Agile Education

Agile Marketing & Data

As professors, students and practitioners explore Agile Marketing we inevitably realize that Marketing has a legacy of eroding Consumer and Customer Trust through its actions.

Unfortunately, Modern Marketing is no exception as it fails, in its own way, to create Trust by exploiting Surveillance Technology and Tracking Tools that are often at the source of considerable Privacy concerns.

Towards a responsible use of Data and Analytics to enable and enhance Marketing Agility

The Agile Marketing Education (AME) Team had the opportunity to Discuss the Application and Use of Data in Marketing with Stéphane Hamel – a long time advocate of Digital Analytics! 

Agile Marketing Data & Analytics Interview

AME: Tech Stacks, DMPs fuelled by Programmatic and countless Tracking Tools are continually raising Privacy concerns. Allow us to Quote your recent post, what do Marketing Students need to know about the State of Data and how it is being used Today?

“We thought IP addresses were harmless… it is personal.

We thought browsing was harmless… it has been proven to be personal by Mozilla.

We thought attributes were harmless… 15 anonymous attributes are sufficient to identify you.

We thought geolocation was harmless… 4 points for a year can identify you.

Data is only anonymous because someone hasn’t figured out (or made the effort) to deanonymize it.”

Excerpt from Post by Stéphane Hamel

SH: Several years ago, I was invited to speak about digital analytics to soon to be Marketing Master graduates. Some were politely listening, but many seemed uninterested and distracted, their attention turned to Facebook or something else. At one point, the teacher stopped me and asked why they didn’t see the value of what I was presenting. It was an honest discussion: they were more interested in becoming social media marketing gurus than crunching numbers and learning about statistics…

The reality is you can not be a good marketer if you don’t obsessively measure the success of your initiatives. It doesn’t mean you need to become statisticians or data scientists, just like you don’t need to become a web developer. But you do need to understand the basics.

Marketing has always been about influencing people. But we have to be careful when we exercise this privilege. Marketing, in many ways, has become a game of manipulation and deceit where Big Data, algorithmic automation and social media now has the power to destabilize democracies – as we’ve seen with the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Because of those abuses, there are now regulations setting limits on who, what, when, where, why and how data can be collected and used.

AME: Those are great examples! Indeed regulations were created because of the way Marketing behaved and misused Data. It is all the more surprising that despite the abundance of Data, Marketers still may not always be measuring the right thing (eg. “Last Click”) in the first place? Digital Marketers are tempted to fixate solely on Conversions; what should students, as future marketers, also consider as measures of success? 

SH: It is the eternal debate between brand marketing vs conversion marketing. Between upper funnel long term brand awareness and lower funnel, shorter term conversion. Both are super important, and good marketers understand these concepts. The problem is too often, self-proclaimed marketing “experts” lure people into believing Google Ads or Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/TikTok (insert trend of the moment) are magic. After all, you spend $x and you see impressions, clicks, and hopefully, conversions. It looks like the last channel (in fact, it’s “last non-direct click”) miraculously generated the conversion, while in reality, it is the result of a multi-touch journey.

So, yes, look at “last non-direct click” all you want, but don’t forget the bigger picture. And don’t forget, also, that the whole concept of attribution was presented as the next best thing since sliced bread, the marketer’s Holy Grail… but never really succeeded. Can you precisely collect data about all touch points? All digital and non-digital channels? Tied to a specific person? Most likely not… so attribution will never be perfect.

One of the most important skills of a marketer is “judgement”.

AME: How does Data help in creating better User Experiences? In Agile Marketing we encourage our students to develop a Serve vs Sell mindset. How can Marketers use Data to better Serve the Customer instead of just Selling to them?

SH: Great question. Digital analytics is about observing and understanding user behavior in their natural habitat. Yes, it sounds like a wildlife experiment – and it is. Humans, like animals, follow a (not always) logical path toward their goal. One of my former managers always told us “make it easy to do business with” – remove friction wherever possible, continuously improve rather than seeking the golden nugget that will magically double your sales. In order to optimize you need three things:

  1. context: understand the business, its ecosystem, the problem or opportunity, but also the features and constraints of the technology
  2. data: collect the right data – be it from digital analytics or qualitative data – all means of listening to your customers are good!
  3. creativity: you need to be creative in order to bring solutions that are not only best practice or merely copies of your competition, but really go beyond and above those. 

The beauty is if you have a “serve” mindset, you are already closer to a customer centric approach – in the longer run, you will spend less on marketing and avoid constantly trying to push your stuff down the throats of potential customers.

AME: When reviewing your presentation “The Elasticity of Analytics Ethics” – WaW Copenhagen, August 2020 and introduction of the hashtag #NoConsentNoTracking (it’s a simple yet powerful principle!). Is that the Future of Analytics or the minimum as we enter what Dr Philip Kotler describes as Marketing 5.0: Technology for Humanity?

SH: I’m not sure if it is really Marketing 5.0, but one of the first things I tell my students is to forget about “digital marketing” – it is marketing, plain and simple. There is one brand, one customer, one customer experience across multiple touch points – be it physical or digital. In the early 2000’s, it was trendy to put an “e-” in front of every role: e-marketing, e-commerce, e-whatever… and one day, someone super bright said “hey! wait a minute, it’s marketing and it’s commerce!” Keeping focused on the “digital” in digital marketing puts too much emphasis on the tactics. I see numerous people who have grown into a “digital marketing” because they manage Facebook or Instagram and such, but they often lack the broader understanding of marketing concepts.

The #NoConsentNoTracking idea stems from the fact that, for example, the GDPR and ePrivacy in Europe requires that you ask for consent before using cookies or tracking on an individual level. Thus, all those annoying cookie popups! But did you know that in most cases, even when you say “Reject”, you are still being tracked because, supposedly, it’s anonymous (back to the intro statement!)

Try to explain that to someone on the street: you ask them if they agree to be tracked. They clearly say “No!”, and yet, as a marketer, YOU decide YOU are entitled to track them anyway because it’s your legitimate interest and it’s anonymous… To me, at least, that doesn’t hold water.

In conclusion, marketing is about influencing people, but it is mostly about building trust. Today, brand equity includes things like ecological consciousness, or equality and diversity. Very soon – it has already started – brands which demonstrate they have the utmost respect for their customers’ data will win.

Image Courtesy of Stéphane Hamel #NoConsentNoTracking

AME: Thank you for your valuable contribution to the profession Stéphane!

About Stéphane Hamel
Stéphane Hamel Analytics Expert
Stéphane Hamel is a seasoned independent digital marketing and analytics consultant, innovator, keynote speaker and startup & agency advisor. He is also Digital Marketing Academic Advisor for the Faculty of Business Administration at Laval University.

Cover Image Credit: Photo by on Unsplash