Maybe Marketing Data is Like College Sex

We’ve all heard the joke about big data’s resembling teenage sex: “Everyone thinks everyone else is doing it.  Almost nobody is actually doing it.  And those who are doing it aren’t doing it well.”

A recent conversation I had suggested that we marketing folks maybe have started doing it (big data) like college kids.


Spring Break is really just like a giant, tequila-driven database

At a school drop-off last week, I spoke with a dad who works with an entirely different sort of big data, health care analytics.  He focuses on making sense of all the data generated by health care providers that might underpin advancements in areas such as pharmaceutical research, insurance costs and day-to-day care of patients.  Needless to say, the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) with its attendant data collection standards has created ever-larger pools of data.

This dad, a developer, told me one of the big question marks he deals with is the value of the data.  Every company with data claims to have “valuable” data, but they cannot, in the accounting sense of the word, value it.  In other words, they have data assets, but data assets don’t show up on balance sheets.  This situation sounds an awful lot like kids in a locker-festooned hallway jabbing each other in the ribs saying “I heard Betty merged and purged with Archie last week behind the cafeteria.”

And this situation casts marketing data into sharp relief.  We actually can value our data with a high degree of precision.  We know or can quickly determine how much data add to addressable marketing efforts.  We can say that personalization increases ROI by X% for email or that segmentation drives up the response for programmatic buys by Y%.

From those lifts, we can give a dollars-and-cents value to the data elements that work.  We can get back-of-the-envelope numbers by projecting out the lift across the typical number of campaigns over a given period.  For that matter, we can also determine which data points have no value and stop worrying about, collecting or analyzing them.  Pruning valueless data allows us to concentrate on the data that matter more.

Do you know the value of your marketing data?  If not, get out your slide rule and get cracking.  Need help figuring out how to do it?  Well, I know a guy.

OK, it’s not hanging a sock on the door and illuminating your dorm room with candles for a “special evening,” but it sure beats high school.

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