Rise of the Machines: How to Embrace The Data and Marketing Tool Revolution
July 06, 2015
Todd Henderson

Rise of the Machines: How to Embrace The Data and Marketing Tool Revolution

“Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

At times, those of us who chose careers in marketing have a twinge of fear when these prophetic words were uttered in the classic 90’s sci-fi flick, The Terminator. Why? Because we’ve entered an era where several facets of our industry—many of which having thrived for decades—are quickly going the way of the friendly travel agent and photo processor. Marketing today is a constantly evolving field where technology, data, and automation are not only changing the game, but also driving many tactically focused shops out of business.

Over the past decade, we’ve seen the industry radically evolve with adopted platforms such as Google AdWords, social media, AdSense, mobile advertising and responsive development—all of which serving to simultaneously disrupt the status quo and decrease the vagaries of our industry as a whole. But it is the developments of the past 5 years or so that will change our world forever and leave many firms in our space scrambling to stay alive.

Programmatic marketing, predictive analytics, AI web development, econometric modeling and marketing automation have given us unprecedented insights into the minds and habits of our target audiences as well as an ability to track and engage our audience like never before. In many ways, this movement has marginalized several aspects of our industry and created a commoditization of many service lines. While some see these technological advancements as direct threats to their existence, there are an equal number of us that see this as an opportunity to embrace this movement and take a direct hand in piloting these new machines.

While these tools are efficient and valuable, they essentially automate repetitive tasks, often times blending them with useful data to streamline the tactical processes we’ve been manually grinding away on for years. They are intelligent and useful machines indeed. But make no mistake about it, they alone are not the answer. This will be the true value of agency partners in the future— to harness the power of these tools within the context of telling compelling stories—smart and creative stories that move brands forward in an emotionally resonating way. By automating these repetitive tasks, it ultimately frees us up to spend our time in more valuable ways.

But this revolution comes with a catch. It calls for marketers to be smarter than ever. We can no longer hide behind clever headlines or eye catching visuals to define our value—we must live up to the promise of being true business partners with our clients and not only drive their brands forward, but we need to take ownership of driving their business forward as well. This can be accomplished a few key ways:

  1. Ensure brands are properly aligned – Focus on aligning the authentic voice of your organization with the intimate needs and habits of your target audience—taking into consideration the influence and mindshare your competitors own in the marketplace.
  2. Hone your storytelling skills – Look beyond the standard features and functions and tell your audience a story they can relate to. One that inspires them, educates them, informs them and most importantly resonates with them.
  3. Master the new tools of the trade – While often times intimidating, understanding the value of these new tools, and investing in them, will ultimately separate you from the pack. Pick one emerging technology each year and dedicate time to mastering it.
  4.  Be disruptive – Take risks in both your message and your strategy. Look for the untapped opportunities in both the message you share as well as the vehicle it arrives in. Don’t rely on pre-fabricated or historic plans to dictate the strategies of the future. Be bold!
  5. Embrace metrics – Don’t ignore data and don’t blindly follow it. Know how to balance optimization efforts with the unique voice of your brand. Both are equally important and should be treated so.

While the future is certainly uncertain, those of us who see these tools as a way to more efficiently tell our stories to the world are quite optimistic. By eliminating the cost and time of building and rebuilding the nearly identical vehicles time and time and time again, we can devote those valuable resources to be more strategic, more creative and more disruptive. So, in many ways, it brings us back to being world-class storytellers, brilliant artists and strategic marketers…only this time around, we have much more powerful machines in our arsenal.