Don Draper Doesn’t Do Data, But He Should

Hey, chief marketing officer, you’re underqualified! Get a math degree.

Don’t hear that very often, do you? With technology and data transforming the marketing field at lightning speed, there is a need for a smarter, better-rounded, business-minded CMO.

Don Draper doesn't do data

Don Draper (Jon Hamm). Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC.

During the post-war era of the Don Draper model marketer (made famous recently by the TV show Mad Men), you could make it as a CMO as long as you had a great idea. Sometimes it didn’t even need to be great, and sometimes all you needed was one good idea.

The Don Drapers of the marketing world weren’t troubled with data analysis, and they certainly were not bogged down with spreadsheets. Nope. In those days, it was all about coming up with the one idea that made your stone-faced client crack a smile. It was about that witty jingle that lingered in the minds of the customer.  Remember Bumble Bee Tuna, Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum or Oscar Mayer? Or how about that one line that gets embedded in popular culture: Got Milk? Where’s the Beef? Just Do It!

Back then, linking marketing efforts to financial results and top-line revenue only clouded the mind and made for a heavy hangover (figuratively and often literally).

Those were the days of creativity, not accountability. And for good reason. How did you know how many people really tuned in to the Jack Benny Show where your ad was being shown? How many people really read your billboard as they drove by?

Back then, you had no clue.  You trusted your gut, and you hoped for the best.

But, thanks to the Internet age, we can say goodbye to the days of whisky lunches and gut decisions, and welcome a new era of big data and financial impacts. With the dawning of digital marketing and the creation of marketing automation tools, we’re getting access to more and more data.

“These days, you need a lot of analytics to understand that data you’re collecting,” says Maryam Banikarim, CMO at Gannet Co., the publisher of USA Today. “Understanding the analytics and how your customers are behaving is core to today’s marketing.”

This data holds a wealth of information that allows us to actually get feedback from our marketing efforts and improve our marketing campaigns with remarkable precision.

Oh, but here is the rub.

We, CMOs, were never taught how to do the data analysis. We took marketing and psychology classes in business school, while hiding from the finance classes. The most we took was a statistics class, but that’s because we were required to.

Welcome to the new age of the CMO. To survive, let alone remain relevant in this new era of marketing, you need an analytics skill set. Without it, you don’t stand a chance.

Today, some of the world’s leading CMOs come from a background of mathematics, accounting or computer science. In this age, an analytical perspective can do wonders.

Four ways to get analytical:

Take an online class. For instance, my alma mater, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, offers free online classes across a variety of business disciplines on the Coursera platform. Peter Fader, one of the leading marketing minds of this generation (and Wharton’s Frances and Pei-Yuan Chia Professor), offers an online marketing analytics course. Take a look at your local university and see if there are courses being offered in this manner.

Get an MBA. If you don’t already have your MBA, this might be a good time to get one. A lot of universities have an executive MBA program if you are too busy. It may take longer but it is well worth it. Earning a graduate degree offers the opportunity to really round out not just your marketing knowledge but your overall business knowledge. To really get more bang for your buck, why not take on a concentration in finance if you’re already a marketing expert or take electives that address your week spots?

Get someone to teach you. If you work for a successful company, chances are it has a finance, information technology or an engineering department with plenty of people who get the numbers. My advice to you is to befriend them. Take them to lunch. Buy them a drink. Find a way to get them to teach you a thing or two about their side of the business. In most cases, they usually are more than happy to do so because, in the end, it helps them as well.

Hire someone. Yes, I said it. And now it’s out there in the marketing universe and there’s no taking it back. I know it seems like the lazy man’s way to solve this problem, but sometimes it really is the most effective. The first thing I try to do in a new job is hire a financial analyst—an analytical person whose job it is to find the answers I need.  So, when I ask for the ROI on a marketing event, that person just simply tells me.

“I’m not an analytics expert so I rely on my analytics team,” says Banikarim. “There is no way you can be an expert on everything, so you have to not be afraid and know how to ask questions.”

Whether or not you learn it yourself or go the lazy man’s route, there is hope for you yet as the underlying principle of marketing is the same.

“The better you understand your consumer; the better you can serve them,” says Banikarim.

But one thing is for certain. Ignoring the data is like taking a long walk off a short pier. It’s not recommended.

 

 

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