Has context pushed historical insights into marketing data obscurity?

Marketing Tech’s editor has more than a decade of editorial experience spanning computing, performance marketing and, currently, enterprise digital strategy. Simon’s career began in print, where he edited the news section of business computing title PC Plus and contributed to a variety of other special interest titles, including MacFormat and Computer Arts. He then made the transition to digital journalism, joining PerformanceIN where he covered a sector of the marketing industry where advertisers only pay on a performance basis. Most recently, Simon became editor at TechForge Media where he manages the editorial strategy of Marketing Tech and the company portfolio’s newest launch Connected Car.


Historical data has always been one of the most important ingredients for any digital marketing campaign, but in the age of the customer does it still hold the same importance it once did?

Marketing Tech spoke to several firms at the recent TFM&A event in London and it appears that 2015 might not only be the year of the customer, but also the year where company’s move away from the data land-grab strategy of old.

One advocate for this transition is Robin Collyer, marketing and decisioning specialist at software company Pegasystems, who wants to consign the way marketers look for retrospective trends to the noughties.

“I think the key change has been the evolution from data to customer,” he said. “During the 2000s, from 2000-2010, there was a real focus on, ‘got to get data, got to have single customer view, got to get as much as I can, where can I go and acquire data?”

“The only thing you can do with that data is target that customer. You really need to acknowledge that the customer has a context and a desire to be engaged in a certain way.”

Marketing renaissance?

Marketing practices have been subjected to a renaissance in the last four years, though. It is no longer sufficient to simply collect as much data as possible, push it all through a marketing automation platform and hope for the best.

Marketers must now be a lot smarter because of the modern relationships customers can have with brands and Collyer thinks that context is perhaps becoming a more reliable way of reaching consumers.

“To a certain extent, when there was a data focus it could all end up being a bit creepy. It would be all, “We know this, we’ve got this, aren’t we clever?” as opposed to the context of you right now.”

There are, however, some digital marketing technologies that still rely on historical data to ensure campaigns are being pushed out to the right consumer at the right time, for example online retargeting.

Historical data’s importance to retargeting

Display retargeting firm AdRoll’s senior director of marketing Jackie Lamping agreed that there was a time when historical data was perceived to be ‘creepy’, but this was no longer the case as customer have become more comfortable with the technology.

“I think that’s something we heard a few years ago in the states,” she said. “When retargeting first became available and people didn’t really know what it was, there’d be people looking for shoes and then an ad about shoes would be following you around the internet.”

“We’ve actually seen consumers get much more comfortable with it and familiar with it. I think on the other side we have seen marketers get much more sophisticated in how they deploy campaigns.”

Although historical data is still being used in some corners of online advertising, Collyer is convinced that it should not be the only factor for brands if they are wanting to keep existing customers and secure new ones.

“My belief is that it is the real-time context of now that matters, together with all of that [historical] information, but that information is wasted looking in the rear view mirror when I haven’t looked through the windscreen and seen that I am about to hit another car.”

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