Smart bombing and precision targeting in digital marketing


The ever more digital world of modern marketing enables brand custodians to leverage multiple data sources to their competitive advantage. Rob Beevers, Head of Multi-Channel Analytics at Ebiquity UK, argues that successful, next-generation marketers should adopt the precision-bombing techniques that smart data analysis now facilitates, in preference to outdated, carpet-bombing techniques of yesterday.

Brand building today is cloaked in so much impenetrable jargon that many marketers face an emperor’s new clothes dilemma. No one wants to admit that they don’t know their omni-channel from Omniture, their DMP from their data layer. So they find themselves in conversations with consultants they’re paying to advise them on optimization. Trouble is, often neither party truly understands the words they’re using to describe the fundamentally simple task at hand: persuade more people to choose their product over their competitors.

The consequences of this digitally driven confusion are clear. A recent study by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council has shown that senior global marketers are finding it challenging, to say the least, to deliver integrated digital marketing.1 While CMOs have got the message that multi-channel analytics matters, fewer than one in five thinks they’re good or very good in this area. More than a quarter rank themselves as “slowly evolving,” and a fifth admit they’re not doing a good job at all.

The CMO Council study reminded me of a TED Talk by Malcolm Gladwell concerning the Norden Bombsight.2 In his inimitable storyteller’s style, Gladwell recounts the tale of Swiss engineer Carl Norden who emigrated to the USA before the First World War and – in the age before GPS and radar – became obsessed with the difficult physics problem of dropping bombs with pinpoint accuracy. To bomb only the targets you want to destroy, from thousands of feet in the air and from planes travelling hundreds of miles per hour, is hard.

“More than a quarter [of CMOs]rank themselves as ‘slowly evolving,’ and a fifth admit they’re not doing a good job at all.”

Undeterred, Norden created a complex, analog computer packed with levers and ball bearings named the Norden Mark 15 Bombsight. This contraption could drop a bomb into a pickle barrel from 20,000 feet…provided the altitude, speed of the plane and wind, and the target’s coordinates were plugged into the device. The innovation excited the US military, who invested $1.5bn into the Bombsight, a figure only dwarfed by the $3bn invested in the Manhattan Project to develop the atom bomb.

The problem with the Norden Bombsight was akin to the problem modern marketers face with digital marketing. It was developed and tested outside the theater of war. Successful deployment depended on low speeds, low altitudes, and visual contact with the target. These ideal conditions almost never prevailed in the clouds and rain over Western Europe, the skies peppered with anti-aircraft fire. An example of typical performance Gladwell relates covers 22 separate bombing missions on a 757-acre chemical plant. Only 10 percent of the 85,000 bombs dropped fell within the plant’s walls, of which 16 percent failed even to go off!

Many marketers’ approach to digital is like the US military’s approach to improving the accuracy of bombing: They’re trying to solve a problem without realizing what the question is. Brands investing 10, 20, even 50 percent of their marketing budgets in digital content, media, and properties – without stopping to think how the data they generate will be harvested, interrogated, and aligned – are indulging in the equivalent of blind carpet- bombing.

By contrast, those businesses that truly get their heads around their digital data – and don’t simply reallocate budgets from traditional analog to newer digital media – are already thriving, thanks to precision targeting. Starbucks’ recent intelligent investment in technology over digital ads, for instance, has been hailed by CEO Howard Schultz as the reason the coffee chain turned digital payments into a key revenue source,3 for mobile payments now represent 20 percent of all sales in-store in the USA.

Making sense of brand performance across multiple digital channels is critical if marketers are to be empowered to make the right investment decisions. But it takes a very particular approach to perform analysis that can integrate data sets as diverse as email; paid, owned, and earned media; server-side CRM; web analytics; and on-site optimization data. Data sources are often not developed with one another in mind, meaning there can be gaps in a brand’s data story.

The winning approach to multi-channel analytics creates a scalable framework that provides actionable, enriched data sets across all customer touchpoints. Crucially this framework needs to exist within a centrally governed strategy. Individual successes should be explicable and contribute to the whole,
with a framework developed in such a way that it does not try to solve every problem immediately, but rather focuses on delivering incremental improvements.

Put simply, the sole purpose of collecting data is to take action on it, and advertisers need to take those actions in as close to real time as possible, addressing and making very real and very practical business cases. We exist in an age where it is possible to market accurately – to address existing and prospective customers with laser-like, smart-bombing accuracy. But without this rigorous approach, marketers will find themselves resorting to the carpet- bombing tactics of marketing 1.0.





About Author

Head of Multi-Channel Analytics

Robert Beevers is the head of Multi-Channel Analytics at Ebiquity. Having worked in both media agencies and as a consultant, Rob has spent his career working with global and local marketing teams to deliver efficiencies in the customer journey. Specifically focusing on driving digital communication and personalisation plans that integrate within wider organisational objectives.

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