Tuesday 2¢: Should Data be Your New CMO?

Is easyJet's decision to replace its role of CMO with a CDO (Chief Data Officer) symptomatic of an over embracing of data in marketing departments, or the first move toward a darker marketing future controlled by bots and bereft of creativity?

  1. chevron left iconTuesday 2¢: Should Data be Your New CMO?
Ian TruscottFebruary 27, 2018
  • Digital Marketing
  • Technology

Welcome to the Tuesday 2¢. It’s Tuesday, the weekend is a distant memory and it’s time to let off some steam and give our 2 cents on a hot industry topic. This week Ian Truscott questions easyJet's decision to replace its chief of marketing with a chief of data, and whether this signals a trend towards the data led marketing strategy.

You may have read in the marketing press that the European airline easyJet recently got rid of the role of CMO and decided that marketing would be led by a new role, the CDO (Chief Data Officer). A slightly controversial move that has attracted coverage both for and against. But, is this symptomatic of an over embracing of data in marketing departments, or the first move toward a darker future of a marketing approach controlled by bots and bereft of creativity?

Appointing a CDO instead of a CMO clearly suggests a data led strategy for engaging with consumers. This is no bad thing, I mean, which marketer today can afford not be data led? We at censhare clearly don’t have the audience of easyJet, but I spend a significant amount of time with my team looking at our data.

But marketing within a complex buying process, building the behaviour based personalization programs to be relevant to the various personas we address in our business, let alone in a complex market such as commercial air travel, requires some data skills.

In addition, the buzzwords machine learning and artificial intelligence are being banded around a little too freely in marketing right now, but, there is a truth in the hype. The complexity involved in delivering truly personalized content, leveraging volumes of customer data against the expectations which consumers have concerning the use of that data, and the rise of natural language as a consumer interface, means that marketers will increasingly rely on a little artificial help.

And of course, a glimpse down the artificial intelligence rabbit hole reveals a deep warren of data - for a machine to learn, it needs big data.

Does this mean that the creative interaction between brands and the consumer should be replaced by data driven artificial intelligence?

I have worked with some fantastic data scientists in my time and am fascinated by their work. But is the predominant skill required of future marketers, as the replacement of the title CMO with a CDO suggests? And if the move by easyJet becomes a trend, is this the message we send to the next generation of marketing leaders? That data is king, overruling creativity in favour of the math?

I disagree.

Now I don’t want to sound like Don Draper, staring forlornly at the computer as it drives division in his creative agency (in fact I am not sure I want to quote Mad Men anymore, it’s a little hackneyed) – but it feels a bit like that moment. It’s an image I can’t shift when thinking about this issue.

Artificial intelligence, chat bots, big data, marketing automation are all wonderful tools, but they are just that. Tools. Even a highly transactional business such as easyJet still needs a story, a bit of creative magic, and maybe (dare I say it) a bit of gut feel to drive this machine.

A simple example is the fantastic tool many marketers rely on today, the A/B test. The A/B test requires two ideas to be compared against each other. Two creative ideas. Without them the machine is powerless. These wonderful AI machines which can conjure up a winning email subject line to guarantee that it is opened, are just analyzing the data against the thousand human creatives who came before it.

I am not a huge fan of A/B testing, but I’m not a luddite. I’m in the fortunate position of being in a forward looking business, I am able to make decisions and use the data to ‘fail fast’ if an idea doesn’t work rather than pussy foot around ironing out the risks. In my experience, when used badly, the data can sometimes replace leadership, postpone a creative decision or compromise it. Sometimes you have to just do something and move forward. Take a risk.

Yes, yes, yes, I know some buying decisions are predictable and there, artificial intelligence will provide us with a concierge like service which serves us against our established needs or maybe eases us through the process once we have indicated an inclination to do something, like buy a flight.

But, what rocks us out of those habits? What inspires us to take a flight? Why do we choose between Nike and Adidas? Why is the aspiration of being the Marlboro man so exciting that governments passed legislation to protect us from his allure?

It’s the story. If data is your new CMO, good luck with coming up with that.

Ian Truscott
Ian Truscott has a passion for creating ART (Awareness, Revenue and Trust) for B2B software companies as a marketing leader and is a censhare alumni. Wanting to connect a like minded community and share something useful, he founded Rockstar CMO, a monthly digital publication, and is currently helping B2B companies create ART at appropingo.

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