At the beginning of March, a few of my colleagues and I attended the ANA’s inaugural Masters of Data and Technology Conference. This conference was started because ANA found that mastering data and technology is one of the top strategic priorities of CMOs, and it’s no wonder. My colleagues and I felt there would be value in sharing our overall impression of the conference, our key takeaways, and what we’d tell someone who asked if they should attend the conference next year (spoiler alert—YES, attend!).
In today’s data and technology landscape, direct response marketing and brand marketing can be taken to the next level in terms of optimization and personalization—resulting in measurable improvements to return on marketing investment (ROMI). However, it’s a somewhat daunting landscape! There is so much data and technology available it’s hard to not be a victim of data paralysis. It’s also hard to not fall victim to the next shiny thing in data driven marketing!
This conference validated that this is the experience of most (if not all) marketers in today’s landscape. Speakers from organizations such as SiriusXM+Pandora, Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s, ChiefMarTech.com, IBM, and Diageo provided perspective on how their organizations are navigating in the current environment. Here are some additional insights our team collected while at the conference:
Hank Andersen, Sales Director National Accounts
I was immediately impressed with the presenters, the number coming from the C-suite, and the obvious amount of thought, time, and effort that went into each presentation. They were a very impressive group of data-driven marketing leaders who all seemed to be quite aware consumer privacy, consumer trust, and personalized engagement are all must-haves. The content was excellent—it may not have been as granular as some may have expected from a Masters of Data and Technology Conference, but it did not disappoint. My key takeaways included:
- It’s important to understand the data landscape is becoming increasingly difficult as consumer expectations are rising. Consumer privacy and consent-based marketing offer a unique marketing opportunity: 80% of consumers want personalized engagements, yet 75% don’t feel companies do enough to protect their privacy. But a closer interaction between data and technology will help the consumer experience both.
- Direct mail remains critical in utilizing data to its full potential. Denise Karkos, new CMO at SiriusXM+Pandora, immediately got my attention when she threw strong support behind direct mail as an important channel in their marketing and ongoing engagements. This statement of validation from Denise reinforced the final session: How to use Neuroscience Secrets to Drive Direct Mail Success. Neuroscience, AI, data, technology, marketing technology (MarTech)… oh my! What a data-giant direct mail has become!
- Every industry—and it was great to see a broad cross-section of industries at the conference, including healthcare, consumer package goods, subscription services, beverages, agency, etc.—can use data sets, AI, and MarTech to create personalized experiences and increased consumer value.
If someone asked if they should attend next year, I would say yes, as long as they understand that there are no working sessions that look under the hood or any secret sauce recipes. Instead, you’ll get great insight into what’s coming soon and a bit further down the road.
Tedd Aurelius, Vice President Sales
I thought the content of the conference was really good given the conference’s topic of data and technology. The ANA could make a few adjustments that would add to the overall experience, but given that it was the first combined ANA/DMA effort, it went really well.
- The biggest takeaway for me was that if your agency is not using its IT department as a revenue generator, you’re missing out. As part of your service offering, turn your IT department into an Enterprise Solutions department to help your clients understand and reconfigure their MarTech stack ecosystem to enable them to define, orchestrate, and communicate offers to customers across websites, mobile, social, direct mail, call centers, and email. This will allow your clients to understand long term value (LTV) and many other business-driving metrics.
- Another takeaway for me was that putting data and analytics tools at the heart of your organization can help elevate accountability in ALL areas of the company. Ironically, it’s what we preach to our clients, as do many other agencies, but we can fail to practice what we preach. For brands, being able to build a solid data and analytics foundation within their organization will help drive performance improvement in their marketing activities, which will offer a competitive advantage.
- The last takeaway I’d like to note is that data needs to be customer focused. By using data, technology, and behavioral sciences, brands can derive insights to allow them to get closer to their consumers, so they can create more enjoyable customer journeys and customer experiences. In doing so, brands and consumers can develop deeper, longer-lasting relationships.
I would absolutely encourage you to attend this conference next year. But to go back to the biggest takeaway for me—bring your IT person (or team)!
