Data - the secret of success is quality not quantity

As part of an ongoing series looking into marketing effectiveness, Marketing ( and Canon are taking an exclusive look at the key trends that are influencing the most successful and effective marketing work.

Even in a sector where buzzwords and jargon abound, big data has become used to the point of cliché as people try to explain the opportunities that marketers and brands can mine in an increasingly digital and connected world. However, the ubiquity of the phrase should not undermine the fact that the most successful businesses are based on knowing exactly what their customers want and providing it. It is data that helps them know what those customers want. From the original success story of the Tesco Clubcard to Amazon’s personalisation tools, data can be both powerful and precise as a marketing tool.

Talk of the power of data, and its use, has increased as the amount of data available for marketers to use has risen.

For years scarcity has been at the heart of the challenge for marketers and brands when they have tried to find the right data about their customers.  Not only has it been traditionally difficult to acquire your own data before the rise and rise of the internet and email marketing, technology has also made it much easier to act on in the last decade. The growth of earned and owned media channels has changed this.

Brands like Readers’ Digest and financial giants like CapitalOne were famed for the power of their databases but an appreciation of the power of data – before 2000- tended to remain with the brands who used direct response tactics and direct mail as the main channel to market.

Since the advent of the web as a marketing and customer contact tool and, in particular, the growth of social media, data has become a primary resource for all marketers, as the CMO of HouseTrip, Zaid Al-Qassab, tells Marketing: "If the key resource of a marketer is consumer data, then we’re swimming in it.  And this plethora of data allows us to analyse behaviour and extract insight with which to build HouseTrip’s product and campaign ideas. "

But the challenge is no longer scarcity of data, it is trying to find the best and most relevant data for your business from the ocean of data out there. For instance, web analyst Netcraft estimates there are more than 861m active websites ( in the world.

Part of the answer, according to Bart Michels, chief executive of Added Value, and an ex-Coca-Cola and Virgin Media marketer, is to ensure you have put the right resources into your team and he recommends ensuring you have one of the new breed of data scientists on board. ( and The right data scientist can produce insight into your customers which can power great campaign ideas.  Michels cites Ray Ban which produced an App for people to show how visionary they are.

So data can drive efficiencies and results for marketers and brands, but it is important to focus on quality not simply quantity, if you want to ensure results, seems to be the concensus.

Anne-Marie Kline, founder of BrandLive, DigitasLBi.

Data prevents waste

The traditional marketing approach has been to push out all your content everywhere, based on a pre-determined budget defined at the beginning of the month. But not all content belongs everywhere on a loop. Test out your content so that you can continuously promote the best performing pieces based on data. Let the data drive your decision making on which content and where.

In addition to data, brands need to have a great editor or producer to stop them from joining in where they don’t belong or have credibility. Focus on the consumer - let the brand take a back seat.

Canon’s tips for Effective Data

1. Data can only have an impact on your business if it can be easily explained. Information is only useful if it is presented in such a way that decision makers can understand, engage and take action. Effective data visualisations can enable businesses to find meaning in otherwise raw and difficult-to-understand figures. In short, with the appropriate interpretation and presentation, data can become your most powerful tool. And most powerful ally.

2. Make the most of data by understanding the detail. ‘Big data’ has become a business mantra and globally recognised brands have sprung up around the relatively simple idea of processing and organising data and information. However, despite this new data-centric approach to business, information still remains a worryingly mishandled resource. It should not be used unless you know exactly where it's from and why it is useful.

3. Too little data is useless, but you can have too much data so don't lose sight of the important infromation and get overwhelmed. Set useful KPIs and don't get distracted by interesting, but unimportant, insights. With the growth of digital channels and the different ways – from Twitter to Facebook – that customers are now happy to tell brands what they want, or, inadvertently, show them, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees when looking for key trends and points to react to.



Michael Gillane – Marketing Strategy & Planning Director for the HEINEKEN UK’s Beer & Cider portfolio.

16 years FMCG marketing experience at local, regional and global level across multiple categories  - including Homecare, Beauty and Fine fragrances including over 11 years at Procter & Gamble and 5 years in Food & Beverages at Premier Foods.  And now HEINEKEN, the UK’s leading cider and beer business.

