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Leveraging data has in recent years become the ultimate solution for many brands but has it really moved the dial significantly or failed to live up to expectations?

Is it all about segmentation and personalisation? Will the golden child be downgraded as consumers’ reject being stalked? Are we really going to market by numbers only or is data going to free us to be more creative?


What do we actually mean by Data?

  • Data, evidence and insight are not the same things – as the data available to us explodes it’s important to remember that it is a means not an end.
  • And from the point of view of the data analysts, Tom Davenport argues that, in an age of artificial intelligence, smart machines and smart humans could work together. The future of increased productivity and business success isn’t either human or machine. It’s both. The key is augmentation, utilising technology to help humans work better, smarter, and faster.
  • In essence this is what developments in AI such as IBM Watson do – they make things possible, accessible and near-instant on a mass scale that we could previously only dream about (or available only to the select few) in fields as diverse as personal medical care and fashion.
  • Even in the world of AI, things don’t just appear out of data, there has to be intentionality and a human perspective – data and tech experts need to sit with strategy and creative

“This whole space is changing at such a pace. As a client or an agency you have to disrupt yourself or you’re going to get disrupted, you won’t survive”
Tim Warner Pepsico timecode 03.00

The enabling power of data?

  • Much of the distrust many people have relating to data is the belief that it is a barrier to instinct, but used correctly it should be an enabler of instinct as well as taking away a lot of the grunt work that frees the human mind to do what it does best in terms of instinct and creativity.
  • Data unlocks the potential of experimentation and test and learn. It’s one reason that data driven companies are winning – via experimentation they learn more, faster, leaving their legacy competitors struggling to catch up.
  • Data can make you faster and smarter. There are definite wins from doing things differently, making smarter decisions, but it’s not a panacea – you still have to be a brand that consumers care about.

Illustration showing how humans could work with smart machines

How does data affect our view of the customer?

  • In the words of Jane Frost, CEO of the MRS: ’Sometimes all that data can obscure a simple truth – that the customer is everything. And more importantly, they are a person. Not just a lead, an opportunity or a sale, they are a human being. If we don’t take the time to understand them; their motivations, frustrations needs and fears, we can’t hope to understand or influence their behaviour when it comes to our brands and products’.
  • It’s the availability of data that is causing brands and customer experience to become so inter-related, and fueling the growth in customer experience-driven marketing effectiveness.
  • It is only possible to effectively leverage data if people are happy to participate and provide access to it. There has to be a meaningful value exchange (as there is for brands like Google, Amazon and Uber) as well as increasingly transparency and intentionality about how personal data is used. In the end it’s our personal data, not the brand’s, and we will only share it if we value what we get in return.

“I would argue that technology empowers us to be more human, to actually deliver better experiences to people and make brands more meaningful”
Paul Frampton Havas timecode 26.47

What are the implications of putting data at the heart of your business?

  • It’s hard for legacy businesses, they tend to be highly decentralised with still unconnected silos of data. Joining these up to become an end-to-end data driven company is a long journey.
  • The winners through data – and inevitably in the marketplace more broadly – tend to have data in their DNA. They become meaningful to people by providing a great, frictionless experience powered by data. For instance, the Havas Meaningful Brands study found that, despite significant reputational challenges, 76% of people would care if Amazon did not exist, compared to just 28% for Starbucks.

Illustration showing the concept that data has to be at the heart of the organisation

“There are businesses that are driving boom when everyone else is flat – the Amazons, the Googles, the Netflix of this world. What they all have in common is that data is in their DNA. It informs everything they do.”
Paul Frampton Havas timecode 05.34

  • Becoming data driven has profound implications for skills and ways of working. A key challenge is integration versus specialism, and how you bring it all together via multi-disciplinary, right brain/ left brain teams (often referred to as ‘slam teams’, sprints or scrums).
  • Data-driven strategies should not just be about utility, entertainment and utility are equally important – it’s not an either/or.


(Chair) Jonathan Harman Managing Director Royal Mail MarketReach
Paul Frampton CEO Havas Media
Emily Henderson Sears Head of Digital Google Media Lab EMEA Google
Tim Warner VP Insights & Analytics Europe & Sub Saharan Africa and Global Executive Innovation Practice PepsiCo

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