The CMO’s next challenge is to stop brands becoming data-driven pests

Data-driven marketing can often just mean very smart spam, a surefire way of undermining value in a brand, writes Mark Cameron. Don’t be that guy.


The marketing industry has completely reinvented itself over the last few years. In fact, it is difficult to think of a discipline that has had to deal with so much change as marketing and advertising. But while many marketers may feel like they are finally getting on top of the technology and data needed to hit their targets, the truth is the marketing space is still being disrupted – driven by changes in consumer behaviour, as it has always been.

Major financial meltdowns and recessions force businesses to evaluate their spend on marketing and branding. As revenue and profitability become squeezed marketers are pressured to improve return on marketing investments. The recent global financial crisis was no exception. The difference this time was the influence of a relatively mature internet and the way consumers chose to use it.

As consumers completely altered their media consumption patterns marketing budgets began to focus increasingly on optimising consumers digital buying journey. This meant big investments in data-driven awareness marketing such as search marketing, driven by Google, and social media ad placements led by Facebook.

More recently, as businesses have become more comfortable with data-driven targeting, major investment have been made into cloud-based CRM database solutions and marketing automation platforms to complement and integrate the awareness efforts. It seems like a natural next step to collect as much data as you can about your customers, find out what makes them tick, use that information to send out highly targeted and personalised marketing messages.

However, many marketers are now realising that this form of data driven marketing can become nothing more than a pathway to delivering very smart spam to existing and potential customers, a surefire way of undermining value in the one thing they are meant to be protecting – the brand.

So CMOs and marketing professionals are refocusing on the customer – who has always held the balance of power. Having data is no longer enough. Marketers need to create a compelling customer experience, one that will integrate all of the digital initiatives around their company’s core brand values. And as they go through this process the focus changes from ‘collect all the customer data we can’ to ‘what data will help our customers experience our brand?’

This is where the next big challenge for many marketers lies. And this is because it’s highly likely that the data that will help customers experience their brand may not exist yet, or if it does it needs viewing with a very different lens. Of course, companies like Nike realised this some time ago which is why they built the Nike Plus platform. Their brand is not about selling shoes. Its about performance. And the Nike Plus platform helps their customers track and improve their performance. The information Nike gets about who is using their products and why is almost a happy byproduct.

Not many brands have the type of marketing budgets that Nike does. But the size of the spend is not really the issue. Much of the technology is now relatively cheap, and continually falling in price. The biggest issue is developing the strategic clarity to know what to do.

So the CMO of today now has to be part data scientist, part creative technologist and part innovation strategist. Because creating and growing a market is now more difficult, and critical, than it has ever been. The stakes are high. But it is for this very reason that many of the CMOs of today will be the CEOs of tomorrow.



Mark Cameron
BY Mark Cameron ON 31 October 2014
Mark Cameron is CEO of customer experience innovation agency Working Three and a world renowned digital strategy commentator with well over 400 published articles.

Specialties: Digital innovation, Digital customer experience strategy, Social media strategy, Digital strategy, Online Marketing strategy.
He blogs at and tweets from @MarkRCameron.