a) The spend which they will incur to introduce a marketing automation platform might not give positive return in the same financial year itself but will make them undergo a consolidation exercise of all their marketing initiatives which will eventually gain transparency and help them measure ROI
    b)A marketing automation platform like IBM Unica will not just launch email campaigns. Indian companies need to graduate from mass email/SMS marketing to organised touch management customer relationship system where marketing communication will be like a service to the customer and not an irritant. Give them an example like what Walgreens does with the help of IBM Unica . They regularly remind patients who are suffering from chronic ailments to refill their prescriptions on time so that they don't miss out on their daily dosage. This campaign is not just a revenue generator for a pharmacy retailer but a campaign which serves customers at the highest possible level

    Please read this post on our blog page for more insights on this