From magic numbers to mistrust, marketers’ view of the data they use to drive their decisions has taken something of a knock. According to recent research from marketing performance platform Adverity, a whopping 34% of CMOs don’t trust the data they rely on – and when it comes to the analysts who work with that data on the daily, that figure rises to 41%. Given the billions ploughed into data by businesses every year, that’s a pretty concerning stat – what on earth is going on? Are marketers chucking good money after bad despite their misgivings or does the research reveal solvable issues? To what extent does that mistrust come from uncertainty around data sources and how much of it comes down to unwieldy, manuel data handling processes?
Laura Swinton catches up with Adverity’s CMO Harriet Durnford-Smith to crunch the numbers.
LBB> What triggered this research project?
Harriet> A classic case of curiosity and dogged desire to build solutions where they’re needed. It really stemmed from what we were seeing and hearing all around us. On the one hand, you’ve got all the major changes looming with the phasing-out of third-party cookies and the rise of anti-privacy strictures, which marketers are still trying to figure out. On the other hand, we found that, upon diving into conversations with the agencies and companies that come to us, what they’re really looking for is confidence in their marketing. We couldn’t help but feel like there was something deeper there, beyond the dashboard.
So, our team worked with Sirkin Research to build out this survey, identifying where the disconnects were in marketers’ relationships to their data and with their data analysts colleagues.
Marketers don’t necessarily see the day-to-day challenges faced by data analysts, while data analysts may not necessarily see how their data is then interpreted. It was important to us as a business to highlight this disconnect and the problems it can cause if not properly addressed.
LBB> What were the most surprising findings?
Harriet> There were a few that stood out, one of the most surprising was that 34% of CMOs don’t trust their marketing data. That’s one-third of brand leaders. Not a small fraction.
There was also the divergent views of marketers and analysts. Two in five marketing data analysts have trust issues around their data due to data inconsistencies or errors, but marketers don’t share these concerns to the same degree. That’s members of the same team expressing starkly different perspectives.
I’d say a stat that was not surprising, but that should certainly cause every brand to stop and take a look at what they’re doing, was around manual data wrangling. It ranked as the biggest challenge. This is a point on which marketers and analysts agreed, with more than 40% of both citing too much time and manual effort in wrangling data for reporting as a significant problem. On the other hand, it is surprising that this continues to be such a widespread challenge, considering the current technologies available to overcome this. In modern marketing the amount of time and resources being truly wasted on manual data wrangling no longer makes sense.
Additionally, we found that personalized content (65%) and audience building (66%) are the top two strategies for marketers and data analysts in 2022. Also interestingly, businesses that consider their campaign reporting to be very strong are 3.5 times more likely to consider themselves very strong in another strategic area and twice as likely to prioritize further investment in 2022.
This tells me that there’s the potential for the competitive gap to widen between brands moving forward, as some continue to lag in their data practice while others are leaps and bounds ahead.
LBB> Where is the mistrust deepest - and are there any sectors or markets that have a more trusting or positive attitude to data?
Harriet> We expected there to be some differences among the regions we surveyed but really the results came back pretty consistent across the board. No matter where the marketers are located, they are all facing the same challenges.
The US and UK shared the same top challenge, which is getting accurate data in an effective way. Germany, on the other hand, said the largest challenge faced is garnering value from that data in marketing efforts. Regardless of where data struggles stem from, one thing is clear - around the world, marketers’ relationship with their data is not as strong as the industry might like to think.
LBB> Where do you think this distrust is coming from? Is it a problem with marketers misusing data and having unrealistic expectations or is it about the sources of data?
Harriet> It’s two-fold - the amount of data from an increasing number of sources that marketing departments contend with.
On top of this data, analysts are still using spreadsheets as a primary tool for building marketing reports. And with the amount of data, this inevitably leads to inaccuracies and inconsistencies bred from human error.
Additionally, with the US identifying that gathering the data is the most challenging piece of the puzzle, it could be that the distrust comes from the collection itself - in a world where new platforms emerge each day, how can marketers ensure data is streamlined and accurately tells the stories of their consumers? Where is the data coming from? Who were the sources? How can brands ensure the data is accurate?
LBB> Whose responsibility is this mistrust? And where do you think the solutions lie?
Harriet> Ultimately, mistrust is a human affliction, hence the disconnect between marketers and analysts. Brands and business leaders need to invest in the tools and resources that can help build clarity and utility around the data and insights, and increase the confidence in the accuracy of the data they are using.
At the end of the day, marketers want a platform that can deliver actionable insights—made evident in one of our survey responses, where marketers identified being able to highlight the next best action or optimisation as a top priority in their use of the data platforms. Essentially, it all comes back to confidence. When marketers are putting their budgets - and credibility - on the line, they want to know they can trust their insights to best inform decisions.
LBB> How do you think marketers can foster a healthier 'relationship' with the data and use it more effectively?
Harriet> Healthier relationships - who hasn’t made that kind of New Year’s resolution at some time in their life? Joking aside, that was actually part of the inspiration behind ‘Marketing State of Play 2022’. Laying it all out there for marketers and empowering them to make the kinds of changes that will better serve them.
One of the best ways to foster a healthy relationship with their data is to get closer to it. I think it’s important for marketers to be realistic about the challenges faced by the data analysts, the restrictions of the internal processes and to better understand how they’re working and what they’re working with, and not layer on expectations that their teams and tools aren’t equipped to deliver on.
Ultimately, as a modern marketer, you need to be challenging your data by making hypotheses and testing them, but you cannot do this without being able to trust the data first.