Brands Are Unaware Their Data Is Commoditized | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

Brands Are Unaware Their Data Is Commoditized


Data-driven marketing is all about harnessing what we as marketers know about our audiences to deliver unique, tailored campaigns and experiences that resonate beyond mass market messages. However, those campaigns and experiences can only be as unique and tailored as the insights that power them — and for many brands, therein lies a problem.

The simple fact is that the data being used to inform many brands' marketing and advertising isn't nearly as differentiated as they think. What matters most is how a brand and its agency work with the data to unlock unique qualitative insights and dimensions that can be used to develop and execute meaningful and distinctive campaigns and experiences.

If this process happens in a black box on your agency's end, it's time to ask questions. Here's why.

Same Data In, Same Strategies Out

Today's brands and agencies tend to tap the same resources regarding the largest audience data sets. The biggest names in the industry — MRI-Simmons, GWI, Nielsen, etc. — are well-known for a reason. They provide access to huge swaths of audience data that are broadly applicable to brands across any number of verticals. These data sets are pre-defined and pre-baked, whether driven by survey responses or behavioral observations. Taken on their own, they provide basic answers to common questions. The challenge is that they provide the same answer no matter who is asking.

Undifferentiated data leads to uninspired marketing. When brands rely on their agencies to provide the audience data that fuels their campaigns, and those agencies, drawing from the same tools, messaging, and creativity will inevitably start to look and feel similar across a given category. Perhaps even more problematic is that the data coming out of these tools is also woefully incomplete for any given brand's purposes, meaning the resulting campaigns fueled by it might be ineffective and undifferentiated.

Today's agencies understand these challenges, but that doesn't mean their clients do. Currently, a lot of the audience data mining that drives campaign development and execution is happening behind the scenes within agencies. When agencies tap into industry-standard data sets and let the results stand on their own, the results will inevitably prove lackluster.

Brands need to demand more of their agency partners. In a world of commoditized data, it's time to rethink how brands and agencies work together to understand and activate their audiences.

A Different Path to Differentiated Insights

The current challenge within our industry isn't that the core data sets that power it are commoditized. The problem is that some marketers are actioning off that data at face value rather than leveraging it as a starting point for true insights. Most brands aren't aware that's what's happening because their agencies are operating in a black box. Therefore, the change needed in our industry is twofold:

  • Marketers need to ensure the data used to guide their decisions has been modeled and adapted based on unique, brand-specific insights that bring a human element to the results.
  • Brands and agencies should approach audience modeling as a collaborative, dynamic process in which all parties are aware of where the data originated and how it has been customized for the purposes of the brand.

Transforming commoditized data sets into human insights means taking the same data available to other brands and doing something completely different. Often that might mean:

  • fusing together disparate data sets to unlock new audience dimensions
  • applying a new data layer to a standard survey finding
  • uncovering an audience that wouldn't be available "out of the box."

For example, survey data typically won't provide marketers with an understanding of how much time a given audience spends with out-of-home media. That's not something people typically notice and are capable of self-reporting. However, by cleverly leveraging geographic understanding along with elements like commute times and daily activities, marketers can understand which audiences are most likely to be influenced by OOH media and how to invest and message in such channels.

When brands and agencies work together to leverage dynamic data tools, they can transform commoditized data sets into insights that can drive truly differentiated marketing strategies. If your audiences are being built in a black box, it's time to demand more transparency.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Seinn Schlidt is VP of strategy at Anagram.