In Data, Never Forget the Human

What does a 'like' or retweet mean for your brand? Nothing much these days, it seems, as they come a dime a dozen. Instead, data has become increasingly important to enable advertisers to better engage their audience, but what remains the missing link? In this piece, Eyeota CEO Kevin Tan issues a reminder for marketers to keep their eye on the ultimate target: humans.

Advancements in digital technologies have been far reaching, generating insights and results that just five years ago would have been unthinkable for marketers. Programmatic, in particular, has led marketers to rip up the rulebook--what used to take weeks of planning now happens in circa 200 milliseconds.

While the scope of programmatic is impressive, what has captured marketer's attention is its ability to put the individual at the epicentre of marketing activity. As technology has pervaded our everyday lives both inside and outside of the work place, marketing has had to grow up. Whereas 10 years ago it was all about grabbing attention, the move to a multi-screen, multi-device, multi-platform world in which consumers--not the advertisers--call the shots has forced a rethink around the value of attention.

With individuals increasingly time-poor, attention has become more fleeting and as a result less valuable to brands. Why? Because it takes no effort to 'like' an update or retweet a post. Such activities are not indicative of an engaged brand advocate.

While initially it was great to see the number of 'likes' or retweets rise, it has become increasingly clear that such behaviour is a poor substitute for true engagement, specifically, the kind that helps advertisers carve out valuable and meaningful relationships with consumers that sustain an upwards sales trajectory.

As such, there has been a notable shift towards humanising marketing campaigns. Audience data has played a key role in enabling this dynamic. Whereas two years ago personalisation was a feature, now it is an expectation. In return for the great swathes of data we entrust into the care of the online brands we interact and transact with, we demand an enhanced experience based on our likes and dislikes.

Data has been the powerhouse behind this move and audience data, in particular, has proven to be vital in bringing both relevancy and context to advertiser communications as consumers move through the purchasing decision-making process.

However, the demand to harness data in order to achieve the holy grail of marketing has led to one important aspect being overlooked--the human at the other end with whom we are trying to engage.

While personalisation is a huge step in the right direction, it should not come at the expense of interpersonal relationships on which human connections are based.

All too often, data is seen as analytical, cold, and robotic, but in actual fact it is none of those things. Used correctly, it equips brands with the ability to showcase the human side of their brand.

Successful digital marketing models of the future will be those that are more in step with human nature. This means listening to how consumers react and engage with a brand. Underpinning this is the need to create, build, and maintain a level of trust.

Trust is at the very heart of human relationships. The people we trust the most often represent the most valuable relationships in our lives. This is a truth that transcends our individual relationships with brands.

And in many ways that is one of the key reasons why programmatic has experienced such impressive traction in a relatively short space of time. It is one of the few ad tech revolutions to put the individual at the centre to allow for the natural ebb and flow of human conversation.

Data informs advertisers how they can best engage with their audience and add real value to that person.

Data is not cold, it is illuminating and most importantly, it is humanising.