I’m going against the grain here, I know. Most of our customers are investing heavily into data analytics and I don’t blame them, it is certainly one good way you can turn data into actionable insight and there is so much of it available now.

But I’m seeing a trend where clients and agencies are going a little overboard in thinking every next business decision can be based on data analytics alone or primarily. This is a flawed approach and let me explain why. Data analytics can reveal a lot about the past, current and future behaviour of consumers, and this intelligence can lead to making better products, services etc. Some go even further and believe that if you can perfect the ‘what the customer wants now’ you do not need to market your brand to consumers anymore just tell them what the product or service is.

What is not being understood is that very soon consumers too will have access to the same data and this will cancel out this approach as it will make consumers even more selective in who (brand) they want to access to their data and who not. This is driven by the ongoing evolution of information technology that started to transfer power away from organisations to consumers. This will gain further momentum not in the least due to GDPR here in Europe, when consumers can actually monetize their data held by organisations. I don't think it is unrealistic to assume that consumer in near future can do their own 'big data' analysis and for example figure out who should be their insurance company, there will of course be new companies to help consumers do just that. 

In my opinion organisations will need to invest much but more and differently into their brand identity to ensure consumers trust and believe the organization’s capability to produce what I as a consumer need and want.

So what should brands do to achieve trust and to be believed?

1.     Be transparent - Brands need to be totally transparent and share openly what they know about their customers and how they are using this information. GDPR will force this in Europe and I’m sure the rest of the world will follow eventually.

2.     It is not yours - Brands need to realise that their brand does not belong to the organisation but to the consumers it chooses to serve. A good example is Nike, who get why they exists, never talk about their products, just about athletes and sport. A bad example is pretty much every technology company (including Apple these days) who simply keep talking to consumers about product features like great cameras, great security, more power, best selfies etc.

3.     Think ahead – The bigger the organization the more likely they are to just look at current issues, running after the facts all the time. Management needs to proactively ensure the organisation is focused on the future customer, not only fixing the present. The space at which consumers are changing their attitudes and behaviour will continue its trend.

4.     No more navel gazing – Every marketer knows that most organisations suffer from bias towards their own culture, products etc. You think you are the consumer for the product or service of your company, but you are not (nor all they all under the age of 24 with money to burn!). Relying heavily on internal data and building vast teams to analyse and create models etc. perpetuates this problem. Data needs humans to interpret and make sense of (no AI, Blockchain or Machine Learning can’t do this for now, ask Facebook for starters) and if you start living in your own data bubble you will get lost fast, chasing your tail and creating your truth not a consumer’s truth

5.     Wire consumer collaboration into the decision making – Yes use data analytics, primary research, social media and what not, but ensure at crucial steps of strategy, innovation and communication, you embed the consumer voice into the process. This does not have to be slowing you down, nor does it need to cost a lot. It just needs a little guts and determination.

Of course all of the above points are best used in combination with data analytics and preferably not as a discipline or depeartment far removed from marketing.