The rise of the ‘big data’-driven CMO

Marketing more than ever is a science. Not only has it had to evolve into that because tough times dictate that Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) need to be able to justify their efforts in monetary terms, but the playing field has become an increasingly large and competitive one. As a result, the reliance on ‘Big Data’ has never been so important to all those involved.

Today’s CMO not only has to consider traditional forms of marketing data, but also has to face up to the exponential growth of non-traditional data sources, as e-commerce grows and social and mobile channels increasingly become the norm for customers. According to Gartner, there are already more than a billion people on Facebook, 5.6 billion mobile devices in use and 14% of all economic activity is now transacted across digital resources.

The omnipresence of social media means brands can now ‘talk’ directly to consumers and, when effective, strike up a dialogue. The opening up of this two-way communication clearly has huge advantages to marketing leaders – customer insights straight from the horse’s mouth, for one – but with those advantages comes the added pressure to ensure budget spends are 100% effective, as well as a mountain of extra data to dissect.

And this is where the evolution of science comes in. The role of the CMO has changed, from being one with creative and ‘woolly’ overtones, to one that is becoming firmly rooted in facts and figures. Research, again by Gartner, claims that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO, driven by Big Data analytics, CRM and target marketing to meet ROI objectives. As one CMO in the airline industry is quoted in Marketing Week: “The success of my role is far more about analytics and technology than it is about hanging out with my ad agency, coming up with great creative campaigns. We must increase campaign ROI.”

Big Data is now an integral part of strategy planning for any CMO worth his salt. Data can help to build strong, lasting customer relationships and, in turn, brand loyalty. It provides rich insights to optimise segmentation and reduce costs by tailoring offers to individuals in place of indiscriminate mass marketing. It provides front-line staff, such as customer services and sales teams, better information about the buying habits of customers, making it easier to engage with them. It means marketing can be less obtrusive in its approach and provide more of the service that consumers actually want. In addition, Big Data makes it easier for businesses to speak with ‘one voice’ by ensuring all channels of communication have the same up-to-date, real-time and contextual information so that a customer can start a dialogue in one channel and finish it in another.

The challenge for CMOs is that most marketing people don’t have technical backgrounds. They either need to adapt, or ensure they collaborate closely with their CIO. Big Data offers rich pickings when mastered well: better ROI on campaigns, reduced marketing costs, improved customer acquisition and retention and real impact on the all important bottom line.

Kieran Kilmartin is Marketing Director EMEA & India at Pitney Bowes Software