Data needs to channel its inner Kylie

Reviewing the most successful businesses, it is those that are best at adaption and reapplication that sustain over time. Entertainers appear to have mastered the art of reinvention better than most. Then it struck me how similar the data industry is to Kylie Minogue!

Starting out in the late 80s, the slightly geeky, un-styled teenage version of “data” offered lists that many marketers didn’t understand or felt were slightly unacceptable compared to the glamour and high budgets of TV. Despite this, the number of direct marketing items mailed consistently doubled from 1983 to 1989.

Meanwhile, the slightly geeky un-styled teenage version of Kylie appeared as Charlene wielding her spanner in Ramsey Street. In less than two years, over 20 million Brits watched “that” episode. Not that most of us would admit to it.

In the 90s, the data industry started to gain momentum – generating more campaigns, stealing marketing budget from other channels and becoming a serious marketing contender. And Kylie started to pump out hit after hit!

Data, through associations with huge brands and award-winning campaigns, started to experiment with strategy and different ways of measuring success. ROI and test cells, statistical significance and cost per sale became mainstream. Kylie collaborated, dueted, experimented with different genres of music to see where her skills fitted and added the most commerciality to her brand.

Millennium saw a breakthrough for Kylie, spinning around in her gold hotpants.

“One-to-one” stepped into the mainstream via CRM, database and direct marketing and data had a spot in the limelight, too. Businesses had begun to think of data as a corporate asset and to realise the benefits of increasingly customer-focused marketing.

In the 10 years since, like Kylie, the data industry has faced many challenges. Like her, we are now older (and wiser) and at the brink of a powerful, mature, and energising reinvention. The digital environment can finally provide real-time customer engagement, so adapting businesses require consistent reapplication of what they learn to the planning of multiple customer audiences, the analysis and interpretation of massive volumes of multi-source data and the intelligent joined up measurement of all its marketing activity.

It’s time for us data geeks to reapply what we know, to find our inner Kylie and get out centre stage. Release date July 2010!

Julie Screech, data strategist

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