Go ahead and read it: “The V Monologues” by James Kobielus

Chief Marketing Officers get a bit squeamish when the discussion turns to what’s “down there.”

They know that everybody has one–a squirmy mess of data–and that every mature marketing professional must touch it eventually, sometimes repeatedly, if they want to hook up with customers, pitch some woo, and so forth. But most marketeers see it, all that big data hoo-hah, as a bit of nastiness, a fetid fetish, not appropriate for probing and blabbing about out loud in polite companies.

You are not alone.

But please, rest assured that it’s healthy to speak openly of these big-data facts of the digital marketing life. They may feel strange at first, but all those behavioral propensity models, machine-learning algorithms, Hadoop clusters, and all that other scary big-data plumbing are a natural part of modern marketing’s body of best practices. Not only that, but by coming out you will be liberating your inner potential as a business professional who wishes to engage with customers more deeply and intimately.

You really must share your big-data explorations with all the communities–the marketing, advertising, branding, and other brave souls–who have all been hiding their sheepishness under the proverbial bushel basket.

vWe appreciate the legions of marketing professionals who volunteered to share the very personal stories of their private “Vs.” We respect their wishes to not only remain private, but also to stay entirely fictional. They have been quite gracious in implicitly allowing IBM’s big data evangelist to put concocted and suggestive verbiage in their non-existent mouths for the purpose of stimulating nervous laughter.

This is strong stuff. You may leave the theater of my mind at any time if you can’t take it. But here now, quoted fresh from my id, is an edited subset of marketing big-data V monologues:

  • Volume: “The socials stay in a state of perpetual excitation, and our Hadoop clusters just keep swelling with more and more consumer sentiment. The volume of data has grown so fast and it’s so deep that we could play in there all day, if we don’t restrain ourselves. Besides, all we really want to do is track whether the buying public still finds our brand attractive, but first we have to filter out a cesspool of transient infatuations. Will @andydick attempt a career comeback? Who’s Justin Bieber dating now? How much did Mitt Romney report in short-term capital gains on Schedule D in 2010? And so on and so forth, ad nauseam. I’m ashamed of how much junk intelligence gums up the inside our databases.”
  • Velocity: “The data just comes and comes, and it seems like it will never stop. You think it’s going to build to some sort of plateau where you can take a breath and possibly get a good visualization at how your customers truly feel about you. How are they responding to your latest marketing launch? Are they recommending you to their friends? Are you clicking with them and vice versa? Are they clicking all the way through to that sweet spot in your portal where you’ve featured the latest coolest version of your product (i.e, the one you prepared especially with them in mind)? But they just never hold still, and you can’t really get to the bottom of what moves them. They seem to love one moment, and then they churn away from you the next. This is engagement?”
  • Variety: “No, we’re not promiscuous. We know our customer type. We’ve had the same loyal patrons for years and years, and they know we’re not trying to gather data or sell ourselves too far outside our comfort zone. But we do admit that we’ve gotten into a rut by mining only the structured data in our ancient customer relationship management system. Yes, we have sought out various new sources of unstructured and semi-structured data, especially all that juicy social media sentiment data, as well as the clickstreams from our customer portal, plus survey data that we collect as an organic function in our call center. If we’re going to cohabit with the same customers year after year, at least we want a bit more information on who they are (and possibly a bit of surveillance on what they’re telling their friends about us, just to be on the safe side).”
  • Value: “I’ve heard some of my peers say that this big data stuff is overrated and won’t deliver the big marketing bang you’ve been dying for. Some of them tell me that social media analytics, targeted advertising, multichannel experience optimization, next best offers, and other ballyhooed applications just don’t deliver and will break your heart, if not your budget. I had to find out for myself if the value was there, so I went walking on the wild side last quarter, visiting vendors who offer the latest and greatest big-data-powered marketing suites. Of course, I’m no fool. I don’t believe all their claims. But, I’ve brought one in-house for a no-risk proof of concept. I’ve also been speaking to their customers, and what they say is encouraging. There is definitely value here. I can feel it.”
  • Veracity: “I’m not a religious CMO. I know that, somewhere in that data is a true 360-degree portrait of my customers. And I have faith that–if I abide by the gospel of strict data governance and stay on the straight-and-narrow of big data analytic best practices, and don’t stray too far from the tried-and-true customer data warehouse that we’ve been using for years–the returns on our marketing investments will be heavenly, both here in this quarter and for at least coming fiscal years. But sometimes I just want to throw caution to the wind, try the crazy new stuff–like dynamic personalization, geospatial targeting, and closed-loop social media monitoring and engagement through decision automation, inline behavioral propensity models, and all of that–but taking a risk on all of that feels sinful. And now somebody said I should engage with a nice young data scientist, who I’m told has the sexiest job of the 21st century. I’m confused. Help me.”

We hear you. Thank you for sharing your stories.

We feel that a burden has been lifted.

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