Debora Haskel, Vice President Marketing and Corporate Communications
As promised, ANA’s conference approach is very different than the legacy annual DMA conference. Overall, the sessions had great content with few, if any, duds. It seems as if moving away from the track approach used by DMA resulted in fewer sessions, but more engaging speakers and better content. One could even make an analogy to targeted direct mail—mail fewer pieces to more qualified prospects for a better ROMI. Some key take-aways:
- The human element is still critical in data analytics and implementation of artificial intelligence (AI). (Ironically, the first time I heard this concept was during Nate Silver‘s 2013 DMA keynote presentation.)
- Understanding what drives consumer habits and behavior is key to changing them. Like many, I was intrigued by Kirti Singh, Chief Analytics and Insights Office for Procter & Gamble, and his presentation. The title of his presentation says it all, “Data is Human.” He demonstrated what that means by sharing how P&G approaches product innovation by studying the who, what, and how of consumer products. The Cascade Platinum story was nothing short of brilliant. As proof, I came home from Orlando and changed how I use my dishwasher. I was already using the product, but like so many, I ran the dishwasher only when every nook and cranny had something in it. And like my mother, I rinsed the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Now I run it every night. Emptying it is a lot faster, and Singh convinced me I’m being more energy- and water-efficient. One note to readers based on the IWCO Direct team’s experience: Cascade Platinum is no match for peanut butter. Maybe P&G can do another brand blend and introduce Jif-Power Cascade Platinum.
What would I tell someone if they asked me if they should attend next year? In a word, yes. The conference was well-worth the time, well-planned with appropriate breaks, and surprisingly good food. One suggestion for ANA—skip the presentations during meals, especially breakfast. It’s not fair to the presenters to ask them to get and hold the attention of people who are having their first cup of coffee.
Jamie Veltri, Vice President Marketing Strategy
I am an eternal optimist. But I will say I have been disappointed by conferences time and time again. I’ve actually considered “suit casing”—going to meet partners and clients without attending sessions. My eternal optimism finally paid off. This conference was a true brain trust of some of the smartest minds in marketing, advertising, and technology. I actually preferred the fact that there weren’t concurrent sessions—I think it allowed the ANA to select the best presenters. Here are a few of the most impactful lessons and take-aways this conference provided:
- First and foremost, as marketers, we need to remember that data is human. This was a theme across the conference from multiple presenters. In every strategy and tactic, put yourself in the place of the consumer—would you find that strategy or tactic acceptable to be used on you or your loved one? If the answer is no—you shouldn’t do it. Data privacy legislation is needed because not all marketers are responsible, and we need to take an active leadership role in helping our government leaders develop the legislation. As responsible marketers, we should practice customer-centricity; which involves being objective, transparent, and value building trust.
- “Data Driven” needs to be part of an organization’s culture, in their DNA, and embraced across the entire organization. The importance and value of data shouldn’t vary between departments. To be data driven, all departments within an organization need to use data to drive their decisions—and have to value the importance of data.
- At the close of 2019, there were 7,040 marketing and technology solutions available in the United States! This grew exponentially since 2011 when there were “only” 150. No wonder we all feel overwhelmed! How do we navigate in this environment? Focus and balance. Focus on your organization’s goals. Balance between centralization and decentralization, as well as automation and humanization. Keep the focus of your organization’s goals at the center of decisions. Start with the journeys you want to change or impact and FOCUS your efforts and marketing and technology solutions in those areas. It’s also important to remember that the cost to effort ratio is not always worth the business return.
- Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. This applies to everything across the board. Data is human. Marketers need to maintain focus and balance. Remember that the amount of data and information you have access to isn’t what is important—it’s the right data. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should also applies to personalization. Personalization isn’t binary—you shouldn’t personalize anything and everything; it should be used on a sliding scale of what makes sense for the customer and for the organization.
I will be interested in attending the conference next year—and plan to soak up knowledge in all the sessions offered. This will certainly not be a conference I will “suit case.” I encourage CMOs, marketers, and IT teams to attend ready to learn, think, and have your current ways of doing things challenged.
We hope our insights will validate what your organization is experiencing in terms of data and marketing technology—as well as provide some thought starters or directional guiderails as you navigate the ever-changing landscape, which is certainly going to continue to evolve. We will continue to benefit from sharing experiences and takeaway from one another, as well as benefit from resources that the ANA helps facilitate and provide. If your organization is in need of additional direction and would like some help in navigating data driven marketing strategies —IWCO Direct can certainly help. Feel free to contact us here.
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