Is data-driven marketing going to redeem the world?


If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.

Lord Kelvin

This quite epitomizes today marketers’ data obsession. Many of them already forgot that data could be a good servant but a bad master. No wonder, the amounts of data accessible could become overwhelming…

International Data Corporation estimates that data storage is growing at 60 percent per year, which suggests the volume of stored data is doubling approximately every 20 months.

Mark Jeffery

As Ezra Fishman, marketing director at Wistia, stated, marketing should not be data-driven, rather data-informed. I will try to flesh out below, what it means and why is it so?

Among the most alluring shortcomings of measuring results in data-driven marketing rank these:

  1. Optimisation of something that does not matter so much. That may be induced by human nature to slip down to less difficult way. Let me take a video as an example. Measuring how many people watched the video is an easy one. However, measuring impact of the video on attitude to your brand, is a different story. It does not matter how complex is the measurement, both of these results are important to monitoring your marketing performance.
  2. Optimisation of only one part of marketing funnel. In online advertising, for instance, it is not difficult to measure the conversion rate of a product purchase after clicking on a particular banner. But does it give you a whole information, whether you should optimize this channel only? People usually don’t buy after first sight. They get in touch with your product several times, from different devices, even offline, before they make a final decision. And that can be a complicated and lengthy process, not so easy to grasp.
  3. Thinking not critically enough of your data. Is your source reliable? Just consider common A/B testing (two different versions of the page are randomly displayed to your visitors). The testing results can be skewed by unhomogenity of the audience, since your website is getting visitors from different sources (direct, organic search, Facebook, paid search..) and these sources can convert (in this case, drive visits to your page) at a different rate. You can verify this claim by your own experiment, by testing two identical versions of the page. Even with the large enough sample, you will get different results for each of them.

Data is important, but it’s content that makes an emotional connection.

Jake Sorofman, Andrew Frank

From the above, it may seem that to handle piles of data available to marketers today  is almost superhuman task. But sometimes it pays off to lift your head and trust your gut feeling. Some clues can be found in the work of Sorofman and Frank, who developed the Intelligent Brand Framework to help marketers balance their decisions by ‘focusing equally on four key marketing competencies across creative and operational disciplines, using a combination of data-driven and human-centric approaches.’ (Sorofman, Frank, 2014)

Intelligent Brand FrameworkHow are you going to treat your data now?




Fishman, E. (2010) The Dangers of Data-Driven Marketing. Available from: [Accessed 14 November 2014].

Sorofman, J. and Frank, A. (2014) What Data-Obsessed Marketers Don’t
Understand. Harvard Business Review. Available from: [Acessed 14 November 2014]

Jeffery, M. (2010) Data-Driven Marketing : The 15 Metrics Everyone in Marketing Should Know. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Son.




  1. Michal Poizl · November 17, 2014

    Vladimira, great article! I am glad that you have stated, for some, the obvious fact that none or only very few entrepreneurial activities can be fully driven by data. Data-driven approach is great, when one needs to find the best solution in a environment with no surprises and with knowledge of all variables and their effects.

    From my experience, the most successful marketing campaigns bring something new, unexpected and often shocking. Strictly following the data-driven approach, this (even a little) disruption of a marketing world would not be possible, since there would not be enough data to try it in the first place.

    However, I agree with the fact that being data-informed is one of the most significant and important trends of 21st century.


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