Data overflow: why you should be interrogating your data provider

Marketing speaks with Tyler Greer, head of strategy at Exponential, about why confidence levels in data are declining and how marketers can secure the richest, most actionable data without being buried in it. 

‘What has your data done for you lately?’ asks Tyler Greer, head of strategy at advertising intelligence company Exponential. It’s a role that keeps Greer thinking about how marketers should best approach the advancing technology and growing marketplace that combine to create an often-overwhelming atmosphere and cloud the quality of data.

Marketing speaks with Greer about the implications of the increases in data and data providers, and how marketers can ensure they’re getting and using data in the best ways.

Marketing: What are brands missing in the quest for ‘data’?

Tyler Greer headshotTyler Greer: There’s two things that are really important here.

The first one is that we’re operating in a marketplace that is completely overwhelmed with the amount of data that we’re collecting.

Then, there’s more and more data providers getting into the game and pushing their data over others.

This makes it increasingly difficult for marketers and planners to extract the good stuff from the bad, and to recognise where the gold is versus the garbage.

Understanding what’s good and what’s bad is, of course, pivotal to understanding how good the data is and how useful it is as well.

There’s certain questions that marketing planners need to ask. They need to do some interrogation on those providers to understand where the data came from, how it’s stored, how old it is, what it’s tied to, what it’s origins are, and generally get under the hood of these providers, so they can have a good look at that data.

Only then will they be able to understand its value and whether it’s usable.

M: You mentioned the comparison of people and data, and how one should be able to understand and help the other.

TG: My point was that the world has a lot of two things at the moment: people and data.

What we really want is for one to really be able to help us to understand the other. That is, for people to be able to help us understand data through interpretation, through insight, which in turn should be able to help us understand people in general.

Basically what we’re looking at is a position in which people should be able to help us understand the data, and interpret it to in turn, help us understand people.

Data alone is of little value if it doesn’t have somebody interpreting it, pulling the gold out and building a story around who an audience is.

This is what should be really important to brands, because it’s not just demographic that matters, it’s the sorts of behaviours that can be collected and collated by using good data that will give us insight to understand the behavioural mechanisms and events that are driving people into market in the first place.

When I put data and people together it’s because I don’t think one is as valuable or as powerful without the other in the marketing world.

M: You also talked about the decline in confidence levels of data. What is the biggest reason for this? Is it the amount of data out there, or is it a lack of skill in interpreting that data?

TG: It’s a combination. It’s like any great orthodoxy of the time. When everyone is telling you ‘this is the best thing ever’, you wait for something to happen and invariably it doesn’t deliver. You start to lose confidence in it.

That aside for a moment, there’s some general issues with data that are causing people’s confidence to wain a little bit. That is the voracity of it – where it comes from, how it’s collected – the black box and lack of transparency that often accompanies data.

A lot of it is structural. Analytics teams and data interpretations teams sitting separate to marketing teams, which means they don’t have access to the data, and they can’t use it, and they come a little bit resentful towards that.

The collection of data, the technology we’ve had to collect data has outpaced the human expertise in interpreting it. Whereas there was a handful of data experts over the last couple of decades and that was enough, now there’s this huge pile of data coming in from all these different sources, and there’s not enough people trained enough to interpret and give actionable insight to marketers.

That’s no surprise, that’s like any technology outpacing human activity. It’s now incumbent on the industry to train their people up, to help them to be able to interpret it, which once again, goes back to how good the data is in the first place.

Ben Ice
BY Ben Ice ON 13 January 2017
Ben Ice was MarketingMag editor from August 2017 - February 2020