Q&A with Dimitri Maex
Q. Online advertising online has become the dominant force in the world of advertising, as you explain in the book. Having been on the front lines of this seismic shift, what do you think is the most important data businesses should be looking at in order to get the most return on their online ads?
A. The most important data will tell you exactly what an individual customer wants and needs at a particular moment in time. The most valuable data about these customers will have three attributes. It will be very predictive of a customer’s needs and wants, it will be scarce and it will be recent. The last – recency – is increasingly important. Data ages very quickly in some categories. Knowing that a customer is looking to buy a red dress now is much more valuable than knowing she was looking for one a month ago.
Q. In the book you talk about the Gaus Theory, which says that if you know what people search for, and how that changes over time, this could potentially lead to a barometer of society’s mental state. How has this approach to gleaning consumer insights via search patterns matured over time, and why is it so important now?
A.The best indication of what someone is looking for is their search behavior; customers are actually telling you what they are looking for. Search data is can also give you an idea of what language customers are using, which can give you pointers as to how to talk about your products and services in all media.
Q. In Chapter Six, you mention that, at one time, your clients were very excited that “everything is measurable!” Yet you note that when everything is measurable, companies need to have a way to distinguish what you should measure and what you shouldn’t. How have your clients dealt with this challenge?
A.I still see a lot of companies drowning in numbers. This is because they have not spent enough time planning for measurement. In the book I describe a very simple process we use with clients to help them figure out what they should measure. It starts with a conversation around what the goals are, then we tend to craft measurement plans using those goals as a starting point.
Q. You also discuss how UPS sought to strengthen their brand and provide more services for small and medium businesses and how, by embracing the word ‘logistics,’ you were able to build a new campaign for UPS. What was the best way to measure the success of the campaign?
A. We tend to measure these types of campaigns in various stages. Before the campaign launches, it can be tested in research. Then when the campaign launches, the first results we usually see are how audiences engage on the digital assets of the campaign. But these digital metrics rarely give a complete picture of the campaign’s performance. Ultimately campaigns need to be judged based on the objectives they set out to achieve and they are rarely visits to a landing page or click through rates on a banner. They are usually to drive brand awareness or recognition, to change brand perception and ultimately to sell more products. For UPS we also looked at the impact the logistics campaign had on key brand attributes and we linked it back to sales. We thereby not only understood how customers engaged with the campaign, we also got a good read of whether the campaign drove the outcomes we set out to achieve.
Q. In your final chapter, you say that marketing, research, and advertising are all on their way to being automated. Is this really the future of the industry and if so, what is the most important thing companies need to do to adapt?
A.Not all of marketing, research and advertising will be automated. But a lot of the analytics and number crunching will be. Companies will then be able to differentiate themselves by adopting the insights from the analytics and acting upon them. This should be the main focus area for most companies going forward.
Q. These days, “data mining” and “big data” have gotten a bit of a bad rap, as privacy advocates have become increasingly vocal about what they see as the insidious effects of companies knowing too much about our habits, buying patterns, and personal data. Are the practices you advocate in this book an invasion of privacy? And given that these practices will only become more and more widespread, what steps can concerned consumers take to safeguard their personal information?
A.Today’s privacy debate is a bit of a lightning rod, rightly so. Consumers are very concerned about the data companies are collecting and how that impacts their privacy. However, 99.5% of all practices are not malicious. And where there has been abuse in the past, the industry has very quickly self-regulated. Government is also working on legislation and I strongly believe that in the very near future the appropriate legislation and guidance frameworks will be in place to make people more comfortable with the entire issue. Then the focus will shift from the negative to the positive – from the fear of companies gathering personal information to the opportunity for consumers to get better products and services from these companies based on them having access to my data.
"An easy read, full of relevant examples of number crunching that gets results. "
"Brings the ancient and secret art of data analytics to life for the modern business leader. It is not just for data-heads and statisticians, it is for every leader who wants to learn more about how to responsibly unlock the power of data for their organization. Dimitri Maex makes data sexy."
- Don Tapscott, Best-selling author most recently of Macrowikinomics
"What you do with your data is vastly more important than acquiring still more of it. And the marketing future belongs to just two groups: technicians and magicians. The technicians will ensure that the data’s rich and recent, and the magicians will transmute it into profitable ideas. So the authors of this invaluable book believe; and every responsible marketing company will want to know why. "
-Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP
“These strategies can help everyone bank on greater success and better customer relationships - no matter if you are a global business like UPS, a start up looking to find its market, or a venerable mom and pop shop on the corner. “
- Christine M. Owens, SVP, Communications and Brand Management, UPS
“The age of ‘big data’ is here. Those businesses that are able to derive actionable, predictive insights from huge amounts of data not only gain a competitive advantage but will transform the very culture of their businesses. Maex shows how to leverage data to know which customers to target, how best to engage with them and how to measure what is working. This is a must read for anyone who wishes to understand how others are harnessing the power of data successfully, and how to do the same.”
-Wes Nichols, Co-Founder and CEO, MarketShare