Describe yourself in 140 characters of less

Reformed Proctoid, Whistle-blower (of the rugby refereeing variety), and Insomniac (child induced) often likened to Willy Wonka when describing what I do over a great beer or cider…

Sum up the most important single piece of data in your role as a marketer

While it may be unfashionable to say so in a marketing world, which is growing increasingly sophisticated in terms of metrics & analytics for me, Market Share remains the beacon data point.

Our challenge, as consumer focussed business builders, is to influence and ultimately shift consumer behaviour in favour of our brands vs competing alternatives inside and outside our category. The ultimate measure of success in this regard is market share, as it aggregates so many other important proximate data points into one measure which tells us whether we are winning or losing in the battle to influence consumer behaviour at the point of purchase.

What is the most important single piece of data that helps you in your job?

As above.

How do you define Big Data?

For me it’s about the marketing potential in the application of serious computing power to the sea of data now available to marketing decision makers.  In some ways Big Data is a misnomer as the concept is less about raw data and more about a process or technology which can help us turn the reams of data out there into information and insight to underscore marketing decision making.

What is the best example of data building your brand or improving your business?

Drinking habits in the UK have been undergoing enormous change over recent years. Mining behavioural data around the underlying drivers of these changes has brought real insight for us around the growth in mixed gender drinking occasions and the category and brand dynamics that result from changes in consumer behaviour when guys and girls drink together more often. On these occasions, behavioural and purchase data illustrates how the number of brands under consideration broaden for both groups, how strong the motivation to trade up into premium beer & cider brands is for the guys who as ever are looking to impress, and how much higher the incidence of cider consumption is as a product category seen as more ‘unisex’.

We use this data and insight to fuel our category vision and portfolio strategy – it’s making a real difference for our business.

What is the biggest challenge you face in using data to boost effectiveness? Ensuring that data fuels insight rather than drown it out, as it can do if not managed carefully.

Ross Webster, MD of The Weather Channel, EMEA

Responsible for all advertising revenue outside the US for The Weather Channel, Webster manages all sales responsibilities for, the mobile site and all mobile applications offered by The Weather Company, including a product line featuring one of the most popular U.S. apps for the iOS and Android platforms.

Webster has more than 20 years experience in media sales, including senior roles at Emap Consumer Media and Bauer Consumer Media, serving as the lead for the men’s market and for digital new business development.

Describe yourself in 140 characters of less

Proud Father, Devoted Husband to Patient Wife, Amateur Meteorologist/historian, iOS User, News Junkie, Eternal Student,  Aspiring MAMIL

Sum up the most important single piece of data in your role

The weather!  The Weather Channel provides millions of people every day with much needed forecasts.  Depended on by the leading airlines, global banks, the military, utility companies, retailers, top media properties and marketers daily, advanced science and data technologies are at our core.  We process around 20 terabytes of data every day, which is the equivalent of 20,000 copies of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Our local advertising division works with leading brand marketers to deliver weather-triggered advertising solutions, using big data to create hyper-local, targeted and contextually relevant messaging for brands.

What is the most important single piece of data that helps you in your job?

The weather!  It affects us all every day, often more than we realise; not only one of the UK’s main conversation topics, weather influences everything from our mood, to clothes, food, how we travel and, as a result, what we consume.  If you have an accurate picture of what’s forecasted for the coming weeks and how it will influence consumption, you have a good head-start when planning for demand and profit.

How do you define Big Data?

To me, Big Data is essentially an extremely large set of data that can be sliced and diced in various ways to show patterns and trends that can ideally be used to deliver actionable insights.

What is the best example of data building your brand or improving your business?

We are particularly proud of our campaign with Pantene: ‘Beautiful Hair Whatever The Weather’.  Pantene got back on consumer’s radar by solving a real problem for the target audience – weather-related bad hair. They reframed existing products as solutions for any weather extreme in the place users check weather the most, The Weather Channel. When users checked their forecast, we served a geo-targeted haircast with the matching Pantene product, and sent audiences shopping at their go-to destination for hair problems, Walgreens. We turned the Pantene business around at this key retailer and gave millions of women beautiful hair, whatever the weather. 

What is the biggest challenge you face in using data to boost effectiveness?

The biggest challenge is educating marketers on the power of weather data.  It’s no surprise that the summer months are key to selling barbecues, but there are important sales peaks outside of the traditional seasons, in the ultra competitive UK retail sector, every day counts.  The immediacy of weather data enables clients to anticipate and exploit complex weather conditions, targeting the consumer at precisely the right moment with relevant messages that elevate campaign effectiveness.


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