Do your smart data prac­tices include throw­ing data in the trash? Do you under­stand how to con­vert so-called Big Data into smart, action­able data?

Mar­ket­ing and online adver­tis­ing today is expe­ri­enc­ing a cre­ative and sci­en­tific over­haul, the join­ing of the best of both worlds, the con­ver­gence of data and tech­nol­ogy. In my opin­ion, this move­ment is rein­vent­ing and rein­vig­o­rat­ing lead­ing orga­ni­za­tions’ approaches to how mar­ket­ing is done.

As mar­keters, we’re experts in per­sua­sion, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and strate­gic think­ing. As the dig­i­tal land­scape con­tin­ues to evolve, the best and bright­est mar­keters are adding new tools to their tool kit. They’re adding new words to the tip of their tongues. They’re becom­ing famil­iar with the lan­guage of sci­ence and math (algo­rithms, ana­lyt­ics), rec­og­niz­ing that these new approaches and tools are chang­ing the way they approach their work. This is a good thing.

In today’s blog I’d like to weigh in on the great con­ver­sa­tion that’s occur­ring within mar­ket­ing about the rela­tion­ship of sci­ence and art or data and mar­ket­ing. I’d like to sum­ma­rize three key ways that smart data can strengthen your cur­rent approach to online advertising.

1 | Smart Data Can Cre­ate Bril­liant Advertising

First, let’s talk about the term “Big Data.” If you’re like me, you’re tired of it, but it’s out there. It’s in com­mon use. There’s no turn­ing back, there’s only mov­ing for­ward. In “Advertising’s Big Data Debate,” James Den­ton Clark, man­ag­ing direc­tor of Kar­marama, argues,

Big data is a rub­bish name. It sounds like Big Brother and the infer­ence … is that extreme mea­sure­ment and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion sti­fle cre­ativ­ity. So, let’s call it smart data. As we emerge into a more con­fi­dent econ­omy (from a cul­ture of fear), hav­ing reas­sur­ance in the effec­tive­ness of what they do will give brand own­ers the con­fi­dence to test, learn and inno­vate more. And that’s what we’re all about. So why should data be at the heart of every­thing we do? Because it will unleash the cre­ative indus­try, not hurt it.”

I, like Clark, agree with the gen­eral dis­taste for the term Big Data. I, too, pre­fer the term smart data or action­able data, or sim­ply, action data. I believe that as mar­keters grow increas­ingly com­fort­able and more famil­iar with the tech­no­log­i­cal tools avail­able today, com­ing out of the “cul­ture of fear” (due to both the econ­omy and the rapid devel­op­ment and uti­liza­tion of new tech­nol­ogy), lead­ing orga­ni­za­tions and their fol­low­ers will only suc­ceed in get­ting closer to the cus­tomer and more cre­ative in our mar­ket­ing approaches.

2 | Algo­rithms Can Strengthen Your Per­sua­sive Skills

So, what is an algo­rithm and why should mar­keters care? Most of us can’t explain what algo­rithms are, let alone use them intel­li­gently to guide the daily and grand scheme deci­sions required in cre­ative advertising.

An algo­rithm is “a process or set of rules to be fol­lowed in cal­cu­la­tions or other problem-solving oper­a­tions, espe­cially by a computer.”

Chris­t­ian Mads­b­jerg and Mikkel B. Ras­mussen in Har­vard Busi­ness Review (HBR) bril­liantly state, “An algo­rithm can never truly mas­ter the art of per­sua­sion.” But algo­rithms can make sophis­ti­cated deci­sions about the value of ad place­ments and pre­dict the out­comes of cam­paigns to achieve goals. Just as any­thing else in the uni­verse, algo­rithms can be used as fuel for cre­ative cam­paign man­age­ment. So where do mar­keters go with algo­rithms and incom­ing data as their new 21st cen­tury tools? HBR continues:

Only our fel­low humans will ever really under­stand what we care about. Our care — our deeply felt invest­ment in the world — is always con­text depen­dent. What is the role of Big Data in the future of adver­tis­ing? Data ana­lyt­ics plays a part in inform­ing a suc­cess­ful mar­ket­ing strategy.”

Data must never be sep­a­rated from con­text or con­tex­tual cues. And sim­i­larly, algo­rithms need con­text or guid­ance to deliver a mean­ing­ful out­come. Human minds, imag­i­na­tion, and cre­ativ­ity are still essen­tial skills for mar­keters to employ. Don’t let the math and sci­ence behind the data scare you. If used prop­erly, algo­rithms can strengthen your per­sua­sive skills.

3 | Throw­ing Data in the Trash Can Clar­ify Your Mar­ket­ing Approach

In my house, throw­ing out the trash seems to have stages. First, it goes to the top of the stairs, then down the stairs, and finally out to the can. This is sim­i­lar to how we should be man­ag­ing our incom­ing data. We must get more effi­cient at keep­ing the good and toss­ing the irrelevant.

At the heart of cre­at­ing mean­ing out of your piles and files of data is a process called “dynamic trend­ing” or what you might refer to as “throw­ing data in the trash.” With­out this nec­es­sary step, your mar­ket­ing strate­gies remain messier than they need to be.

Experian’s report, “Har­ness­ing Big Data For Cross-Channel Suc­cess,” explains that this process includes

A never-ending cycle of cap­tur­ing lots of var­ied, rapidly evolv­ing … data then pro­cess­ing it (through a com­bi­na­tion of … ana­lyt­ics and mar­ket­ing instinct and exper­tise) to inter­pret, pre­dict and con­firm (or debunk) new brand mar­ket­ing realities.”

Just as you empty your house trash, you must get rid of data or it will rot, fes­ter, and stink. Emp­ty­ing the “trash” lit­er­ally clears the way for new incom­ing data to be read, inter­preted, and intel­li­gently acted upon.

Dynamic trend­ing occurs rapidly and fre­quently. Clean­ing your data house is a nec­es­sary part of mak­ing your mar­ket­ing strat­egy cleaner, clearer, and more effec­tive. Exper­ian continues:

Under­stand that most of what con­sti­tutes Big Data has an increas­ingly short shelf life; its rel­e­vance to the brand is dri­ven either by rapidly chang­ing cus­tomer behav­ior or the brand’s incor­po­ra­tion of that data into larger engage­ment strate­gies. Either way, much, if not most, of that data can and even­tu­ally should be tossed.”

Don’t hold on to data like fine wine or aged cheese. For the most part, action­able, smart data does not get bet­ter with age—it just gets old. Plan accord­ingly. Appoint some­one within your team who under­stands this fact and is dili­gent in keep­ing the most rel­e­vant and timely data at your fin­ger­tips as you’re plan­ning cam­paigns, mak­ing real-time bids, and per­form­ing the every­day tasks of the 21st cen­tury mar­keter. If you do this, rest assured, your mar­ket­ing approach will only get more bril­liant with time.


Fol­low me on Twit­ter. I’ve been using the hash­tag #action­data to replace that word (Big Data) none of us like any­more. Join the conversation.