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Marketing Analytics Malpractice

A Snarketing post by Ron Shevlin, Director of Research at Cornerstone Advisors

Marketing Charts reports on a study from Duke University regarding marketers’ use of marketing analytics:

“According to the latest CMO Survey from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the percentage of projects that use marketing analytics has dropped to 29% from 35% at this time last year, while two-thirds of CMOs now say their companies don’t formally evaluate the quality of marketing analytics, up from 53.2% last year.”

Other findings from the study show that:

  • CMOs’ rating of marketing analytics’ contribution to overall marketing results (1-7 scale where 1 = Not at all and 7 = Very highly) dropped from an average of 3.9 in August 2012 to 3.5 in August 2013 (64% rated it 4 or less). Financial services CMOs rated marketing analytics contribution an average of 3.5, significantly lower than Communication/Media CMOs’ rating of 4.9, Transportation CMOs’ rating of 4.6, and CPG CMOs’ rating of 4.4.
  • Just 15% of CMOs said they’ve quantitatively demonstrated the impact of social media on their business, yet, on average, they expect social media spending to increase from 6.6% of the marketing spend to 15.8% in the next five years. And when asked how well integrated social media is with overall marketing strategy ((on 1-7 scale where 1=not integrated and 7=very integrated), 56% rated it 4 or less.
  • Two-thirds of CMOs say they’re under pressure from the CEO or Board to show the impact of marketing (and 60% say that pressure is increasing). This shouldn’t be surprising, since only 36% said that their company can show the short-term impact of marketing spend on their business and 32% said they can show the long-term impact.

My take: This all adds up to marketing (analytics) malpractice.


Overall, these findings are very consistent with the research I’ve done (in conjunction with The Financial Brand) specific to the world of financial services. They point to some very significant issues regarding marketing management in banking:

Branding is winning the marketing civil war. I’ve long held the belief that there is a civil war going on in marketing between branding-oriented marketers and quantitatively-oriented marketers. The branding-oriented marketers (who, in moments of weakness, I affectionately refer to as “brand bozos”) focus on advertising campaigns to generate marketing results. The quantitatively-oriented marketers, often referred to as database marketers (but feel free to call them geeks or nerds) like to develop quantitative models and run marketing campaigns. With the percentage of projects incorporating analytics on the decline, and the percentage of companies formally evaluating the quality of their analytics on the rise, I can only conclude that quantitatively-oriented marketers are [still] losing the war.

Too many CMOs just don’t understand analytics. One of the reasons that branding is continuing to win the war is that many CMOs come from the branding (vs. quantitative) side of the marketing house. So naturally, their efforts and priorities will be focused on the branding efforts. But that’s not an excuse to completely ignore the analytics side. But that must be what they’re doing. How else can you explain why so many CMOs can’t demonstrate the value of marketing or  the impact of social media in the face of increasing pressure from the CEO and Board to do so?

Big Data is stillborn. If I had a nickel for every article I’ve seen proclaiming the transformative impact of Big Data on…well, everything…I wouldn’t freaking be here! The results of the Duke study show me that way too few businesses are capable to do anything with Big Data (even if Big Data were actually something other than a buzzword). The value of Big Data isn’t in the data — it’s in ability to do something with it. If the results of the Duke study suggest to you that there are a lot of marketers improving their ability to do something with it, please show me the data you think suggests that. Less than 50% (41% to be more exact) said that they use customer data for targeting purposes. What the hell good is throwing more data — and more types of data — at them going to do if they’re not even using the customer data they have?


Bottom line: There’s a helluva lot of marketing analytics malpractice going on out there. The reality of marketing analytics capabilities is nowhere near the hype and promise being put forth by the Big Data gurus.

Ron ShevlinRon Shevlin is Director of Research at Cornerstone Advisors. Get a copy of his best-selling book, Smarter Bank: Why Money Management is More Important Than Money Movement. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter at @rshevlin.

All content © 2017 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.

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  1. Great post Ron. I think you’re right, there is a ridiculous “war” going on and there shouldn’t be. Both skill sets have something to bring to the table and can learn from each other. Having been on both sides of the war, I’m in the “can’t we all just get along” camp now. One side can’t win. It takes both.

  2. Hasn’t it always been the way though that banks have employed the smartest analysts who create the deepest insights but the ability to translate that into something that customer facing staff can actually use has so often failed – its the final mile that has always been the issue.

  3. As a marketing professional trained in quantitative techniques during my Engineering and MBA degrees, I regularly get shocked by the amount of pseudo-analytics floating around in financial services. To take a recent example, the UK Payments Council puts out the expected volumes of various modes of payments by 2022. Using these figures, even a high school math student would be able to calculate that CASH would have 38% and MOBILE, 4%, of the market. However, in utter ignorance of these percentages and using whatever pseudo-analytics it does, UKPC concludes that by 2022, cash will be out and mobile will be in.

  4. There’s a song that goes… It’s not what you do it’s the way that you do it… and that’s what gets results

    It’s the data you have, it’s what you do with it and the conclusions you draw.

    Use data to reach a conclusion / problem statement. Make recommendations for action, and use data to measure the success of that action. Rinse and repeat.


    Go into 2014 financial planning with your targets from the CEO, and attribute revenue returns from all of the projects you wanted to do anyway, with no science behind it… Then get really caught in the mud over insignificant details, like the wording of T+Cs, headcount freezes and god knows what else.

    Word from the front line. The generals and their lieutenants are lost Jim, no signs of life…

  5. Absolutely right, Ron! Data (Big or otherwise) is useless if you don’t know how to use it!!

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