Inventions, Ideas, and Innovations
On my commute to work, I like to listen to podcasts; one of my favorites is the excellent ‘50 Things That Made the Modern Economy‘ series on the BBC World Service. The podcast highlights the inventions, ideas, and innovations which have helped create the economic world; such as the barcode, barbed wire, intellectual property, and market research.
This got me thinking. What are the inventions, ideas, and innovations, that have made modern campaign management and marketing as we know it today? There are five things I believe have had the most influence shaping our industry, and they each have something in common.
1. The Computer Database
Some may argue that there wasn’t any personalized marketing until the computer database arrived, which of course is not true. Marketing was either literally personal, one-to-one between the shopkeeper and his or her customer, or mass market, utilizing traditional one-to-many marketing and advertising tactics. What the database has allowed is for the marketer to process, store, and analyze varieties and volumes of granular-level data on a scale and in ways that would be unimaginable in the recent past; and this trend will only continue.
Database marketing allows marketers to capture and analyze information about prospects and customers. They can then overlay their real-time behaviors in to identify, segment, and trigger communications. The database also enables marketers to capture and attribute the responses to those campaigns to close the marketing loop. Let’s face it, I could go on. The bottom line is, without the database, there would be little organized data; thus, no personalized marketing beyond the scale of the individual shopkeeper or a small, manually maintained list.
2. Addressable Data
I was taught that, “Data is 80% of the value any solution.” If that holds true, then I’d suggest that addressable data is 80% of the value of that data. Addressable data is the key to personalization; without it, irrespective of channel, marketing would still be done with the “spray and pray” or “batch and blast” methods. Addressable data doesn’t just mean an email address or postal address, it also means anonymous cookies, IP addresses, device IDs… you name it, these days, it’s more than likely going to be addressable. This is because the ability to identify, understand, segment, and communicate to known customers or nurture anonymous visitors is the core to campaign management. Without the ever-expanding range of addressable data available to marketers, campaign management and marketing would be a horribly crude practice.
3. The Smartphone
Mobile is not a channel—it’s a device. The smartphone isn’t just a smart phone, but the ultimate personal computer; not to mention, most people have with them at all times. Go back a decade or so and let marketers imagine that they could have continual access to consumers via a device that supports multiple channels—phone, app, SMS, email, and web—and you’d see stars in their eyes. Then tell them that consumers also use this device to ask questions or pay for goods. They also they happily (or perhaps unwittingly) consent to be tracked. Some modern marketers may take it for granted how powerful this access can be; but, overwhelmingly, the potential of the smartphone for marketers is now being realized, with over half of all email opens now on a mobile device.
For me, rather than any specific channel, the one thing that has shaped marketing communications more than anything else in the last few years is the smartphone. Finally, remember that it is still a phone… so many people seem to have forgotten this channel exists and how valuable it can be.
4. Data Protection
Although most consumers started to become aware of data protection with the peak of email spam a decade ago, it has a much longer history. The first recorded instance of spam is from 1864, when a group of British politicians received an unsolicited telegram advertising a dentistry shop. Clearly, there has always been a need for data protection regulation in marketing. The benefits of building integrity and trust outweigh the overhead of implementing best practice.
As with most regulation, there’s an element of catch-up with the times, and never more so than today. However, GDPR and equivalents provide marketers not only with a legal framework, but also guidelines to best execute marketing campaigns. As they continue to add value and maintain trust with the consumer, campaign management becomes more personalized and easy to execute.
5. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Statistics began to play an essential role in marketing during the ‘70s and ‘80s. Modeling and data-driven decisions have been the fundamentals of marketing ever since. Those fundamentals haven’t changed. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are the next iteration of these core marketing practices, not a magic solution. One of the most important changes that AI and ML have influenced is that “real-time” is no longer its own separate advantage, but a centrally integrated tenant of marketing. Thanks to new technology, campaign management has become more intelligent and efficient; it’s truly omnichannel and operates at the speed of customer behavior.
The Common Thread
Have you guessed it by now? Data has always been the backbone of marketing. Through these five inventions, ideas, and innovations, it’s clear that understanding customers and using that information to improve messaging has always been—and will always be—a top priority for marketers. From the oldest forms of marketing in antiquity (yes, even all the way back then) to the most advanced artificial intelligence today, every major shift in campaign management has moved the focus away from channels and toward the customer. Now, what will follow AI and machine learning?
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