“Like many technical topics in the “big data” realm, marketing analytics is very exciting for insiders, but for most people it probably sounds like just another over-hyped, invasive way to sell a little more mouthwash.”
But for Andrew Frank, research analyst, Gartner, it’s actually one of the most under-hyped topics around.
“Its relative, privacy, certainly gets plenty of attention, but it’s predictive analytics themselves that I believe are right at the fulcrum point of utopian and dystopian visions of the future,” says Frank, who believes marketing analysts are scoring business’ futures.
“Technologies often find themselves in the balance: think of nuclear power, or genetic engineering.
“But while the effects – both good and bad – of most revolutionary technologies are generally tangible, the long-term impacts of predictive marketing analytics on both sides of the balance sheet are poorly understood and ironically unpredictable.”
On the anxiety side, Frank isn’t just talking about revelations that your smart TV might be spying on you.
There are many important issues to debate here, but even under optimistic forecasts of what government, business, and consumers might achieve through collective wisdom and self-restraint Frank thinks it’s safe to assume that exponentially more data will continue to flow into marketing systems.
That’s even if consumers do gain more control over its flow, and consequently, Frank believes marketers will continue to advance the sophistication of their analytic capabilities.
“The oft-cited benefit of this to consumers and society is the end of irrelevant and unwanted marketing,” he adds.
“Critics who claim that more data collection will lead to more invasive marketing often seem to overlook this point.
“When our marketing analytics get good enough to predict when we’re most likely to respond positively to an offer or branded message, and our digital agents get smart enough to filter out the remainder, the economic benefit of blanketing our screens and mailboxes with annoying messages on the basis that even an infinitesimal response rate is worth it will fade away.”
Citing David Ogilvy’s famous observation that “you cannot bore people into buying your product, you can only interest them in buying it”, Frank believes such a theory will finally be heeded and enforced by the marketplace.
Armed with smarter machines and better privacy controls, Frank claims there’s much to be gained, both economically and socially, from using analytics to establish better trust between brands and individuals based on transparency, choice, and good customer experience.
“So, if we can master the privacy challenges, what’s to be lost?” he questions.
Science of scoring…
Consider that marketing analytics is largely the science of scoring, speculates Frank.
There are many kinds of scores – credit scores, lead scores, affinity scores, and so forth, and there are dozens of algorithms behind these scores.