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Brain trust: how would you do data differently?

Technology & Data

Brain trust: how would you do data differently?


Top local marketers answer the question: ‘If you had to reboot your company’s data and tech journey from scratch, what would you do differently?’

This article originally appeared in The Madtech BriefMarketing‘s second print edition for 2019.


Simon Davenport: general marketing manager, NBL

The $64,000 question! I would start with customer strategy rather than executional tactics, to determine what technology is actually required to make customers’ lives easier. You can’t ever know what the customer really wants unless you conduct research and ask them directly, so I would start here.

The next stop would be stakeholder engagement across the C-Suite to align strategic objectives across the business that require some level of data and technology. From here, you can build synergies in the data required across the business, and also find where individual objectives can be supported collectively, potentially through the use of technology platforms.

From here a customer strategy can be devised, outlining what customers want from the brand and what the brand feels it can then deliver (also what it cannot deliver), to then determine what enablers are required to bring this vision to life for the customer. No technology can be decided on before this work has been done.

Once the strategy is agreed upon across the business and everyone is clear on what needs to be achieved, scoping out technology partners and data options can commence, pending your budget requirements and the level of sophistication needed. If you’re looking to give your customers automated personalised experiences, you may find you need a full tech stack that will support your customer needs. This will allow you to house your data, analyse your customers habits, manage your audience over time, build campaigns (in real time if necessary) and then target your segments and customer groups with the right message at the right time.

This is my perfect step-by-step approach, but as we all know we don’t live in a perfect world, and sometimes some serious influencing is required to bring a complex change like this to life inside an organisation.


Michelle Grigg: marketing manager, acquisition, Powershop

Technology is always built to solve a current need or solution, so if we were looking retrospectively, it’d be great to reboot the data and tech journey from scratch and completely future proof it for all changes we know have happened over the previous years. It’s great to dream, but given that it’s not an option, we instead focus on making small changes every day to ensure we’re keeping ahead of trends and continuously meeting the needs of our customers – and a customer base that’s ever-changing.

One small, but impactful change would be to amend our sign-up form. An industry requirement means that we must have a field that captures salutation, but this is limited to Mr, Mrs, Miss and Ms. At Powershop, we are as diverse as our customers and believe society doesn’t and shouldn’t fit into these stagnant salutations. At a minimum, we would like to see this changed to include more options that cover the gender diversity of our customer base, if not having the section removed all together.

This is a small change, but one that can make a big difference to our customers’ lives and their experience with us – one that validates and respects their whole self. The dream is that this one change would be a catalyst across the whole industry, removing salutation as a requirement to get power turned on at home. Our culture is shifting quickly to be more diverse and inclusive and all tech needs to be able to keep up with this evolution.


Alex Light: head of brand partnerships, Vice and Virtue Australia

Vice was founded in 1994 as a punk magazine in Montréal. Today, Vice is one the most impactful and innovative youth brands worldwide, operating multiple business streams and channels across digital, mobile, television, film and branded content. Our business is all about our audience: about enhancing young people’s lives in a positive way. It requires a deep understanding of what they think, their attitudes, behaviours, and what matters to them.

When we began in 1994; we did this through our gut. We hired smart, young people who were plugged into youth culture. We wrote about things that mattered to them, and we found stories that they watched, shared and talked about with their friends. Our data was simply our own cultural radar, and that of the people we brought into our business.

Today, we also employ a wide range of technology, multi-source business analytics and our own audience data to better understand our audience, as well as categories, trends, cultural moments, content consumption patterns, emerging platforms and more. We invest in reporting and insights. Global qualitative youth surveys help understand their attitudes. Technology platforms get real-time insights. This is all used to optimise our content production, our media platforms, and how we help brands connect with them. And it informs our business decisions. If this technology had existed in 1994, we would have rolled it into our products and brand from the outset, to have this data in real-time.

However, we wouldn’t throw away the gut either. Data is only good at telling us what our audience thinks now – it is not a predictor of the future, and humans are unpredictable. It’s the balance of culture and creativity; combined with data and technology, that makes today’s Vice brand so much more potent.


Lucio Ribeiro: marketing strategist, educator and agency founder

Owning my ad agency for the last 10 years, I can undoubtedly say there are many things I would have done differently. Ultimately it’s about the balance of business strategy, human intelligence and spiritual enablement. Here it goes, my top five:

  1. I would have started a management succession earlier. I would have given time and space for me and my management team to commit more mistakes and have had more successes together.
  2. Listened more – a great lesson from my mentor Oscar Trimboli, the art of listening, paying attention without cockiness or sense of superiority. 90% of talking is listening. We try to develop impressive oratory skills to become a gifted conversationalist but forget about learning to listen. When you are with a colleague, manager, prospect, client… pay attention. Understand. Remember. Ask questions. Build off what they like to talk about. No matter how many people share a room with you, whomever you’re talking to should feel like the only person in it. In Trimboli’s own words: “learn how to listen to what’s not said and choose the power of silence rather than the seductive temptation to speak.”
  3. I would have said to myself that nobody is perfect and that I didn’t have to torture myself with what I could have done better. I would have learned quickly, turned the learning into a lesson, adopted new behaviour and kept moving, rather than dwelling over the mistakes. As I now say publicly on my talk about resilience, rejection is rarely personal. Losing a pitch, a job, a project is not the end of the world.
  4. I would have reminded my staff the responsibilities sit right next to the so-much-loved rewards.
  5. I wish I had known that I was 100% in control of my actions. Reaction is a great source of suffering. Unfortunately, I lost contact with colleagues and lost deals for my impatience and blindsided binary view of the world.



Image credit Livio Monti © 123rf


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